Women’s voice vs propaganda

Women’s voice  vs propaganda
Highlights

Women’s voice vs propaganda. The panel discussion on gendered tales moderated by Professor Aparna Rayaprol had the eminent feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia and the noted writer Suniti Namjoshi who has written poetry, stories, satiric fiction, children’s fiction – that invariably give voice to women and the inherent humour makes them extremely readable.

The panel discussion on gendered tales moderated by Professor Aparna Rayaprol had the eminent feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia and the noted writer Suniti Namjoshi who has written poetry, stories, satiric fiction, children’s fiction – that invariably give voice to women and the inherent humour makes them extremely readable. She read from her collection of key works - “Each time a myth is retold a new version is told. One of the fables that she has written has this smart prince endowed with all qualities and is on look out for a suitable bride. The king calls all eligible women who undergo every kind of test including archery and when the selected women are brought before him, he exclaims about how they lack womanly qualities. “Exactly!” said the king. “I have weeded them out. You can now choose from the women who have not competed.”

She says gender tales need not be necessarily revolutionary or conservative. “As far as I am concerned I wish to write immortal verse that is wonderful and good to read, makes people happy and let them see a dream that they can achieve. I do not want to write propaganda. And Urvashi who translates books and selects books to be published by ‘Zubaan’ elaborates, “Feminist works are not static. They emerge and develop and respond to times. For example, today we can acknowledge that there are men, who are feminist, the work that we can consider seriously for publishing without risking losing out on women’s voices.
Suniti has written beautiful children’s books that are the Indian answer to the extremely sexist fairy tales of the west which the children of today are overtly exposed to. “Girls matter and for this to be considered change has to come from all of us,” she says.
Talking about the challenges that she had faced when she started publishing feminist works in 1984, Urvashi relates, “When we started we were confronted with prevailing orthodoxy on masculine and patriarchial dominance. But we expected it, what we did not expect was the women themselves were not confident to write and there were doubts that they could be read. Then there was a time when only the urban voices were being heard and this changed with our successful book on the life of a domestic worker “Baby Halder” that went on to be read internationally. However, we have allowed these voices to get into the mainstream, which is needed for the voices to reach out more, and not feel bad about the author leaving you.”
On the danger of feminist writing becoming propaganda Urvashi reiterates the need to ensure it does not and says the responsibility of the same lies with the author and the publisher.
Finally both the publisher and the writer have a word of advice for the young feminist writers – “We want reform, not tragedy. Do not think twice before hiding in face of danger. You need not be brave always. We do not need martyrdom.
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