From criticism to awareness to actual development, the term “Feminism” has taken over in this century. This is not a rookie term coined by a Liberal Arts Major student, but has been in a topic of discussion for centuries now, the meaning of which has remained the same over time. The discussions are more aggressive and open today while back then, it was a delicate topic to talk about. An era where the notion of free speech was not just obscure but also non-prevalent, by this I mean not any one could come forward and voice an opinion to challenge centuries old ideals; some literary geniuses did their work subtly to ignite the idea of equality and women’s rights in people’s head.
It is surprising and worth applauding that men actually started the idea of feminist writing in India. Post which, women joined this league of silent revolution.
Here are some of those names.
He made women more than just an object of decoration to his story. One of his characters Binodini from ‘Chokher Bali’ defied the norms of widowhood. He molded her into a beautiful and fierce woman who did not to curb her needs and desires.
Another character was Mrinmoyee from Samapti who did not conform to the norms of “feminity”. She questioned a woman’s place in a married household and broke free from the unwanted rules that were set upon her.
She was one of the first feminist writers who chose to write in English. She was born when India was on the verge of getting independence from the British and grew up to be a free woman’s voice. She was a poet who moved thoughts and souls with her words.
An excerpt from her poem An Introduction
When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.
Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
The first woman to graduate with Honors during the British era. (Oooh, yeah!) She was a Bengali poet and a renowned feminist who worked towards women’s education and their right to vote. She wrote her poems in Bengali.
Her Urdu writing was fierce and progressive. She managed to get into many controversies because of her ‘bold’ writing and ideas. Her short story Lihaaf invited criticism from a number of people, but she stood her ground. She grew up in the first half of the 20th century where voicing such free thoughts was culturally prohibited, especially a women. Of course this was also the time of “change” and many were getting inspired to bring social reforms in the country. Her short stories are a must read. Most of her work is translated into English too, making for a wider audience base.
She is famous for her phenomenal piece of writing in the form of a novel called Agnisakshi. A Malayalam writer with feminist views who was influenced by her mother and exposed to Malayalam literature through her. Her novel too is now translated into English.
It takes courage, commitment and determination to express opinions, which are guaranteed to get criticism and backlash. These men and women didn’t just take that risk for their own benefit but for the benefit of the society, which could use some lessons in reforms. Feminism has come a long way and still seems to be fight that hasn’t been won. No hopes are lost though.
“Hum Honge Kamiyaab”
Feature Image Credit: Wanderlust.co.uk