BY ISHITA ROY
There are hundreds of books and articles that one can stumble upon. Don’t we all miss those good old days? Going out. Without masks. Without caring about social distancing and night curfews? Surfing through libraries. Book Depots and street markets!
It is true that we no longer can do all that carefree. But worry not. Cause I got your back!
I am here to bring you 5 Must Reads for Brown Women.
And men? Feel free to read these books too! If you are a bibliophile. Have a keen interest to understand Desi society so you can smash patriarchy. Then you are at the right place!
1.Seeing Like a Feminist
“what would happen to the understanding of menstruation in a patriarchal society, if men could menstruate. Since everything that men do is valued, the fact that men could and women could not menstruate would become yet another indicator of the superiority of men”
Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist not only challenges the very basis of a patriarchal society. It also brings about the issues that feminism faces with context to India. The book does not only talk about women empowerment, but is rather focused on intersectional feminism.
Through its intricate narratives, case studies and thorough references from other scholars, the book compels the reader to think about the present scenario. Issues like gender verification tests for Olympics, Section 377, Women Reservation Bills and many such topics are discussed.
The book has a unique approach as it does not impose its thinking on the reader, rather enables them to find the loopholes in the system and question that. The book only, to an extent, enables the readers to think, but never inflicts the thought process.
2.No Nation For Women
No Nation For Women is a reportage on rape from India written by Priyanka Dubey. Dubey is a journalist who writes on gendered crime and social justice. She has been in this field for over 10 years. Her work provides a shocking reality of India. Where she focuses on 12 incidents on brutal cases of sexual assaults against women.
Her book covers topics like corrective rapes, political rapes, human trafficking, caste violence, child abuse and many more spectrum of gender violence. The book indeed brings out a very disappointing reality of the condition of women in India. It further reveals how institutionalized patriarchy is in India.
Anyone with a weak stomach should not read this book. Having said that, remember that these are real cases that have happened with real women. If you cannot read it. Think about the women who experienced that.
Got goosebumps, yet? I thought so.
3. Sultana’s Dream
A feminist utopian novel written by Rokeya Hussain. The novel portrays a world, much like what one may have seen in the movie Wonder Woman- Themyscira. An imaginary world ruled by women, for the women.
The novel takes a further step to portray men as the subordinate beings in that imaginary world. Who are locked inside and are not allowed to step out. This however works out beautifully for the protagonist who is no longer to step outside and shy away due to male gaze.
The utopian world portrayed in the novel is of course unreal. However, it makes the reader think about the condition of women. It brings out the harsh reality that women do not feel safe in the real world. And that they would rather want a world with no men. So, they can live freely.
As unreal as it may be seen in the novel, it is true that women miss out a lot. When asked what women would do if no man was to be seen outside for one day, most women said that they wanted to go for a walk or jog at night. Something so basic like a walk, has become a luxury for women. And this is exactly what Sultana’s Dream pushes its reader to ponder upon.
Written in the compilation of Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi, Draupadi is a story about Dopdi Mahjen, a Santhal woman. Her tribe, family and women of her tribe has ben historically suppressed through sexual abuse, murder, and rape. They are further held down in case anyone dares to raise their voice.
The story revolves around Dopdi, who is captured by Officer, who instructs the army to rape her in order to extract information regarding the rebel tribal uprising. Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi sets away from the Draupadi of Mahabharata, who was helpless when she was stripped off her clothes during cheerharan.
In this case, however, Dopdi turns her nudity into a weapon and exercises her agency to not be a victim. Leaving the army men terribly afraid.
The story therefore not only brings out the ill-treatment that tribal women often face. But it also proves that women taking control over their body turns their shame into power. It deconstructs the conditioning of honor with women, rather focuses on nudity as a tool to empower women. It gives women the choice to not be a victim. And embrace what they are told to be afraid of- their body.
“When you people don’t love girls, why do you pretend to worship them? ….. I don’t want this halwa-puri, tikka or money. I don’t want to be a goddess”
Mrinal Pande’s Girls brings out the odd hypocrisy of the Indian society. Where women are put on a pedestal. And so much is expected from them.
Whereas men get away easily.
The story is about deviant and defiant. And how a young girl drops the truth bomb and demands to be treated like a human for once, and now like a goddess. What is the point of treating your girls like Devi for one day, and put her under surveillance for the rest of her lives?
These are some of the very important questions that Girls deal with. The story also sets in a very familial background, further exposing the intricate relationships and layered patriarchy in the family.
Altogether, the book is the most relatable one for all the brown girls, living with their families.