By Swaha Sircar
The session on Women’s Narratives brought together women from different walks of life, from different countries and backgrounds. The one common thread: women
Former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Leila Seth – the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court and the first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court; Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir; writer, journalist, public speaker and author from China – Lijia Zhang; celebrate columnist Shobhaa De and the moderator, journalist Nupur Basu spoke eloquently on topics that concern all of us today. Whether it is gender discrimination at home or the work place, stereotyping of women, the objectification of women or even sexist jokes – several pertinent issues were brought to the table for discussion.
The discussion opened with Leila Seth citing an anecdote from her personal life and narrating the struggles and politics that she encountered in her quest to become a lawyer. Shobhaa De observed that almost anything a woman does today, whether intentional or not, becomes political. One cannot separate politics from a woman’s life and her life is has become quite difficult as a result. So, women have a choice in terms of the garb they wear: that of a victim, a ninja or warrior, or they can play a game of pretense. Today, the threat that looms over women is no longer a perceived threat but one where women’s freedoms are being curtailed and their voices stifled.
Agreeing with Shobhaa and adding to the topic, Asma Jahangir stated that women have always been in a state of emergency and every woman has her way of dealing with it in her life.
Lijia Zhang started her narrative on a personal level as she introduced herself as a girl who was “pulled out of school by her mother” and told to work at a rocket factory. She spoke about the situation in China at the time, the gripping control the Chinese Government had on the public and her efforts to learn the English language, which eventually changed her life and shaped her future.
The discussion then took a turn as the panelists shared personal examples which displayed how society’s stereotypes of women limit their potential. Shobhaa De asked why women who write are referred to as “women writers” and not just
“writers.” Leila Seth then narrated an example of going against the tide from her life as a woman in the Delhi High Court and Lijia Zhang told us about rising political activism by women in China to deal with such issues.
The session came to a close with the subject of objectification of women and asking when it would end. Shobhaa De was of the opinion that this would never happen as even though women, today, are fighting for their rights, it is a daunting task with colossal hurdles. Touching upon the previous session about “Male Voice in the Indian Novel” and drawing an inference from it, however, – the discussion concluded with hope for a Post Gender Generation where everyone, whether woman or man, will be at an equal standing.