Thursday, December 20, 2018

Short Takes: What Women Write - Truth or Dare: Gender-Based Violence defines women's possibilities; Does it have to feature in literature in order to authenticate a woman's voice?

This is a post of the talk given the students who participated in the event Short Takes: What Women Write held at Women's Christian College on 1st December 2018 as part of the 2018 Prajnya 16 days Campaign against Gender Violence. Read about the event here:
Truth or Dare: Gender-based violence defines women's possibilities; Does it have to feature in literature in order to authenticate a woman's voice?  - Two speakers spoke on this topic as a pair. The first speaker handled the question of women's possibilities being defined by the violence she faces, while the second speaker discussed the need for gender-based violence to be featured in literature.

The term "Gender" is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. The dictionary defines "Gender" as "The state of being male or female. ( Typically with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.)" So "Gender-based Violence"  is nothing but violence directed against a person because of their gender. People of every gender go through this type of violence, but the majority of the victims are women and girls. The very fact that a person takes advantage of another and tries to assert their superiority over them just because they belong to a certain "gender" is rather disturbing but very prevalent in today's society.

To answer the question of whether or not Gender-based Violence defines a woman's possibilities, it is important to understand what a woman goes through after the traumatic experience. Violence to a woman can cause a variety of long-term and short-term physical and mental issues, the most fatal of which is death where the woman is either killed by the perpetrator or in the long run, she turns suicidal. But this is not the only effect on a woman, she is physically injured and mentally traumatised, as a result of which, she is rendered incapable of performing her everyday tasks. When it comes to work, the woman is either thrown out of her workplace or she herself quits her job in fear and shame because the humiliation and judgements thrown at her by the society are far worse than the actual violence. This is also the reason why girls don't talk to their parents about what they've been through, because often times, the actions taken by the parents are extreme: the girls are made to terminate their education and are never let outside their houses, or they are thrown out of their houses because they've brought "shame" to the family. Many girls and young women grow up to be uneducated and unemployed, and statistics prove that nearly 67% of unemployed women are victims of domestic abuse.

If a woman rises to the top or at least tries to make a name for herself even after enduring all the above-mentioned struggles, she is always seen with an invisible tag around her neck, which reads "abuse victim", and that is somehow enough for people around her to dismiss her and never take her seriously; and so a women victim is denied many opportunities in life and many of her dreams and goals remain unfulfilled. Therefore it is true that Gender-based violence defines a woman's possibilities.

- D. Angeline Nikita, II year B.A in English, Women's Christian College


Does gender-based violence have to feature in literature in order to authenticate a woman's voice?

It is rather disturbing that this question even arises as it only seems to prove that women are more readily dismissed than heard and helped in our society.
Women are ambitious, inspiring, hilarious, and much more. Their worth is defined by so much more than their victimhood or the violence perpetrated against them. While the fact that a woman's voice needs “authentication” itself is saddening, it does not have to be done only through the presence of gender-based violence in literature. Social media, television and the internet have emerged as promising platforms for women to voice out themselves to the world and gain solidarity and support.
Traditionally, some authors refer to gender-based violence with misnomers such as “normalized violence” which is violence against women that is naturalized by particularly gendered constructs of heroism, nationalism or domestic space and therefore ignored as a normal part of life. In literature, female characters are most commonly made to meet with any one of the following familiar tropes after she is a victim of a violent crime:  She either becomes an unbalanced person, losing her sense of self and identity, or, she gets rescued by someone else, who is usually a male character. Or, she turns into a revenge-seeking vigilante, working outside the bounds of law in order to obtain justice.
What is interesting to observe in this pattern is how shallow the female's character is painted to be before the occurrence of the violence. She is usually described to be a naive, sweet, romantic and submissive character suddenly changing to become a completely different, more logical and more rational being, all because of the violence committed against her.
Yes, it is true that women are often victims of violence but must that be the only reason for their voices to be heard?
In conclusion, while the presence of gender-based violence in literature may catalyze raising awareness and educating readers of the violence acted against women, it shouldn't be limited to be the only channel through which women's voices are authenticated.
- Betsy Jenifer, II year B.A in English, Women's Christian College

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