“People used to say that boxing is for men and not for women, and I thought I will show them someday.” This bang-on statement by Mary Kom is praiseworthy. Society and the misogynists have interpellated women into believing in the social norms as just and plausible. They have decreed certain and limited roles for women. But the women changed this detrimental course and continue to inspire others. Given below are the Top 15 Indian feminist writers who impacted the archaic culture of India with their thoughts and undeterred feminism.
1. K. Saraswathi Amma
An inhabitant of Kerala, K. Saraswathi Amma was born on 14 April 1919. A Malayalam feminist writer by profession, she splintered some light on sensitive issues such as male insensitiveness towards women. The society also tagged her as ‘man-hater’ during her time as a writer. During her span, she published twelve volumes of short stories, one novel, and collective essays titled as Purushanmarillatha Lokam. Her works have been translated into many American literary texts.
2. Malati Vishram Bedekar
Also known by her pseudonym Vibhavari Shirurkar, Malati Bedekar is known as the first Marathi feminist writer. She was born on 18th March 1905. She filled the cauldron of Marathi literature with her dedicated glance on feminism. Her feminist works include Kalyanche Nishwas and Hindolyawar, which are a short story collection, and a novel respectively. She expounded issues like dowry, extra-marital cohabitation, etc. Ferocious in her character, she wrote ‘Shabari’, which is a narrative of a woman’s torment in her disconsolate marriage.
3. Urvashi Butalia
In 1984, with Renu Menon, she founded ‘Kali for Women’, which is “India’s first exclusively feminist publishing house.” Their conviction and moral approach elicited them the Padma Shri award, which is India’s fourth-highest civilian award. She constantly talked about a woman’s peculiar and subservient roles in society and always worked for their better futures. Her significant works include Speaking Peace: Women’s Voices from Kashmir, Women and the Hindu Right: A Collection of Essays, In Other Words: New Writing by Indian Women.
4. Kota Neelima
People are not conscientious when it comes to actions, but Kota Neelima envisaged a different approach when it came to writing. A political author and journalist, she became the comfort of the farmers and the rural people. Her books became the manifesto of the crises faced by the farmers. Her books also comment on the criticism and the lives of women farmers. Widows of Vidarbha, The Making of Shadows, and Shoes of The Dead confront the reality of these people.
5. Neera Desai
She was born in 1925. She excelled in writing in two languages: Gujarati and English. An epitome of versatility, she is a professor, researcher, social worker, political activist, and academician. She is the framework of women’s studies in India. She founded a research centre for women’s studies also. Her focus was to propagate gender equality and civil society in the academic syllabus. Her noteworthy writings include Traversing through Gendered Spaces: Insights from Women’s Narratives, Women and the Bhakti Movement, Women in Modern India, etc.
6. Ismat Chughtai
Sexual independence is a taboo in our country. Moreover, a woman’s sexuality faces inconsequential ignorance. Ismat Chughtai chose the difficult way of expressing sexual discrimination against women in India. She began her career in the 1930s. In 1976, she received the Padma Shri for her didactic works. She was an Urdu feminist writer and wrote on informative and denied topics of female sexuality and feminity, class conflict, etc. She used literary realism as her writing style. Her works are Masooma (The Innocent Girl), Dil ki Duniya (The Heart Breaks Free), etc.
7. Meena Kandasamy
Born as Ilavenil Kandasamy, she is a poet, writer, translator, and social activist. Based in Chennai, she solicited fame with her feminist approach in her writings. Her combined love for words and social equality saw her literary works Touch and Ms. Militancy, the poetry books, which had thematic narration on caste and raw feminism respectively. Her novel, When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife acclimated a nomination for Women’s Prize 2018. The novel talks of domestic violence and marital rape.
8. Tarabai Shinde
A social reformer who challenged esoteric patriarchy and caste discrimination in society, Tarabai Shinde provoked many egotistical minds. During the period, when men’s condescending thoughts restricted women to the private sector of the house, she became the burning torch for the women. She published Stripurush Tulana (A Comparison Between Women and Men) in Marathi in 1882. Considered as ‘controversial’ at the time, the novel explores the unjust customs forced upon women to control them.
9. Amrita Pritam
A 20th-century prominent poet, she captured several hearts with her emphatic poems. She is considered to be the first female Punjabi poet in the subsequent literature. Her masterpiece includes Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu (Today I invoke Waris Shah – “Ode to Waris Shah”). The poem talks grimly about the massacres from the partition of India. Reverence for her knew no bounds as she is loved impartially by both India and Pakistan.
10. Sarojini Sahoo
She is a poet, writer, and a columnist in The New Indian Express. The prevalent themes of her novels are feminism and sexuality. She has won many accolades for her literary works: Odisha Sahitya Academy Award, 1993; Bhubaneswar Book Fair Award, 1993; Prajatantra Award, 1981,1993; Jhankar Award, 1992. Her acclaimed novel Gambhiri Ghara, which is considered best in Odia Literature, narrates the translucent story of love and sexuality between a Hindu housewife and a Muslim artist.
11. M. K. Indira
Writing has no limits: to words and age. Malooru Krishnarao Indira, at the age of forty-five, started her career as a writer. She is an esteemed feminist writer in the Kannada Language. She was profoundly influenced by Anusuya Shanker, a popular Kannada novelist, whose appreciation motivated her to write novels. She published her first novel Tungabhadra in 1963, succeeded by Gejje Pooje which was made into a film later. Her real and provocative story of a child widow in the novel Phaniyamma captured the hearts of people.
12. Susie Tharu
An Indian writer, editor, and a women’s activist, she has aided in building and working in several organizations for women. She founded Anveshi and Stree Shakti Sanghatana (SSS). Her activism is focused on the political discrimination faced by the Dalits in their education, healthcare, and development studies. She also disputed the Rape Law through campaigns. She has worked for The Feminist Press and did documentation on Dalit Writings.
13. Anees Jung
Born in an aristocrat family in Hyderabad, her roots of writing were buried deep into her veins. She is a journalist, author, and columnist by profession. Her documented work, Unveiling India, focused on the women’s lifestyle in India. The book also serves the story about the Muslim women behind the purdah. She had written certain books with similar topics, including Seven Sisters, Beyond the Courtyard, etc.
14. Savitribai Phule
Savitribai Phule was born in Naigaon village, Satara, Maharashtra in 1831. After her marriage with Jyotirao Phule, she completed her education indifferent to the backlashes she received from the society. She was a revolutionary feminist whose main aim was to eradicate inequality towards women, by educating them. She is an author of two books: Kavya Phule and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar.
15. Temsula Ao
North-east India is rich with nature as well as literature. Temsula Ao was born in Jorhat, Assam and she matriculated in MA. in English literature from Gauhati University. She is the prestigious writer from North-East and her short story collection Laburnum for My Head earned her Sahitya Akademi Award. Some stories from her creative work explore the freedom of expression by women. The unusual storyline and the questions put forth by women put a reader into self-realization. She has redefined a woman in her fiction.