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Urban women, contemporary trends

Dealing with the study of violence against women, the media, neo-liberal globalization, IT, and the politics of gender, this book is a comprehensive study of several complex issues, reports Benita Sen.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2007 18:15 IST
Benita Sen

Urban Women in Contemporary India: A Reader
Editor: Rehana Ghadially
Publisher: Sage Publications
Price: Rs 595

It’s always interesting to read about yourself. As you sit with this book compiled from the writings of about 27 individual contributors and one organization and edited by a professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, you also see others you know.

There, in the reasonably wide distribution of interests, toils your mother who was perhaps the first generation of Indian women handling heavy technology at work, your sisters, who learnt to handle computers on the job and the daughter who can match the boys – and beat at least some of them -- at writing software.

As Rehana Ghadially explains, feminists in the country have been worried about the opening up of the economy, fearing the “commodification of women” and the “feminisation of poverty.”

The urban woman is a deliberate choice of study, since the globalisation of an economy first touches the urban woman and then moves on to the rural areas. Even while it sweeps across a slew of issues, each study explains the methodology of the survey which makes it easier for the reader to relate to the findings.

What is worthy of note is that several vital yet less-studied issues are touched upon, like adolescence, the very first essay in the first section, 'Re-constructing Gender'. Divided into sections that study gender roles, violence against women, the media, neo-liberal globalization, IT, and the politics of gender, it is a comprehensive study of several complex issues. These are studies that will push the envelope for a more egalitarian society further.

As Kofi Annan once said, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a pre-condition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.” Or simply, a better world than ever before.

While one would wish to touch upon further details of the chapters, constraints of space rule. There are certain issues that overlap in the studies of different authors, such as the use of computers or the portrayal and treatment of women in Hindi films. Perhaps the focus of one of these could have been shifted a little to, say, theatre or regional films, for a more definitive reference point.

At the cost of sounding repetitive, I would like to point out that publishers who encourage such commendable studies could give the cover design more importance. Besides, in an era of smart packaging and marketing, why can’t books such as these have covers that beckon rather than intimidate? As the Davis Furniture advertisement explains, “Design is a choice.”

An important, erudite and interesting compilation would perhaps have been picked up by more readers, that way.