M for Misogyny: Of lit fest and drawing parallels
Sexist politics taints literature festivals, slandering in full public view.columns Updated: Feb 04, 2018 20:37 IST
I dislike the style of starting an article with a difficult word and its dictionary meaning, very often naming the dictionary, be it Oxford or Cambridge. But this time I am forced to begin thus, with the word ‘misogyny’, which is defined as an ingrained prejudice against women. Needless to say that the one who practises misogyny is a misogynist, which in simple lingo would be a sexist or a chauvinist.
Misogyny and misogynists of myriad kind are all around, but the most recent outburst of it was to be seen in the tale of two festivals: the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) and the Parallel Literature Festival (PLF) held in the Pink City with the dates coinciding with the last three days of the JLF. The parallel assault was on the mother of all litfests in the country, using terms such as ‘touristy tamasha’, ‘return of the East India Company’ and more. The PLF had the respectable garb of the Progressive Writers Association with its old Communist Party ties.
What came as a bit of surprise was that invitees to JLF enjoying their travel expense and hospitality were also playing the role of keynote speakers at the PLF.
The bubble burst when on the eve of the PLF, well-known littérateur Ashok Vajpeyi, who has risen in esteem as leading the literature of dissent in present times, decided to pull out of the PLF, writing an open post on his Facebook page. Vajpeyi said he did not want to be associated with an event convened byKrishna Dev Kalpit, who in the past has been accused of making “indecent and highly objectionable” remarks against female writers.He added, “In light of such a person convening the event, for me to be part of the PLF would represent supporting the indecent and objectionable behaviour of this person, which my conscience would not allow.” Incidentally, among the women writers he picked for slander was the co-director of the JLF.
The post met with innumerable ‘likes’, including one by the much-cherished Hindi poet Manglesh Dabral. When contacted on phone, Dabral said. “This person (Kalpit) has been making most ridiculous and sexually distorted remarks against many women writers openly on the Facebook and this must be condemned.” So another of the keynote address faces opted out. Senior poet Kedarnath Singh was too ill to attend.
Closer home, Punjabi’s gentleman poet Surjit Patar, who spent many anxious days wondering where to go — ‘main idhar jayoon ya udhar jayoon?’ — because one side was the comrade peer group and on the other side the Kanhaiya Lal Sethia Foundation Poetry Award fondly given to his contribution to Punjabi poetry. For some time he decided to skip the blushing pink city altogether, until the late poet Sethia’s son prevailed, ‘How can we have the award ceremony without the ‘larha’ (bridegroom)?’ So the safe way out for the reluctant bridegroom was to be absent from the day of the keynotes across the fence, and accept the modest award the other side, for Patar has received awards more prestigious ones and perhaps the only coveted award to come his way yet is the Jnanpith.
Meanwhile, woman writers are planning a discussion group to meet this practice of women-bashing, which is growing more so when women writers are very often at the helm of literary affairs, festivals and awards. Another male bastion breaking is intolerable to some who are mouthing muck. The other side, Kalpit, whose occupation on the Facebook is listed as self-employed , continues to run away with his ‘kalpana’, saying that if he is a woman-hater, then Vajpeyi is a woman-lover. Journalist Om Thanvi reports that he “leered” at a photograph of a woman writer when she too pulled out of the PLF.
Well, misogynists will be misogynists and boys will be boys; but girls are no longer willing to take it all with a sense of apology as of old. Time to change. Change for the better!