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2004 56 -
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Literature!
BEING A PART-TIME AGENT OF 
MALE CHAUVENISM IS BETTER
THAN BEING A FULL-TIME PSEUDO-FEMINIST!

Latha Ramakrishnan

Latha Ramakrishnan'Whatever you see, you only see what you want to see. Whatever you hear, you only hear what you want to hear.' -This is  how I interpret Mr.NadchaththiranChevinthianne's ,  observation that my voice is ultra-conservative. While calling my language- prosaic and of the old colonial English, he still makes use ofmost of my letter  to fill his rejoinder the remaining part  of which is filled up by datas! So much so, his letter has  no room  for his own  English to  compare and evaluate! Anyhow, I should thank him for giving my exact lines in his letter thereby giving the readers a chance to judge for themselves the truth and validityor otherwise of  what I,ve said. Who ever said that women don't suffer? We are talking of women writing poetry, and that too in small magazines, in particular. What Ms.Dhanya has said it is for her to clarify. Why should Mr.Chevinthianne butt in and speak on her behalf?

In small magazine circle, as things stand today, women, especially a select few are projected in various ways as the ultimate poets or the harbingers of feminist poetry. This glorification  with no compare and contrast study or critical evaluation of their  poetry understandably brings in adverse criticism and also an impartial critical evaluation of their poetry is very rarely coming  forth and even if it does it is nipped in the bud  with such clichs  as fundementalism , fascism etc. Magazines vie with one another to have the interviews of these  women writing poetry in their pages, but, the upcoming, promising poets of the opposite sex and their struggles in the literary field and in the social and psychological arena of survival are not given due attemtion or coverage. And, these select few women who write poetryfor whom the response is overwhelming to the point of keeping them on a pedastal(today when  even actresses come out with specs and sans make-up and don'thesitate to disclose their date-of-birth  Mr.Annakannan of Amudhasurabi  in his interview  of Ms.Malathy Maithri  had exclaimed that  the poet's first collection of poems has  the year of her birth in block letters in  the very first page which is very revolutionary!) , , and their poetry above criticism, the brickbats are but very few, that too from expected circles. I am not saying that they are not writing good poetry but I object to their being glorified as the ultimate poets and the pioneers of women poetry. And, also I object to the  constant sidelining of other poets, mainly their contemporaries of the opposite sex, who pen real good poems but don't get get  even a flicker of the limelight. I know very well the difference between women writing and feminist writing and I don't have to be taught by the all-knowing Mr.Chevinthianne who knows clitoris, g-spot and what not! Let me remind him that a male doctor knows about them better than many a female. Be it eve-teasing,nay, torturing or rape and gang-rape, the men   close to the victim suffer greater stress than may be even a woman who is a stranger to the girlconcerned, or, who reads about the gruesome  happening in a newspaper.Take the case of the hostage crisis? What for the men are being held as captives? For their being men? Or, for their not being women? This is what I mean when I say that the power system of today oppress the men also in numerous ways.A man with real progressive outlook would never use such terms as Concubine. But, Mr.Chevinthianne uses. And, his implications are very clear. Being away fromboth Srilanka and India he can afford to use such phrases as concubine-keeper and career-womanizer without any second thought about the possiblerepercussions they would have  back home and down here. Will a woman President convert America from being malignant to being benign?  I am forwarding here the full text of Mr.Brammarajan's critical evaluation of Kutti Revathy's second collection "Mulaigal". He gives an open statement  that his views bear no moralisticconnotations. To my knowledge his critical evaluations would always be ably substantiated(we may agree with it or not, that is a different issue) and  he wouldnever indulge in vicious, personal attack. And, we can just take them as one of the many view-points  and leave it at that instead of attributing ulteriormotives.( But, what I see as the politics of it is that when it comes to ms.malathy maithri why Kalachuvadu  is not coming forth with such  critical evaluation?) There was another critical evaluation of the said poem-collection of Ms.Kutti Revathi by mr.Rani-thilak , another upcoming poet. But, sadly by the time an interview of his appears he would well  be in his forties or even fifties. How maliciously Mr.Nadchaththiran Chevinthianne makes much ado about my usage of 'may be'. May be I am a woman- may be I am a eunach. It has no relevance to the issue at hand. But, decrying the usage  of 'may be' in one breath  the next instant he says' Anuradha Ramanan or even Latha Ramakrishnan may well fit into the first category, that of women  who do not challenge male-chauvenism.Here, he uses the term 'even' in the same meaning as 'may be'. It is very clear that he has not read my pieces. Much as I hate to blow my own trumpet I am forced to do so, to  makethis friend see reason. Here is my poem which was published in the 1997 Dhinamani Kadhir   Special Issue on Literature. It is a widely read  magazine but therewas not a word of protest against it. So, please think twice before claiming that Srilanka including its Tamil regions is more modernized than TamilNadu. Suchcomparisons and sweeping statements are unwarranted. When Anuradha Ramanan came into the field she was just 26, left  with her two girl children coming from amiddle class family and with  just an s.s.l.c or so to her credit  she had her share of struggles. And when she was writing akind of memoirs there was heavythreat from a politically strong woman social -worker. And, what a great  hue and cry her prize winning short-story 'Sirai' caused! It was about a young wifeof an orthodox Brahmin  raped and left in the lurch by the husband. As a punishment to the wrong-doer she goes and stays in the house of the rapist. He repentand when he dies she, seeing in him a better human being than her husband refuses to  go back to her husband even when the latter comes to take her withhim. At that time also I wrote an article in "Kanaiyazhi' to the effect that it was wrong on the part of the author to have overlooked the fact that the husband was also a victim of the social set-up and  have turned a rapist,  a hero.With this piece of information I'm sure Mr.Chevinthianne  will have no hesitation  in calling me a full-time agent of male-chauvenism!  But, seriously speaking, I'm giving this piece of information to drive home the point that writers like Anuradha Ramanan cannot be waved away just like that as pro-men. It is just that they don't believe in the kind of feminism which thrive on decrying the whole lot of men as oppressors and fundamentalists. And, Ms.Sivasankari's very first short-story 'Avargal Paesattum" dealt with the horrible way a woman with no issues is treated in social functions and ceremonies.What about Vaasanthi, Usha Subramanian, Thilagavathi, Sivagami, Bama, to name a few? But, Mr.Nadchaththiran can give the name of Ambai alone. Though I have great respect for her writings still I can't but say that a good number of her writings do sound like aesthetically articulated slogans. All the same, in her detailed interview in "Panikkudam" authoured by Ms.Kutti Revathi    Ms.Ambai has this to say:-

And, I'm forwarding Ms.Bama's and Ms.Sivagami's observations on women writing poetry of the body and its sexuality.( courtesy; 'Pudhiya Puthagam Paesudhu' and Theera Nadhi, respectively). Just because they opine so is it right to call them advocates of male-chauvenism? Mr.Nadchaththiran has a lot to ponder over. And, in the field of Poetry has he ever cared to know who are all the other women writing and how long they have been in the field and what at all theywrite? Vathsala, Vaigaichelvi Renganayaki, Ilampirai, Kanimozhi , Ira.Meenakshi, Thirisadai, Vennila, Mu.Sathya , Sathara Malathy (In fact Sathara is the name of the place where she lives but then   for many the name Malathy stands for Malathy Maithri), Thamizhachi, Azhagu Nila and many more. And, many of them  are there in the field for long. But, in one of the recent issues of Pennae Nee, Ms.Kutti Revathi says 'first I was alone facing the assaults and brickbats -now there are Salma, Uma Maheswari and others----( the pages enclosed). But, Salma and Uma Maheswari have come into the field long before Ms. Revathi and how happy I felt when I came to know from her Ms.Salma's interview in Anandha Vikatan that she was the same Rajathi  penning such poignant poems in "Nigazh' and Suttum Vizhich chudar' and  who just disappeared from the scene one fine day, for it lent strength to my conviction that the creative urge in a person can never be suppressed or strangulated.  Is it not tampering with facts?  When they find fault with the male poets for not including their names in the pages of history that they pen in terms of the growth and evolution of neo-Tamil poetry  they should atleast have the courtesy to mention the names of their contemporaries and  predecessors , belonging to their sex. But, they make it a point to mouth such names as Sylvia Plath, Kamala Das, Emily Dickenson, Akhmatova (and their list is pathetically  short) and not a name from the Tamil land, for, then their claim that feminist writing in Poetry has begun with their advent. And, this is a blatant lie, to say the least. And, the fact being that almost all the menfolk of the small magazine circle stood and stand by these women whenever they face the wrath of the vested interests ,many of these women poets make it a point to decry men as a whole. And  much of the protest  came as a result of  the ongoing campaign that this alone is poetry and women writing about their body alone are real poets and all the others are hypocrites. There is no need for me to prove my credentials toMr.Nadchaththiran Chevinthianne. But, still I've written such a detailed letter to make him realize that facts are not to be over-simplified or tampered with. At this junture I  want to  refute the observation of some people like Poet Rajamarthandan that women began to pen poetry here, with the poems of the Srilankan women poets(Tamil) giving the required impetus. We have our own inner compusions and urge to turn us into poets, please. Before concluding, I would like to point out- please , let not Mr.Nadchaththiran Chevvinthianne think that I am saying this to be in his good books- I,ve never cared to  be in the good books of any- -thatMs.Thilagabama's condemnation of the poems in the recent issue of  Kalachuvadu is uncalled for. She is decrying almost all the sensitive poets of TamilNadu right from Kalapriya   to Shankararamasubramanian.And, hers is indeed the tone of a moralist. Her views that have appeared in Pennae Nee did not confine themselves to the poems alone .( the page enclosed).  And, what does she mean by that oft-repeated 'Ull mana Vakkaram'? Day in and day out we come across so many actual 'vakkarams' around us. Sukumaran's poem  which she  has decried is in fact a poignant piece dealing with a man's anguish in having to copulate with an unwilling spouse. Sugirtharani's poems have powerful similes and images   such as-----'pasiya kattraazhai kooraai/virigindrana en viralgal-'koor theetiyakalaal/narukkappatta thoppull kodi poel/thuruthik kondirukkiradhu/nam udhadugalukkidaiyil muththam'------And, the very first line of her very first poem " Mayirgal siraikkaadha en nirvaanam/azhikkappaadha kaadugalaip poela/ gambeeram veesugiradhu',  to my readerly text is in fact a rebellious voice of protest against the gigantic hoardings and advertisements which glare at you from high above even in busy junctions and at traffic signals, showing young women with their arms lifted uu so showing their their thoroughly shaven, shining armpits  with jingles underneath to the effect that men want silk-skinned females. And, when the institution of marriage plays havoc in many a woman's lives by which a woman has to sleep with a man who is a hundred percent stranger to her and whose image of an ideal wife is built by these hoardings and such other things the physical andpsychological trauma of it all   find a release in the lines of verses thus. And, I need not tell that the poems of Ms.Sugirtharani  is not to be taken as her own personal experience. Writer Jeyaprakasam has observed in one of her recent interviews that any irrelevant description is vulgar and obscene. Ofcourse, he was referring to Mr.J.P.Chanakya's short-story Aangal Padithurai. While his observation  is sound, even here we can say that irrelevance is a highly relative term. If many a reader get a 'readerly text' which is irrelevant, having pseudo-value, then the text and such texts will not  stand the test of time.Therefore, without even giving a chance but trying to nip in the bud itself such approaches in style and content  is not good for the multi-dimensional growth of literature. At the same time Mr.Perumal Murugan's display of thefoul saying  which he had come across on the inside walls of a public lavotary serves no purpose. The man who had written it there obviously didn't want to  getidentified. When that being the case why   lend some importance to it?

ramakrishnanlatha@yahoo.com


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