Women Aloud Blogging
Halabol profiles four prominent women bloggers, who are entertaining, engaging, outspoken and unafraid to create a furor over their opinions.
More and more Indian women have taken to the blogosphere to speak up on topics and matters that formally only found an intellectual listening ear in book readings, art openings and many wet dreams. These women have leveraged the power and influence of new media and social media better than women journalists of yesteryears or even many contemporaries. Their style has no embellishments (read, copy check), are unafraid to offend, remain politically incorrect and unapologetic about inciting any regional row or hurting any fragile masculinity or ego. Call them frustrated, feminist or both in the same breath, these women have a wide readership of lovers, haters and even those who are indifferent on the face of it.
The Real Madrasan
Shahana Nair Joshi was enjoying her sabbatical in Bhopal after a year long stint with business journalism in New Delhi when she decided to start a blog of her own for the dear ones to keep up on her life. Majority of the bloggers take years if not at least two good quarters to establish a writing style, a readership and a formal reputation in the blogosphere (mostly initiated by if asked for an interview by BlogAdda). Shahana took the nation literally by a storm with her sixth post within the span of less than 2 months with ‘An Open Letter to a Delhi Boy’. What was meant to be purely an entertaining rant inspired from a drunken stupor had stirred the sensitive debate of the age old North vs. South India. An excerpt from the post reads:
But when you do come to ask for my hand, remember I am part Maharashtrian and part South Indian and NO, they are not the same thing. So please tell your family, not to drop racist bombs like “Arey woh sab toh ‘Sawth’ ke hi hote hai na?” And YOU—don’t walk up to mother in an attempt to make flattering conversation and say shit like “Aunty you don’t look like a South Indian You are so fair” In return she will verbally Texas chainsaw massacre your face so badly, your dead Dadi will haunt you the very same night, telling you how fleeing Pakistan was less traumatic.
Her words were unsparing, obnoxious and had, not the mere ‘in your face’ quality but, the ‘up your ass’ confrontation to them. Her blog post trended on Twitter for days on end and became virally shared across Facebook networks. Fellow bloggers, those who were outraged or opportunistic, wrote replies to the ‘Madrasan’ that included the ones from both sides (or so claimed) respectively as well as those who claimed a multicultural upbringing. “Its really hard to put a finger on what got people so offended. But I do feel that if a man had written the open letter, the reactions wouldn’t have been so strong. Many people thought, “Ladki hain (She’s a girl) how can she write this!” and this I could tell from the sexually insulting comments left by them as they saw that as the easy way to put a woman down. Interestingly, all the wrath that came out in the comments justified the post”.
Most popularly recognized as @Vidyut on Twitter
Vidyut Kale had entirely something else in mind when she started her extremely popular Aamjanata blog way back in 2006. A former outdoor adventurer and mountaineer started the blog to attract customers for a small business she had initiated on offering adventure tours. She said, “I got quoted an outrageous amount for what I wanted, and being broke, chose to learn how to code to make my own website instead. It was during this process that I discovered what a blog was. Aamjanata started off as my place for experimentation with both thoughts and running a blog - for my main website.” Her ‘About Me’ retells the story of how she personally sat down and googled learned everything about coding and backend management on websites so she could do what she wanted for the dearth of funds to spare on it. The adventure tour didn’t take off but her blogging career sure did.
Vidyut’s writings have strongly informed and opined on the status quo of the society in relation to social issues and current affairs. She especially gained a lot of traction with her analytical pieces during the controversy of the Slutwalk movement in India, Keenan & Reuben murders in Mumbai, Naina Singh’s dowry murder case and Kapil Sibal’s initiation of the internet censorship. Her success with gaining a huge followership on her pieces are attributed to taking up relevant issues to public awareness before mainstream media deemed them sensational enough to hold national debates on television or do intelligent op-eds around it. Her honesty and sincerity in personalizing a lot of the social issues like sharing her experiences with domestic violence, has resonated with the aam janata (common public), whose concerns she sought to reflect.
Speaking about her growth as a blogger, she said, “Earlier, I used to pick things that interested me all the time. Now it is slowly changing to ideas coming in from readers. Sometimes I actually get people asking me to write on something. Another side effect is that I became more popular on Twitter, so a lot of things I used to blog about are now often simply tweeted and forgotten - they are more about the moment, while new kinds of posts which marinate through discussions till I feel ready to write the article are something new.”
M.Svairini's own breasts
M.Svairini was much hidden from open public acknowledgment until she wrote a timely satirical piece on ‘How to Watch Porn in India’ following the Porngate scandal, where two ministers in Karnataka were caught watching a porn clip on a mobile phone during assembly. Pre-porngate, she was spicing it up much on her blog, Shameless Yonis (a collaborative space for desi erotic writers), Yoni Ki Baat (a South Asian version of The Vagina Monologues), Circlet Press and Zubaan Books anthologies on erotica.
You might imagine that writing on sex was only limited to Bombay socialites and their circles but readership on erotic writing has only been in the increase, courtesy the Internet boom with the easy access and privacy it provides. Svairini dispels the myth of skewed sex ratio in erotica authors or the inhibition of publishers when she said, “Sex writing sells better than almost any other kind of writing; there is absolutely no lack of markets. And I don't actually know any men who write smut professionally or semi-professionally; I'm sure there are some, but I definitely don't feel like women are underrepresented in the field.”
While there is an inherent ambition and push towards making the nation and society more open towards the expression of their desires, a ‘fluid’ sexuality and orientation, Svairini writes for the pure pleasure of sex and erotica and from the core of her own fantasies, experiences and imagination. She’s one of the few women, who perceive perversion more positively than admonishingly. In an interview to The Week, she said:
“Yeah, ok, there are some guys out there who think they are perverts — but you know what, I’m probably much more perverted than them! So the joke’s on them. I think it’s hilarious when some dude tries to come on to me on Twitter, since (a) what a pathetic pickup medium, and (b) my stuff has BIG OL LESBO written all over it.”
Tejaswee Rao - late beloved daughter of Indian Homemaker
What sort of keyword tags would you imagine a blogger who’s simply just a homemaker would use to in her posts? ‘Veg Pulao’, ‘homemade baking’ or ‘Ekta Kapoor’? While the stereotypes might hold true for many (like my mom. Only I would add ‘Farmville’ to that list), it certainly cannot be generalized across any generation of housewives.
An English Honours graduate from Delhi University, the Indian Homemaker grew up in NCR/Delhi and in a family that encouraged freedom and self reliance ‘within limits’ and plenty of discussions about those limits. She shares, “I remember my mother saying her daughters were not the kind to 'adjust' to 'Joint Family politics' but we generally heard more of stories of awesome women who won over their husbands' families, of daughters in law who could wear jeans but also touch their husband's families' feet. Or women who could balance homes and careers; and we also grew up hearing how everybody wanted at least one (preferably more) son. And how it was only natural for everybody to do so.”
IHM blogs on gender inequality, patriarchy, feminism, domestic violence, and dowry amongst other topics like politics, communalism, religion, current affairs and animals. Her writing style is minimalistic yet hard hitting with no balanced view diplomatic nonsense deliberated to appease any moral or political view.
Two things found to be awfully touching in her blog – the tribute to her daughter (also an avid blogger) who she had lost to Dengue Fever in the year 2010 and her postings of the many emails she receives from Indian housewives (whether daughter-in-laws a.k.a DILs or mother-in-laws a.k.a MILs) as well as men. IHM’s daughter’s blog post on ‘A Letter to My Future’ addressed to her (possibly adopted) daughter went viral at the time of her demise and in an almost never seen before act, many bloggers and readers mourned the loss of Tejaswee Rao as someone they connected with closely through her and IHM’s posts. Through this blog, not only the memory but the life and ambition of Tejaswee live on through her mother.
Four Critical Questions on Blogging
What is the difference between a modern educated working woman and the same kind of homemaker in India today?
Indian Homemaker says, “While education and self reliance makes everything easier, what’s truly empowering is the right attitude. Sometimes a domestic helper with no education can have more control over her life than an educated and financially self-reliant homemaker who is afraid to take responsibility for her own life and happiness. I have seen women (and men) who have had no education and have never been allowed to express their views, having very clear idea about how some things that common sense shows to be wrong are passed off as acceptable because that's the way it has always been done.”
What does it take to go viral as a blogger today?
Shahana says, “Depends on the 2-3 factors that are there to it. In terms of what sells in India is slapstick humour, sex, religion, region etc. Luckily, we are way too multicultural a society that gives us a lot more options and anything can work. Also, either it has to be genuinely well written or ridiculously brash. Either you’re laughing at me or with me. Aakar Patel, whose piece on South vs. North, was much too seriously written which invited mostly negative reviews. The way you put it across really matters”.
How does virality determine or impact your core writing?
Svairini says, “When I write about something in the news, I expect a certain kind of immediate uptick in traffic. But over time, the traffic on the sex story posts is just as high or higher. So I don't think one is more popular than the other, it's just a different kind of popularity. If people read and are turned on — whether by the sex, the ideas, the critiques, or the humor — then I'm happy.”
How economically feasible is it to sustain yourself with a blog?
Vidyut says, “Not feasible. Broke. Bad idea. Don't recommend. I got a few columns to write, which helped financially, but that also can't be counted on, since the style that is so suited for blogging doesn't necessarily read well for print. Also columnists are a dime a dozen, so getting work is tough. I am able to make ends meet at times, not at other times. It is very hand to mouth at best. I am determined to do this mainly because I believe my writing is different enough from a social/national thinking perspective that it should continue. Unfortunately, this isn't something that can be monetized easily.”
| Previous Post|
Tessy Thomas: No Glass Ceiling Strong Enough For This Missile Woman
| Next Post|
The Proverbial ‘Other Woman’