On International women’s day, celebrating the legacy of fierce feminist Tarabai Shinde

Tarabai Shinde was a remarkable Indian feminist and writer who challenged the patriarchal norms of her time. Her book, “Stri Purush Tulana” (A Comparison between Women and Men), was a powerful critique of the oppression of women in Indian society.

Tarabai Shinde was born in 1850 in a small village in Maharashtra. She was married off at a young age to a man much older than her, and she was not allowed to pursue an education or any other interests. Despite these limitations, she was determined to educate herself and learn about the world beyond her village.

Tarabai Shinde is, as we know it, the first Indian feminist literary critic. Her exposé on the patriarchal setup and stereotypes women were subjected to appeared almost a century before Simone De Beavoir’s The Second Sex, the foundation stone for feminist discourse.

Tarabai’s experiences as a woman in a patriarchal society inspired her to speak out against the injustices that women faced. In 1882, she wrote “Stri Purush Tulana,” which was a scathing critique of the way that women were treated in Indian society. The book argued that women were oppressed in every aspect of their lives, from their lack of education and financial independence to their treatment within the family and their vulnerability to sexual violence.

“Stri Purush Tulana” was a groundbreaking work for its time, as it challenged the prevailing belief that women were inferior to men and that their place was in the home. Tarabai argued that women had the same capabilities and potential as men and that they deserved to be treated with the same respect and dignity.

The book was also notable for its use of Marathi, a regional language that was not commonly used in literature at the time. By writing in Marathi, Tarabai made her ideas accessible to a wider audience, including those who were not fluent in English.

However, the publication of “Stri Purush Tulana” was met with a fierce backlash from the male-dominated literary establishment. Tarabai was accused of blasphemy and immorality, and her book was banned. Despite this opposition, Tarabai continued to advocate for women’s rights and spoke out against the injustices that women faced.

Tarabai’s legacy lives on today as a trailblazer for feminist thought in India. Her work challenged the status quo and paved the way for future generations of women to fight for their rights. She remains an inspiration to all those who seek to challenge patriarchal norms and create a more just and equitable society.

Here is an excerpt from the Stri Purush Tulana (A Comparison Between Men and Women)

Let me ask you something, Gods! You are supposed to be omnipotent and freely accessible to all. You are said to be completely impartial. What does that mean? That you have never been known to be partial. But wasn’t it you who created both men and women? Then why did you grant happiness only to men and brand women with nothing but agony? Your will was done! But poor women have had to suffer for it down the ages.”

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