We have been featuring the best writers from our writers’ community for their committed contribution to FII, making it what it is today. FII would not exist if not for the passionate and loyal feminist writers’ community that we have steadily been building over the last three years. This December, we feature Sukanya Shaji.
A freelance writer, published poet and lawyer, Sukanya Shaji was among the top 30 prize-winning poets in the Wingward Poetry Prize 2019 and her poem is a part of the anthology Riding On The Summer Train, published by Delhi Poetry Slam. A poem written by Sukanya Shaji won the All India Poetry Prize 2015, which was later published in the anthology titled Poetry In India: Voices in Shade & Sunshine, published by the Poetry Society of India. Her first book of poems will be published soon. Some of her popular articles are Housework And The Normalization Of The ‘Clueless Man’, Does Feminism Encourage Man Hating And Breaking Families?, We Need More Angry Women In Fiction: ‘Female’ Rage And Her Inner Worlds and many others.
FII: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Sukanya Shaji: I am a freelance writer, poet and lawyer. I completed my Bachelors in law from the Cochin University of Science and Technology and realized somewhere along the way that I take after my father, who is a journalist. I like writing and have always been involved in literary pursuits. Poetry has been my rescue on most days and I was awarded the All India Poetry Prize in 2015 post which I have actively worked towards getting better at it. I have a Masters in Philosophy from the Hyderabad Central University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Print Journalism from The Trivandrum Press Club. I now juggle between writing and lawyering and my first collection of poems is soon to be published.
FII: How did you become a part of the FII writer family?
Sukanya Shaji: Post the lockdown this year I decided to focus on things that make me happy and writing tops the list. I submitted an article to the FII which was very well received and later on joined the team as a freelance writer. My journey with FII has been incredibly enlightening so far. Writing about gender has prompted me to learn more about the nuances of the topic myself. The reflective time spent putting together each piece has brought me tremendous clarity about the feminist movement and my take on it. The articles have also put me in touch with a number of readers out there who warmly reach out to me, engage with me and make me realise what it means to truly grow and be better together.
FII: How and when did you become a feminist? Which issues within feminism are close to your heart?
Sukanya Shaji: As a young girl, I knew I wanted to live in a world that treats everyone as equals. My parents facilitated an environment which instilled objectivity and respect for everyone in me. But I still did not address myself as a feminist until much later. It was a slow journey of unlearning. I do not remember the exact phase in which I started addressing myself as a feminist, but I sure know now that it is my primary political identity. Within feminism, I am more drawn to the conflicts between women and the familial structure, body image issues, male gaze in art and the moral conditioning women face in public spaces. My solidarity also lies with the intersectional feminist conflicts about which I actively try to learn, understand and amplify. It has helped me identify and address my own privileges, which I think is my greatest takeaway for life.
FII: What is your favourite piece on this site that you have written, and your favourite piece on this site that you have read? Why did they strike you?
Sukanya Shaji: I think my most favourite piece amongst those I have written at any given point is always the latest one. As an individual and a feminist, I believe I evolve everyday. Everything I read, each conversation I have, opens me up to my own blind spots and progressively adds to my journey of unlearning. With every new piece of writing my thoughts become clearer and more streamlined. I last wrote about female rage and its representation in fiction which is something I feel very strongly about. Literature seldom has angry women protagonists and as a reader of fiction myself I see a lack of experiential representations of female rage which is what prompted me to explore the topic. It is difficult for me to pick a particular piece on the website that I have read and loved because most pieces offer valuable perspectives and I try to keep up with all of them.
FII: What do you like to do when not writing about gender and social justice?
Sukanya Shaji: I read fiction. In the last few years I have categorically selected books authored by women from different countries and that has intimately influenced my understanding of the lived experience of being a woman. Apart from that I watch films and spend a good amount of time deciding what to eat!
FII: What do you like about FII and our work? What more would you like to see from us?
Sukanya Shaji: FII is a platform that is willing to unlearn together with its readers. I think that is what makes it one of most enabling spaces for feminism. FII does not hesitate to edit or take down articles if they have been legitimately offensive towards the marginalised communities and sexual minorities. It is a kind of social accountability that organisations of this stature seldom exhibit. This clarity of purpose is what makes me like FII. I would like to see FII diversify into specific regions of the country and carry stories with particular context to those spaces so that we can be more representative of the experiences surrounding gender in the country.
FII thanks Sukanya for her timely and valuable contributions. We are incredibly grateful to have her as a part of our writers’ community and appreciate her for her deeply informative writing. You can follow her on Instagram.