At a small, informal gathering in Karachi last night, I overheard a snotty young brand manager from a well-known organization joking about having to celebrate women for having one chromosome (which is inaccurate—we have two of the same chromosome). I didn’t hear the whole joke, but I caught the gist of the conversation. He was talking about his company’s campaigns for International Women’s Day and how stupid the whole concept of a day to celebrate women was (“Why don’t we celebrate men?”).
No doubt, if the company’s campaigns were all about shopping and spending money, then the concept is lame. Though I don’t think the snotty kid was protesting the campaigns so much as the fact that he wouldn’t be doing them if his boss hadn’t been a woman. The irony of that particular set up seemed to elude him completely—or he understood it so well that he resented it and was taking his insecure ire out on women in general.
I may have found him funny, except that’s not what we’re celebrating. I don’t believe, when Joanna Walsh created her ReadWomen 2014 campaign to celebrate the Year of Reading Women, that she did it because she wanted women writers to be celebrated for having two X chromosomes. She did it (and I am assuming this, as I don’t know her or her state of mind) because the women writers she listed are phenomenal. From Marguerite Duras to Gertrude Stein to Simone de Beauvoir—and the 250 names listed on the backs of her bookmarks—these are women read by everyone, admired, prolific, successful. Just not as well-known as their male counterparts.
Her campaign inspired my publisher to do the same for women writers from South Asia. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Indireads created their own series of bookmarks and started the SheReads South Asia campaign. The campaign is focused on bringing new generations of South Asian women an awareness of the rich history of writers that have gone before them. To encourage them to read their own women writers, and to encourage new writers to step into the fray.
To that end, these are the beautiful bookmarks from the SheReads campaign. You can learn how to get involved in this initiative here.
And here’s a small fraction of the list of 200 South Asia women writers found on the back of the SheReadsSA bookmarks:
Aditi Chopra . Ameena Hussein . Ameena Meer . Amulya Malladi . Anita Desai . Anjali Joseph . Anjana Appachana . Anjum Hasan . Anne Ranasinghe . Arundhati Roy . Arundhati Subramaniam . Atima Srivastava . Attia Hosain . Bapsi Sidhwa . Bharati Mukherjee . Cauvery Madhavan . Chandani Lokuge . Chandra Prasad . Debjani Chatterjee . Diana Romany . Dina Mehta . Dipika Mukherjee . Esther David . Eunice deSouza . Feryal Ali Gauhar . Gouri Dange . Hima Raza . Imtiaz Dharker . Indira Ganesan . Indira Goswami . Indira Mahindra . Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen . Irshad Manji . Jacqueline Singh . Jaishree Misra . Jawahara Saidullah . Jean Arasanayagam . Jhumpa Lahiri . Kamila Shamsie . Karen Roberts . Kiran Desai . Kirin Narayan . Lakshmi Persaud . Maniza Naqvi . Manju Kapur . Marina Budhos . Mary Anne Mohanraj . Meera Nair . Meera Syal . Meher Pestonji . Meira Chand . Mina Singh . Monica Ali . Moniza Alvi . Nafisa Haji . Yasmine Gooneratne . Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi . Neelima Vinod . Nikita Lalwani . Nilanjana Roy . Nita Mehta . Radhika Jha . Raman Mundair . Rokeya Sakawat Hossain . Roopa Menon . Ruth Jhabvala . Saba Imtiaz . Sagarika Ghose . Saher Alam . Samina Ali . Sara Suleri . Sarojini Naidu . Sehba Sarwar . Shadab Zeest Hashmi . Shaila Abdullah . Shama Futehally . Shamim Azad . Shashi Deshpande . Shobha De . Shobha Narayan . Shweta Ganesh Kumar . Sohaila Abdulali . Sonia Singh . Sujata Massey . Suroopa Mukherjee . Susan Viswanathan . Suvimalee Karunaratna . Tahira Naqvi . Tahmima Anam . Talat Abbasi . Tania James . Tanuja Desai Hidier . Tara Deshpande . Taslima Nasrin . Tehmina Durrani . Temsula Ao . Tulsi Badrinath . Uma Parameswaran . Usha Akella . Usha K.R. . Uzma Aslam Khan . V.V. Ganeshananthan . Vijita Fernando . VK Mina . Yamini Vijendran . Yasmine Gooneratne . Zeenat Mahal
International Women’s Day is actually a reminder to all snotty young brand managers out there that your boss is a woman, and she got to that position despite the fact that you secretly lobbied against it. And the only reason you lobbied against it is because she doesn’t have a Y chromosome!