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New Outlook: Caste and Gender in Writing with Fire and Spotted Goddesses

Ms Aiswarya T. S., and Ms Sweta Rath

Research Interns, Centre for Studies of Plural Societies, New Delhi, India


The caste system has been existing in Indian society since time immemorial and we can also find its traces in the ancient Indian texts. The presence of such a practice has done enough damage and injustice to the society as it marginalises a certain section of the community in the name of their caste, gender, and race. It dehumanises people to benefit the ones at the top of the hierarchy. From this quote by Simone de Beauvoire, “Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male." the othering of females in a society as the weaker sex is established. And in a patriarchal society when the “weaker sex” are also a part of the “untouchables”, they become double-marginalized.

This paper purports the new variants of narratives that encompasses the stories of Dalit women who have always been portrayed as powerless and helpless by the dominant castes under the roof of patriarchy. In a world that is constantly changing it's vital to know the different plural stories of each of the communities or groups. The humiliating painful stories of Dalit women have been weaved and spread across the world showcasing only a side of the many sides of reality. Deviating from the tedious trends in these stories, Writing with Fire, a documentary directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, brings out the positive narrative of Dalit women breaking the structures impeding them. Another work, Spotted Goddesses by Roja Singh showcases the strong assertion of identity by Dalit women embracing and upholding their roots of culture reverberating Dalit aesthetics.

This paper intends to investigate and present how both of these works run parallel in portraying the empowerment of Dalit women in different ways through the close reading method. This paper will resort to a qualitative analysis to figure out the intricacies of caste and gender in recent times. To facilitate the research we will take help of Dalit Studies, Gender Studies, and Cultural Studies.

Keywords: Caste, Gender, Dalit Women, Culture, and Identity.

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