Unmasking the Face of Gendered Citizenship: Anupama Chandrasekhar’s Acid and Free Outgoing
Women’s citizenship at risk in a violent patriarchal culture is the focus of this essay. The gravity of the ‘at risk’ situation for Indian women makes a compelling argument for cultural resources that might complement the work of activist groups, organisations or networks lobbying for an end to violence against women—resources that help to understand, reveal and critique India’s masculinist hegemony. Hence my case studies of two feminist plays by the Chennai-based Indian playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar: Acid (2004) and Free Outgoing (2007). Acid tackles the violent crime of acid attacks against women; Free Outgoing treats the issue of young women’s sexuality as policed by traditional values and abused by the power of social media. Analysing these plays, I follow Phadke et al. (Why Loiter?: Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets. Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2011) in advocating the ‘right to risk’ as fundamental to women’s agency. This postulation argues for women’s liberation from the sexual double standard that polices their lives in both private and public spheres, and curtails their freedom or risk-taking behaviours. Furthermore, I argue that to insist on the ‘right to risk’ is to resist increased patriarchal surveillance or protectionism as the solution to women’s relative lack of safety.
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