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The category of gender has perennially found itself at the margins because of its social location across South Asia. Albeit heterogeneous by nature, women have borne the burden of history, community, tradition and even geography being violently mapped across their bodies. No wonder that the past two centuries has witnessed heated debates on the women’s question in the region ranging from the Altekarian paradigm to the valorized mother figure who is ever nurturing and generous. Many social reformers both male and female sought to battle orthodoxy, religious chauvinism and caste-based status-quoism widening the contours of gender justice in the process. The tropes revolved around consent and coercion, public battles over scriptural legitimacy and contentious traditions. The reformers were treading on delicate grounds as the sacred domain of the ‘home’ had to be kept immune from any polluting winds of ‘western’ ideology. This article is an attempt to tease out E.V. Ramasamy Naicker’s (Periyar) radical understanding of the gender question and his efforts to create an alternate epistemology to question existing socio-cultural realities. It concludes by arguing that this gendered utopia is also a work in progress.
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