Rosalyn D'Mello: We have got each others' backs

Published: 22 December, 2017 06:15 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello | Mumbai

As much as it hurts to be betrayed by one of our own, the feminist sisterhood is too strong to be undone by one woman's weakness

This week, I learned that women you thought were in your corner, or on your side of the feminist street, are fully capable of betraying you. It isn't all right, but you take it in your stride and write them off as lost causes. But should it end there? Do you engage further? Should you even? I spent Tuesday living in the shadow of that betrayal.

My life is too rich and joyously peopled to be ruptured by one woman's cowardly betrayal. Representation pic/Thinkstock
My life is too rich and joyously peopled to be ruptured by one woman's cowardly betrayal. Representation pic/Thinkstock

Someone I had stood up for had, in a sense, thrown me under the bus, along with the cause. Her excuse was her ambition, which she felt was bigger than the feminist sorority, the sisterhood. I know this because I chose not to be silent about her action. You see, she choose to re-join a writing group I had left along with a bunch of other women on account of their patriarchal practices that included supporting abuse against their female members and indulging in shameless displays of casual sexism. It wasn't that she didn't know why we had left this group after calling them out on their violence. She was privy to several conversations, even though she had, for various reasons, left that group years before.

She had also witnessed first-hand how another writer friend and I left another group we had been subscribed to because of how they had treated her. When she had said she was leaving, we left too, with no regrets absolutely. What I fail to understand is why she needs that writers' group in the first place, considering how immensely talented and proficient she is with her own writing and research. She's better than most of them put together. When I confronted her, she seemed to express selective amnesia, saying even that she has never experienced the warmth and solidarity that we were referring to when we spoke about the sisterhood. I was shocked, because I had ample evidence sitting in my inbox and sent her choice excerpts to dispel her baseless misgivings. She responded with radio silence.

I do not intend her any malice. But I confess I pity her a little bit. She must have felt that the group could give the visibility and networks to which she believed she had no access. That, in doing so, she was only reinforcing the many insidious mechanisms of patriarchy was perhaps incidental to her. She was operating the way so many women have felt compelled to, even historically, and, in that, her behaviour is not unique. Still, the last two days have felt like I've been in a state of mourning, at the loss of the alliance of someone who could have gained so much from collective solidarity instead of going with the boys' club. But I'm telling myself that the sisterhood is bigger than her and more expansive and forgiving, and it will outlast and overshadow all these defections.

As an exercise, I decided to count all the many exceptional things that have happened to me just this month. I threw a fabulous party for a fellow writer friend, Janice Pariat, who launched her third book on December 6, and it was such a blast. I made chicken soup for a writer friend who was sick, and in doing so earned the pleasure of her company for about an hour. I had a ranting session with my sister, which is always restorative in its own beautiful way. I was delighted that one of the best-read New Yorker stories this year was by a woman (a must-read, Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian). I got to have tea and cake with the most marvellous Maria Aurora Couto at her home in Aldona, then got to have a candle-lit dinner with my feminist sister, Margaret Mascarenhas. We had excellent, lip-smackingly gorgeous pork ribs at this new joint in Carona called Phil Rock. Oh, and I revisited the somewhat gentrified but still homely Club Nacional, thanks to my photographer friend, Akshay Mahajan, whom I definitely consider to be part of my sisterhood, and who I think would be happy to hear that, too. I got to spend a quick yet fulfilling 20 minutes with the poet Manohar Shetty and his lovely partner, journalist Devika Sequira. I had the pleasure of being part of a street party outside Joseph's bar in Panjim and caught up with the wonderful folks who run the HH Arts Space Residency that had hosted me at the beginning of this year - Nikhil Chopra, Madhavi Gore and Romain Loustau. And the instant I returned home from Goa, I got to cook dinner for my Turkish artist friend, Asli, who will come and stay with me later this week in Mumbai and then Goa. Did I mention the invitation I received to collaborate with her on a text on the work she will create early next year in Bolzano in Italy, which means I get to go to Italy!

I realise my life is too rich and too joyously peopled to be ruptured or punctured by one woman's cowardly betrayal. And the sisterhood is too resilient to be undone so easily.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to

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