As a storm is created over her tweets about Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen talks about 'fragile male egos' in an exclusive rendezvous with us.
When Taslima Nasreen tweeted about Salman Rushdie's debut overdrive on Twitter, she wouldn't have imagined in her wildest dreams that her comments would make headlines. What started after that was hate messages flying fast and furious against Taslima on social networking sites. Taslima voices her anguish about "the existing prejudices and male chauvinism" in a chat with us.
A lot has been written about your war of words with Rushdie...
Rushdie is an award-winning famous author. He supports everybody's right to free speech. And I have been fighting for freedom of expression for more than two decades. As a feminist writer, I just expressed my opinions on his recent tweets. It's not a war; we exercised our freedom of expression.
Do world famous writers get undue support at times from people?
Readers read their books for different reasons. Umberto Eco and Paulo Coelho are not admired for the same reasons. I believe in readers' freedom to support their favourite writers or their favourite names.
Is it easier to pull a woman down in the literary world?
We are writers in a male-dominated literary world. Many male writers are egoists and arrogant, especially if they write in a dominant language and somehow manage to get wide readership. No one in this man's world will tolerate any criticism against them. They are like God. God hates criticism. So, God's believers protect their God from criticism. Female writers who fight for women's rights are ' untouchables' in the society. Feminism is hated. The problem is if you help spread a rumour that a man is a great writer, then you will see thousands of people parroting - 'He's a great writer.' They don't need to read his books to say that. And if you say that a woman is a bad writer, people will start saying - 'She's a bad writer', without even reading her books. Rumour is like angel Gabriel. It has the power to smash a great writer, and elevate trash to the skies.
What's the worst comment made by a male writer about you?
I was a practicing medical doctor working in a renowned hospital when my first book was published. And since the beginning, I got an enviable readership. I did not need to go to established male writers to get their 'blessings'. I did not have to be victim of 'casting couch' to get my writings get published. I was lucky, but not all young unknown or not-so-known female writers are lucky. Young promising female writers, who do not bow their heads, but walk with dignity and head held high, are often called 'whores' in many countries. I was a best-selling author in some parts of the Indian subcontinent. Some male writers could not tolerate a female writer selling more books than them or maybe they didn't like what I wrote. They appealed to the government to ban my books in Bangladesh and West Bengal. They even filed cases against me. I don't think any writer in this world got banned, banished, and blacklisted like me. If I were a male writer, I would not have suffered like this. I get medals and doctorates. But, people don't notice when I am awarded or honoured. They only notice when I get beaten, harassed, attacked and hated.