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Gender through comic illustrations: Kruttika Susarla on intersectionality and how personal is political

Kruttika Susarla, a comic illustrator and graphic designer in Delhi, was part of the recently concluded Delhi Comic Arts Festival where she spoke on 'Personal in political' and intersectionality in gender matters.

Written by Soumya Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: December 17, 2017 6:08:28 pm
kruttika susarla, comic illustrations on feminism, kruttika susarla comic illustrations, feminist comic illustrations, gender issues through comics, indian express, indian express news With a lesson on the sanskari way of making babies, the satire Kruttika Susarla uses to to illustrate is what is considered dangerous by many in the country today, yet she is no-holds-barred.(Source: Kruttika Susarla/Instagram)

When the BJP-led government slashed GST (Goods and Services Tax) on commodities like chocolates, detergents, shampoos, deodorants and shaving creams, sanitary napkin, used by women everywhere during menstruation (and unlike chocolates, detergents, shampoos, deodorants and shaving creams, something they can’t choose to not buy) was retained in the 12 per cent tax bracket. Kruttika Susarla, a 26-year-old comic illustrator, succinctly makes a jibe on this in one of her sketches. With a lesson on the sanskari way of making babies, the satire she uses to illustrate is what is considered dangerous by many in the country today, yet Susarla is no-holds-barred.

Talking to, Susarla says her work has always been observational. She was one of the panelists at the recently-concluded Delhi Comic Arts Festival and chose to present on the theme ‘Personal is Political’. Taking the GST illustration as a reference to explain why she chose the theme, Susarla said that having to pay for sanitary napkins is definitely every woman’s personal problem, yet that the decision makers did not find it essential enough to be made cheaper and accessible makes it political. Her theme is quite similar in nature to the ‘Personal is political’ argument put forth by people as a result of the second wave of feminism, circa 1960s, she conceded.

In addition, there are other issues like domestic violence, marital rape and lack of decision-making agencies for women that the New Delhi-based artist tries to address in her illustrations, because she believes these matters continue to be in the dark.

While on one hand the Indian judicial system continues to overlook marital rape as criminal and with movements like #MeToo picking up traction because of its spine-chilling resonance with people (on both ends of sexual harassment) worldwide, Susarla says some of the guy friends around her would ask “Why are you being so hyper about feminism?” “That ticked me off and I tried to convince them, till I realised that more than that, it was important to join hands in solidarity with those who are fighting to make the world a better place for the marginalised,” she says. In March this year, through 36 days of type — An open project call for illustrators, designers and cartoonists to express their perspectives through the alphabets and numbers — Susarla, hence, decided to highlight the nuances and intersections within feminism that makes it so much more than “just fighting for women’s rights.”

In an extension of how she highlights gender issues and focuses on the marginalised, she also designed material for Taxi Fabric. For the fascinating project that transforms taxi seat covers to canvases for designers to draw on, Susarla opted to illustrate the lives of “women leaders from marginalised sections like Bhanwari Devi from Rajasthan.” Devi was allegedly gang-raped by men of the higher castes in 1992 and her case was a landmark in the history of Indian law and is seen as a crucial juncture in India’s women’s rights movement.

While some find resort in writing and others through effective oration to make strong pitches about important matters, Susarla believes that it is easier to talk to people through drawings because “all of us have drawn, starting from childhood.” Which is why it is easier to talk about complex issues though illustrative format, Susarla says, adding “It simplifies things and strikes a chord even with people who cannot read and write.”

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