This article compares the 1950s and 1960s short story writing of two influential yet underexamined women writers, Mannu Bhandari (1931–) and R. Chudamani (1931–2010), who are considered key representatives of the Hindi and Tamil literary canons, respectively. Mani demonstrates that from within their specific geographic and historical contexts, Bhandari's and Chudamani's writing provides insight into literary discourses of gender equality circulating in the immediate postindependence moment. In particular, she argues that these women writers broadened the scope of feminist thought and literary expression existing at the time through their rhetorical use of a language of entitlement that universalizes feminine desire in humanist terms. They did so through the portrayal of female characters who express the desire to possess sexual freedom, economic independence, and human equality on the same terms as the male characters. Feminist scholarship has characterized the 1950s and 1960s as a moment of paucity in women's writing and decline in feminist politics. Yet Bhandari's and Chudamani's distinct uses of a language of entitlement offer a deeper understanding of the role of the literary in shaping feminist thought. Their work thus provides alternative genealogies of the categories of feminism and women's writing in India.

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