Barkha Dutt & The IPL Cheerleaders
I am not much of a cricket fan; yes, I do keep track of what's happening. It is difficult not to, when you are living with an obsessive cricket fan, whose priorities in life are (and will always be) cricket, sleep and then me. So, yes, the IPL has invaded our living room too and taken over our lives completely. And yes, I have been reading up on matches, offering my not_so_expert and often unsolicited but enthusiastic comments on players and teams all of which have been dismissed with equal disdain. I have been following up on the various controversies from the "slap" episode to the cheerleaders controversy to Khan's presence in the dug-out (why the hell is it called that?). But all this while I have also maintained my silence.
Last week, I read this. From the beginning I have felt that the whole issue about the cheerleaders was much ado about nothing, that we were unnecessarily wasting our time. Do we need the cheerleaders? Frankly speaking, I don't care. Are they a blot on the Indian culture? Can someone please explain to me what is this "Indian culture" all about? My mediocre mind just doesn't seem to fathom such a profound idea. But I do understand this: that every person in this world has a right to choose what one wants to do. And if my profession is being a cheerleader, and if I am being paid what I think is good enough money to do my job (even if it is in a country where I open myself up to voyeuristic gazes), I am not sure why is it a problem for anyone. Least of all someone like Barkha Dutt who doesn't tire of saying she is a journo with a cause (again, whatever that means!). So, I have this to say to her.
Your article was totally in bad taste. Lets look at how you describe the act of cheerleading - "bevy of barely clad, big-breasted blondes wiggling their bottoms at a billion people? As they swirl and twirl their little red skirts and flash their wide, gummy smiles...". Excuse me, but whatever happened to professionalism? What the cheerleaders are doing is just their job. Maybe, dear Barkha, you ought to go and look up what "cheerleading" is all about. And learn to recognize that they are professionals in their own right. Probably, this would help. Frankly, I can understand your 85-year-old uncle disapproving of them (and if that is being liberal, I need to go look up what "liberal" actually means), but don't you think your reaction, and your description, is all about taking too many liberties with journalistic licenses?
There is, of course, more with which you shock me to no end. You call it "choreographed sexuality", "trashy" - obviously, you haven't watched Indian movies in a long long time. To be honest, maybe never. Forget the "choreographed sexuality" that oozes out of our small as well as big screens today, haven't you ever seen Sridevi's pelvic thrusts and Madhuri's bosom heaves before? And how come you never found them objectionable? Or maybe you have just forgetten. So much so that you go on ahead and call the cheerleaders "white trash". Honestly, to me your statement is as "farcical and indefensible as the attempt by sundry politicians to ban them or dress them up in clothes that cover their knees".
You say you are not speaking for preserving moral culture, yet you do not understand why "a self-confident nation needs play to copycat to some air-headed ritual from the American heartland". Maybe the next time you get all dressed up to get to work you should stand and observe yourself in the mirror for a minute. And ask yourself this question: which part of the dress that you are wearing is actually typically Indian and not from an American heartland? If this isn't being hypocritical, pray what is?
I agree with you on one point though - manufactured sexuality is not a mark of emancipation of women. But to me what is emancipation is this: that a Rakhi Sawant chooses to flaunt her sexuality. I don't really care why she does it; but to me the fact that she chooses to do so and is totally unapologetic about it speaks a lot about one's emancipation. Freedom, Barkha my dear, is the right to choose who you want to be, when you want it. These cheerleaders are professionals, even if they are in a profession you don't approve of or would ever take up on your own. Are they not doing their job? Then, what gives you (or anybody) the right to decide that they are nothing but "trash"?
It just doesn't strike you, does it, that you are sitting out there on this high pedestal of yours, strong in the belief that you are in an "honourable" profession that it seems totally okay for you to pass judgement on other professions that you don't necessarily approve of? How professional is that? Isn't it below someone to be purely judged on what you see on the outside? You see a few dances (which at the risk of over-emphasising, let me say, is their job) and you decide they are nothing but "trash", "faceless bimbettes"; that they have nothing else to recommend for themselves apart from being "steamy, sexy and sultry". You are absolutely right - "breaking free from the conventional orthodoxy of right-wing moralists" doesn't mean replacing one stereotype with another! We condescend to others when we pass judgement on their choices. Sure, through a middle-class prism, it seems terrible to be a prostitute (as it does to be a construction worker or a ragpicker, for that matter). But is it really right to judge a person on the basis of the profession they are in, which probably is also a profession they chose to be in?
PS: By the way, when did Shobhaa De and Karan Johar become the yardstick that Indian women can be measured by?
PS1: I am totally stuck by one statement (out of context, if you ask me) that you make: "...our sense of modernity [cannot] be borrowed from a country that still debates whether women should have the right to abortion?" Let me just remind you this - that this country also has a very big pro-choice group and they don't go about snuffing life out of foetuses only because they are girls. Or doesn't that matter at all?
Barkha Dutt & The IPL Cheerleaders
- » Published on May 27, 2008
- » Type: Opinion
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