Barkha Dutt & The IPL Cheerleaders

May 27, 2008

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.

Dear Barkha,

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?

Warm Regards.

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?

As a team lead at an IT firm in Hyderabad, I might seem to be treading the known path. But I have actually had a chequered career - alternating between being a research student to journalist to lecturer. I am passionate about books and music, and hope to make a living using these some day.
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

Deepti Lamba
May 27, 2008
11:39 PM

I would have preferred watching Rakhi or Malika do numbers rather than watch some 'cheerleaders' shake their booty.

May 28, 2008
03:41 AM

As it is, the Indian cricket fan is so hyper, I fail to understand why we need cheerleaders?? just because they were present in the 20-20 world cup last year in South Africa, we have replicated it. Even if we need them, as Deepti points out, why not have some Indians do it. It would be more exciting that way :-)

May 28, 2008
07:31 AM

pseudo-liberal showing her attitude.

May 28, 2008
03:24 PM

um, isn't karan a dude? I mean, I know he's sweet, but...

May 28, 2008
05:07 PM

I found some of barkha's comments pretty unacceptable. the white trash comment was wholly unacceptable... I mean, if I want to criticize Rakhi Sawant, and I called her "brown trash" people would RIGHTLY be up in arms. This is no different. Plus, um, how does Barkha know these women are trashy? Just because they are cheerleaders? Oh, now it is OK to characterize women by their professions? Sounds like a SIFF move, actually. And the whole america-bashing tone was really unnecessary.

May 28, 2008
09:08 PM

[Sriram] My article was not about why we need cheerleaders or who should be doing it. I am reacting only to what Barkha had to say in her article.

[Sumanth] Agree with you totally.

[smallsquirrel] Honestly, no I don't find Karan cute.
I agree with you - I found a lot of what Barkha had to say totally unacceptable. This time I believe she really crossed the limit.

May 29, 2008
12:28 AM

I agree with Barkha on the aesthetic aspects of cheerleading. It is loud, crass and the antithesis of feminity. Have you ever heard cheerleaders "cheer"? To me they sound more like barking dogs, and completely turn me off. Sexuality lies in subtlety, not public pelvic thrusts and fist pumping (even with pompons). The whole thing seems so ridiculous to me.

I think American women have yet to learn the grace of Asian and European women. I think the men who actually think cheerleading is graceful are either Americans or screwed up in the heads as to what feminity is all about.

Aditi Nadkarni
May 29, 2008
01:02 AM


Who said cheerleading is about sexuality and feminity?!!! Geez what an extrapolation! Cheerleading as the word would suggest is about getting the crowds up on their feet and cheering or drawing in the crowds for an event which by the way scantily clad women can do anywhere in the world whether they are blonde or not. Now if Indian men lust after the "gori" so religiously event managers are just catering to the market.

What grace of Asian and European women?! Have you ever seen the buttock gyrating, bosom heaving grace of our item girls? Such evolved sexuality and feminity no?!! :P

Whats with the whole "America needs to learn such and such from Asian culture" take! Why can't people just be themselves? If anybody needs to learn anything I think its the Indians that need to learn some originality, to do something innovative for once instead of copying and plagiarizing all over the place. That ain't so graceful either.

Upon reading this article I went to Youtube and watched the whole cheerleader situation what with cricket matches being turned into the Superbowl. I can understand commercializing but when will we EVER come up with something novel and unique instead of aping others? And I am not refering to the cheerleaders or the IPL. Everything has changed except maybe the inclusion of a storyline in Bollywood films. And even when we do ape others its somehow the fault of the wicked "west" that drives us into copying them. Right?

I wonder how the Koreans tricked Atif Aslam into copying their song for his latest Race number.

May 29, 2008
02:00 AM


1: the matka-jhatkas by the cheerleaders are fine and should be enjoyed peacefully by all and sundry without the interruptive disruption by the cricketers on the field

2: and why do they have to "import" east european, russian gals? what is wrong with indian talent?

and 3: speaking of matka-jhatkas the hejiras are second to none. will suggest to IPL honchos to establish a committee to look into this

Deepti Lamba
May 29, 2008
03:03 AM

There is more to cheerleading than what we see on the cricket grounds. They actually do fantastic acts on the fields back in America. What we got here is schoolish antics and most know it.

May 29, 2008
04:54 AM

Aditi - I think you missed the point I was trying to make. I am also against the blatant plagiarism of this American concept which I don't think is great to begin with.

And I don't believe all Indian men "lust" after goris. The IPL organizers think they do, but you are right, it wouldn't matter if they are blonde or not. I personally prefer brunettes. And Indian women are very beautiful and have lovely eyes, but I guess, as far as cheerleaders are concerned, it is not the eyes that matter most, is it?

Deepti- Yeah, I know what you are talking about, like human pyramids and stuff, but do we really want to be entertained by a circus sideshow while watching a sporting event? If the game is exciting enough, there is no need for these kind of props. They might be ok before the game begins, but not all the way through the actual event. It is a ridiculous concept, no wonder it has not caught on with soccer or other non-US events (except for Indian IPL, unfortunately).

May 29, 2008
06:50 AM

ledz... I think that was a really unfortunate and unneeded generalization. I dare you to meet me and say that to my face, nah? and I know plenty of not-very-graceful asian and european women.

cheerleading was originally not about sexuality, but instead about CHEERING ON YOUR TEAM. so... um....

(rolls eyes)

Aditi Nadkarni
May 29, 2008
11:33 AM

Ledzius: Sorry I usually don't mind-read and only address the points you've written in your comment quite clearly which I believe I have addressed in my response to you. I am not sure why you think I've "missed the point"

You commented on the lack of "feminity and sexuality" in cheerleading and on how American women "have yet to learn" grace from Asian and European women.

I addressed both these points and added my own which was what Indians could maybe learn.

Deepa Krishnan
May 30, 2008
03:12 AM

The issue really, is not whether Indian men like gori or kali or which of these races of women can do gymnastics or dancing, or has more or less innate grace. The real issue is the display of bodies, female bodies.

I don't give a flying fuck whether cheerleading is a "discipline" or an "art" or not, the obvious truth is that it is popular because it puts attractive women on display in the most in-your-face manner. It is one more way to turn womens bodies into commodities for gawking at.

How come male cheerleaders are all dressed more conservatively? Why don't we get muscled hunks in tiny briefs shaking their butts? And I'll tell you what - they can do fancy gymnastics if they like and call it art, or just stand around and wave their arms, as long as they look good and the underpants are tight enough! I might start actually watching IPL then.

Oh and if I may state a preference - kala please not gora :D :D

And while we are on the subject, here's another sport where I'd like to see more male skin: Tennis. How come only female tennis players run around on the court showing their underpants? How come the really sexy male players wear baggy shorts until their knees and cover up those gorgeous bodies?

- Deepa
P.S. If you're interested, just google "male cheerleading" and look at all the interesting stuff that comes up.

Deepti Lamba
May 30, 2008
06:21 AM

Why don't we get muscled hunks in tiny briefs shaking their butts?

Coz more than the butt would shake. I couldn't resist it- my bad;)

btw- Deepa this is the first time on DC you used the term fuck and I loved it;)

July 12, 2008
09:40 AM

why do they import white girls for cheerleading.

the cheerleading girls have to be beautiful and graceful and tall and attractive. and in india there are many. BUT girls with those qualitites would already be modelling or in the showbiz.
in europe and russia these qualitites are easily found in average girls while in india there are such girls but in lesser numbers.
so its cheaper to train and import russian girls who are mostly beautiful anyways compared to indian girls with the same qualities.

seocndly whatever the FEMINISTAS can say the thing is that the girls are not forced to do it. its their bodies theyre beautiful and are being adequately paid for it. its none of your bussiness. if anyone is being DEGRADED its those particualr girls ONLY and not the whole woman-kind. so please cut that feminist crap.
just try and tell and preach some cheerleading girl that you are being exploited and she will tel you to fuck yourself.

July 12, 2008
10:07 AM

uh zulifkar, your whole premise is out the window dear. the cheerleaders are from the US.

and us feminists are not against cheerleading. where did you get that crap?

July 12, 2008
12:03 PM


please restrain yourself and adhere to the comment policy


"zulfikar" has posted 2 comments
"nirmal" has posted 1 comments
"zulifkar" has posted 1 comments

Add your comment

(Or ping: http://desicritics.org/tb/7752)

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.

Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!