I Can’t Believe You Laugh At This: The Edition Of Just Why I Want To Live In A Cave

Dear BLOG! reading person,

I have to warn you early enough today. This letter you see before you is actually a rant. A long winded-one at that. So, if you’re in no mood to listen to me rant (again), you can leave. I seriously don’t want any more e-mails detailing just why do I rant and what’s so wrong with it. Now that all the troll-people have gone, let’s get on with our usual LadyBusiness shall we?

It comes as no surprise that I love watch mind-numbingly horrid T.V. shows; it’s a real problem with no visible cure. So today, while I fed my weekly need to pierce my eyeballs out addiction, something terrible happened. It happened. Indian T.V. has finally managed to completely repulse me by just a three-minute dance performance. Every time I see something terrible, I promise myself I won’t watch the show again. Sure enough, next week I am on my position on the couch, waiting for the horror to unfold.

This show I talk of is called ‘Zara Nachke Dikha’ which is probably the Indian version of ‘Dancing With The Stars’ — only the stars are divided into two teams : Men Vs Women. This week the theme was ‘fusion’. This is an opportunity for the contestants to mix Western and traditional Indian dance styles. Apparently contestant Siddhesh Pai  interpreted this theme to ‘fusing genders’. Just peachy.

The dance performance is set to an ‘item-number’ genre of song (These songs are typically identified with courtesans and prostitutes), where the contestant is dressed as a woman first and then quickly changes back to his usual masculine self. As it is a ‘second-grade’ song, this gender subversion is ignored. The audience looks at the dancing prowess of the contestant, how effortlessly he dances like a woman, how equally effortlessly he changes to his shiny silver costume, giving out a ton of dude-ittude one moment, shifting to feminine seduction next. This can possibly be an extremely warped version of Woolf’s Orlando on an alternate universe. You can hear people cheering, the judges laughing, while I seethed in fury from my position in front of the T.V.

The Indian Transsexual

The Indian Transsexual

This is certainly not the first time transgender and trans-sexual identities have been an object of ridicule. It’s de rigueur for stand up comedians and script-writers to use trans-sexuality as a joke. After all, transsexuals in India are nothing but a joke. A man who actually has LadyBits? Or a woman who is born with the cumbersome male-appendage? Nothing provides better fodder for jokes and mockathons. They are called hijra and chakka — derogatory words that symbolise their “incomplete-ness”.

The trans-sexual community is a grossly marginalised one; people literally walk away when they see them. We see them at road signals, dressed in sarees, walking in packs of two’s and three’s. They beg for money, tease the taxi driver, laugh and walk away. As a child, I was scared of them mainly because I didn’t know who they were. When my mum explained to me that they were “half and half”, I realised they were people too.

Finish reading at Womanist Musings here.

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7 Comments

  1. Jasper

     /  May 26, 2010

    Good lord woman! Why does this concern you? You’re not a trans are you? And getting so warmed up over a dance is a LITTLE over the top. I say, stop talking and just concentrate on getting some laughs out. You’ve been so sloppy in that area lately.

    Reply
    • See here people, THIS nasty one above is a troll. My politest troll at that. So, people who are in his favour, GET THE HELL OUT OF MY BLOG!

      @ Jasper – This concerns me because I’m human. But I suppose you won’t understand that end of the argument. Here’s one you will understand – Shut The F*ck Up. Message brought to you by humanity.

      Reply
  2. Komal

     /  May 26, 2010

    I don’t fully understand your post. Is it offensive because there was ‘gender-bending’? I’m not sure that is offensive, and I certainly don’t think they were being laughed at. I think it was entertaining because it was so courageous, and because it was executed with reasonable skill.

    If the gender-bending had been met with ridicule or derision, I would understand your outrage. But I think that is at least ambiguous, if not clearly not the case. One can also interpret this as a violation of ordinary gender norms, and a depiction of how a male person can be comfortable in feminine behaviours and attire.

    I also don’t think transgenderism is as unproblematic as you have implied in your post. Transgenderism exists because gender exists, and in a world without gender, there would be no transgenderism. Though transpeople are persecuted and treated badly — and they shouldn’t be — this is not a ‘birth condition’ as the disease model implies (and I hate the disease model, of anything), but the product of the socially constructed institutions of gender.

    There is a feminist critique of transgenderism out there, just so you know.

    Reply
    • The reason I found this act offensive is that the very identity of a trans-sexual or even a trans-gender person was used as a device to earn the audience/judges. We find jokes on women, jokes on marginalised communities offensive. So why not this?

      The Indian trans-sexual community is anyway socially ostracized because of their “physical abnormalities”. When trans-sexuality is treated so lightly in performances as this, you’re subtly derailing the issue. This is what I find deeply offensive.

      Reply
  3. matt

     /  May 27, 2010

    @ komal : I think the post is pretty freaking clear. People’s identities aren’t devices to play with. Ever. In whichever form.

    @ Jaded : good, strong writing on this one!

    Reply
    • Komal

       /  May 27, 2010

      Well, I would find jokes on transgendered people offensive in most circumstances. But in this case there didn’t seem to be any joke. It seemed he was simply entertaining the audience in drag, and added entertainment value by a sort of drag switch routine, where he would go in and out of his ‘normal’ gender presentation.

      I guess that could be seen as offensive to women, since he might be said to be appropriating women’s clothes and the female gender identity. But if that’s offensive, then transgenderism might also be seen as offensive in the same vein (since it may also be said to involve appropriation).

      I did think that this was fairly benign though, unlike many jokes that actually dehumanize and belittle women, transgendered people, gays and lesbians, etc.

      Reply
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