No cheers for cheerleaders?

Writing in the Guardian, Kanishk Tharoor — one of two sons of Federal Minister Shashi T — talks of IPL’s cheerleaders and why he is not enamored.

I’m not offended by cheerleading, more bored by it. In any grown-up context, it offers a dispiriting definition of both leadership and cheer. Many cricket fans, including myself, would be happy to see the (metaphorical) back of these cheerleaders. Their twists and pumps add nothing to what is, in truth, a wonderful sporting spectacle. They are a reminder of the ocean of inanities that commercial modernity promises our lives, drowning all occasions in froth. First the fall from grace, then the flood.
But I can’t just grit my teeth or laugh it off. Regular viewers of the IPL are now familiar with the sight of leering spectators separated from the cheerleaders in some stadiums by cage-like fences, an image that brings the cricket arena uncomfortably close to a zoo. It is the larger dichotomy suggested by this unfortunate image that I find troubling, that of Indian men ogling mostly white, non-Indian women. All too common in India is the belief in the licentiousness of foreign women. In recent years, stories of sexual violence against tourists in India have proliferated, a tragic byproduct in some cases of the impression that foreign women are naturally promiscuous. While I wouldn’t draw a direct line between IPL cheerleaders and such incidences, the very nature of IPL cheerleading as a spectacle feeds deeper, insidious notions about race and sexuality in India.



24 thoughts on “No cheers for cheerleaders?

  1. Srinivas Bhogle :I estimate the passage contains about 225 words. That’s 200 words too many.
    I’m sorry all that froth has almost drowned me, and I’ve had to abandon my search for the ‘larger dichotomy’.

    hahah!! second that..nevertheless article makes sense

  2. Considering the number of problems we face with regards to gender discrimination (including infanticide) , cheerleading foreign women should be the least of our worries. Yes it does represent an objectifying of women , but no more than what we see in movies or in the latest swimsuit calendar and we dont have people banning them or would we want it to be the case. Work on the important problems first. The IPL is just a symptom of a much larger problem in Indian society and taking it away will accomplish nothing. Much better if he can get his dad to push parliament to enforce the laws that are supposed to safeguard women but don’t.

  3. While I totally agree that cheerleaders are wholly irrelevant for cricket as we know it, I really don’t understand the hysteria and hypocrisy it has generated.

    Are we trying to say that had the cheerleaders been Indian, things would have been any different? I don’t think so.

    Sexual violence has grown unabated against all women and not just the foreign tourists. The only difference is that when it happens with a foreign tourist, it is reported much more now than it was before.

    Men have always ogled at women. It doesn’t help if women are wearing less clothes. Go to any Delhi mall on a weekend and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.

    IMHO the root cause of why western women are considered licentious is that successive Governments have turned out to be moral brigades making it look like they are taking steps in keeping sex a taboo subject. This has resulted in arbitrary bans on anything which the Government deems should be shot down.

    So while there is no erotica available anywhere legally, Indian men pick up whatever is available in the grey market and usually it turns out to be XXX rated stuff (which mostly have western women). Ditto with the internet. To little amazement, this screws up the minds of people and you can see the consequences thereof.

    The problem you see is not with the cheerleaders, the problem is with the Indian mindset which has evolved over the years with Government bullsh**t.

  4. I estimate the passage contains about 225 words. That’s 200 words too many.

    I’m sorry all that froth has almost drowned me, and I’ve had to abandon my search for the ‘larger dichotomy’.

  5. On an unrelated note, its not just the commentators who needs a brain-shakeup. Just read an interview with Kumble in “Outlook”, no third-rate magazine. The topic- his recent book with photographs from his past 20 years of CAREER with TEAMMATES and, of course, FAMILY:

    Q: How do you strike a balance between cricket, photography and family?

    A: Invariably, most pictures have been taken when the family and/or the team are around.

    How more meaningless a question can ever be?

  6. He brought up an important point. There is an notion in India that foreign ladies are promiscous and IPL has just brought it out in the open. Its a cultural problem that we need to tackle, rather than IPL to suppress. Even if IPL sacks all the cheerleaders, that ignorant notion is not going to go away.

    • U r right, it is a cultural issue. It has to do with the mindset. How can we change that? The scale required to tackle that issue is so unimaginable that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. What in the meantime we see are a few caged spectators letching away at white skin totally diverting their attention from cricketers. Where’s the need for all this? Dont we have other forms of entertainment for all this?

      • well, my point is that IPL is a money-making mechanism. One of the most explicit features of capitalism is that it stretches the social/cultural/moral boundaries of the social system where it operates. So, lets not ask IPL to stop doing it and pretend that everything is fine, while ogling on the white skin available everywhere else. Its unfair.

        • I agree with you hear and nicely expressed too. the only point in your previous comment which mentioned a “cultural problem we need to tackle”, oh well, that aint happening any time soon.

    • That point is underscored by a totally wtf development: an ad runner on the IPL screen which says meet the cheerleader by calling Number XXXXXXX, @ Rs 10. 😦

  7. incidentally, what do you think LKM and co. are doing calling the cheerleaders anyway – as the Mint article and even pritish nandy tweeted – they’re advertising a service that is illegal in this country and i’m too polite to use the term for it !

  8. @JII: He is tharoor jr . The dad always links to both his sons’ articles on his twitter feed.

    Single White Women face the most security risk in this country. They are leched at everywhere – by suit-clad men who’ve had a peg or 2 at a cocktail party and roadside romeos. Ask the gora women who work for invt. banks / foreign cos. or for NGOs and the stories they have will chill you to the bone. Indian men are louts and for the sake of the cheerleaders, thank god they are behind barbed wires at the matches. They would’ve been set upon by the piranhas otherwise.

  9. Excellent!! Rightly said. Cheerleaders seem to be poor addition to a game that has already been commercialised tooth and nail. In IPL there is already enough distraction to take the attention away from cricket. The cheerleaders are an addition to that same attempt though I dont see them accomplishing it succesfully. Cheerleader is a borrowed concept from the West and the concept instead of being adopted here is being aped in an unfitting way. Cheerleaders dont offer any addition to the glamour, sporting enthusiasm or sleaze of IPL or Cricket. Cheerleaders are like a stripe on the spotted leapord that can easily be done away with.

  10. It is a pity that such a beautiful game has been commercialised and brutalised to such an extent that it is beginning to look like “the world’s oldest profession” The charm of watching a game on telly also has vanished with multiple ad breaks. Cheerleaders only add to the cacophony and in no way do they enhance the watching experience. It is time that all these paraphernalia are dispensed with and we get a good game to watch, both at the stadia and on the tube.

  11. Both of Tharoor’s sons are journos. The other, Ishan is with Time magazine.
    There was a report on one of the channels about the abuse the girls face and the objects that are thrown at them from the crowd.

  12. The sociological insight, and the extrapolation of Indian psyche, seem a tad facile. But his point about the whole thing being a farcical distraction is spot on. It’s an orchestrated charade. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    Prem, this was the first time I’ve read any article by Kanishk. And he seems to be a young man with a natural flair for the language. His thoughts, carried by the easy flow of words, make for good reading.

    Wish we had such writers in Indian media (the god ones here, needless to say, are far and few between).

  13. Thanks for confirming. I checked Kanishk’s profile in the Guardian. But, there was nothing in it to suggest that he was indeed Tharoor jr.

  14. Sat through IPL matches in Delhi.
    Junta stand with most crowds for cheerleaders as much as for cricket.
    What I heard is nsfw.
    Glad the cheerleaders don’t understand Hindi/ Punjabi and there was a boundary grill separating them.
    So yes, all those ugly insidious notions are alive and reinforced by the IPL spectacle.

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