Posted by: nestaquin | April 6, 2010

The IPL Unexplained Part 1

Watching the IPL through bloodshot eyes in the very early hours of an increasingly chilly southern autumn, the realisation finally dawned that for most franchises every member of every scantily dressed dancing trio was of European ancestry.

This pattern was not present when the tournament was held in 2008 and 2009 and it appears reasonable to assume that the preference for exclusively employing fair-skinned lasses to shake their pom-poms for each boundary and wicket is deliberate.

Considering Bollywood virtually revolves around attractive women shaking their tender bits the absence of any local girls, Chennai’s trousered troupe excepted, has left this writer unable to conjure an argument to excuse the blatant racism in the IPL’s cheerleader selection criteria.

I understand that most find it easier to ignore but it does raise unsavoury questions about perceptions of race, equality and sexuality within Indian society and whether India should be held to the same principles as the highly developed countries it aspires to emulate.

The reality is that the IPL is a vehicle in which India projects itself on the global stage and cricket aside, the message at present is far from flattering.

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Responses

  1. Spot on. I can venture a good guess as to why Caucasians are the cheer leaders in all the games and that has something to do with Indian women “cheapening” themselves when they dance, except for the classical dance mores. Freestyle dance in India has been seen as akin to sleaze and a euphemism for prostitution.

    I understand that Caucasians are understandably apprehensive about criticizing Indians for racism so I will. Going back to the larger issue of racism and Indian Society, I feel this is something which is endemic, in a society with casual racism where calling people  ‘blackies’ is routine. 

    And Unless we Indians adhere to our wonderfully egalitarian founding precepts, we will only be seen as hypocrites, especially as India’s profile inevitably grows.

  2. its not an indian thing alone – pakistanis, particularly educated middle class and upper class ones, would gleefully watch racy indian numbers and the latest beyonce and lady gaga collaboration but the very idea of a local girl daring to bare sends our blood pressure and indignation through the roof. there is a clear pattern of enjoying ogling the other while covering up the local. perhaps a symptom of post-colonial societies lapping up the pleasures of the ‘west’ while still struggling to hold on to their traditions

  3. Behind the anachronistic pom-pom pushers was a sign saying “Boom Boom Pathan”. He has the same religion as the original and something of the original’s style, but his passport is a different colour and his skills significantly better.

    Judge the man not the label

  4. I’m not entirely convinced that ‘racism’ is the word that adequately describes this phenomenon. I thing it has more to do with the perception of beauty in the subcontinent. Rajesh K mentions one aspect of it, namely that dancing for an audience is considered sleazy and at odds with our ‘culture’. But that’s just one side of it.

    In addition to this, there is an equivalence of beauty with the lightness in the colour of the skin. I don’t know if it can be bracketed under racism as there’s no race issues involved, just the precept that the fairer the better. As most caucasians are fairer than Indians, they are prettier. Blacks, irrespective of nationality are uglier because they are darker. Beauty is an abstract and subjective notion and has different interpretations in different cultures. Can this particular preference be called racist? I’m not too certain.

    I was among those who decried this phenomenon a few years ago. However, on my arrival in the US, I’ve noticed similar pattern of preferences which can be termed racist. I feel that the most popular african american performers, be it actors or singers, who are considered pretty look more caucasian than the average african-american populace. They don’t have the thick lower lips or a thicker, slightly upturned nasal bridge that a majority of average blacks do, making them prettier. Is this racist or just an american concept of beauty?

    Most people would agree than Shane Watson is better looking than Andrew Symonds. The western world would make the judgement on the basis of the arrangement of the features. (Some) Indians would add the colour of his skin to the criteria. How come the first isn’t racist and the second is? Taking into account the fact that Symonds features have a lot to do with his lineage and eventually his race.

    Sorry if I got too involved with the philosophical aspects of beauty. It just amazes me that people assume there is an objective concept of beauty, when there clearly isn’t. Indians think that the lesser the amount of melanin, the better. Is that so wrong? I’m not saying it isn’t silly, it’s just that the western culture has developed it’s own standards for beauty and no one else is allowed to add or subtract to it. The fact that some races fall on either side of the Indian scale is merely incidental. To call them racist seems hypocritical.

    • In my neck of the woods employing 40 people based entirely on the colour of their skin is unlawful and considered racist. The title of the document enshrined into law is self-explanatory, The Racial Discrimination Act. I’m led to believe that every developed nation has similar legislation.

      If it’s all about the dangerous assumption of collective perceptions based on colour then why aren’t the dancers fairer skinned indigenous girls?

      As for who is the better sort between Roy and Watto a quick survey of the four women in my vicinity resulted in a 3-1 win to Roy because as I’ve just discovered he oozes masculinity while Watto is considered a bit of a plastic wimp.

      You ask why judging people on the colour of their skin is considered racist and their other features not? I suggest you read with open heart and mind Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom or if that’s too difficult listen to Bob Marley’s, War.

      I’m not sure where the hypocrisy is but I’ve obviously been naive. I thought that Indians, considering their colonial past, would intimately understand the consequences of basing collective judgement on colour.

      • Yes, Watto is not a good example, the big wuss.

        It is a big shame about the cheerleaders. I guess it could be called racist but more than that it just looks weird and out of place in an Indian comp.

  5. There is a widespread favouring of lighter skin tones over darker tones in many parts of the world, including those with strong Afro-Caribbean representation. Products which lighten skin are a big industry and can be dangerous. That women and girls go to such lengths or feel less self-worth as a result of their skin-tone is regrettable, but such judgements have always been made and always will be.

    What’s rather more than regrettable and, as Nesta points out, is illegal in many countries, is to exclude people from employment on the basis of ethnicity (directly or indirectly). That the 40 best candidates for the cheerleading jobs were all from a European ethnicity is unsustainable and reveals an ugly attitude entirely at odds from the mix of players largely picked for their talent to do the job, not any extraneous criterion.

  6. I had assumed that the relevant IPL people wanted the best possible cheerleaders, and so they went and hired Americans, since that is where cheerleading is most developed as a sport/industry.

    (Weird fact: My old university subscribes to American Cheerleader.)

    • In 2008 that was the case and the troupes were multicultural in make-up but I’ve read that many of the girls this season are Ukranian. If the choreography is indicative I doubt that any of them have any professional cheerleading experience.

      Weird fact: Cheerleading as a sport is becoming quite popular among schoolgirls in Tasmania. Many of them are from a gymnastics background and find the team aspect and creative expression much more fun than the strict rules of traditional gymnastics.

  7. I’ve reread my earlier post and realize that my intentions could have been misconstrued. My intentions were not to cause any kind of offense, whatsoever. When I referred to hypocrisy, I implicitly referred it to the society at large, not your article. You were very correct in pointing out that the practice of hiring white cheerleaders is by convention, racist. There is no doubt that the IPL can ill afford such a faux pas, given it’s intention to be taken seriously outside India. There is no doubt in my mind that the IPL organizers are nincompoops of the highest order, either. You don’t need cheerleaders to tell me that!

    I also talked about why indigenous girls are not hired, namely the naive obsession with some obscure idea of culture and the fact that they are not fair skinned enough. I’m not referring to that issue at all. I’m specifically talking about why there are no black, latino or girls of any hue other than white.

    My question was, what is racism? Selecting pretty girls ahead of not-so-pretty girls is not racist. What if the convention for good looks was so defined that a majority of people of each race fell on either side? Would it still be racism?

    Racism implies some sort of genetic or somatic characteristic, something that is inherited. In Indian, dark skin is not necessarily genetic. Dark skinned parents may not be considered by the society as pretty, but their fair skinned child might be.

    This custom is moronic, yes, but racist? Certainly not. Its about as racist as models being discriminated against for not being tall and skinny. It’s just an asinine but established notion of beauty. Now while selecting the cheerleaders, they have stuck to the sort of ‘beauty’ that will appeal to a uncouth, ill mannered lout that is the average Indian.

    I repeat that my posts are not meant to be offensive. I’m just exploring the concept of racism itself and how it is so defined in a manner that Indians fall foul despite not being racist at all.

  8. Regarding the Symonds-Watto debate, I just picked the wrong guy. Everyone thinks Watson is a boneheaded twit. I thought the womenfolk be able to look past that. I was obviously deluded.. :)

    • I think you’ll find that the vast majority of the fairer sex aren’t as superficial as you imagine.

  9. Race is skin-deep, so yes, it is fair game to consider discrimination by fair skinned Indians against dark skinned fellow Indians as racist.

    “…so defined in a manner that Indians fall foul despite not being racist at all.”

    Um, care to define the last part? Why do you to claim that Indians are not racist at all – surely some are, just like some Australians are and some Chinese people are? Though white people are the historical perpetrators of racism, they hardly have a monopoly on the practice

  10. @ Rajesh K…

    ‘Race is skin deep….’? That’s an oxymoron, don’t you think? Are you proposing that fair skinned and dark skinned Indians belong to different races altogether?!

    Race, by definition is categorization based on identifiable characteristics that are passed on from generation to generation. I hardly think the amount of melanin you possess qualifies. The minimal background in biology that I have does not make me an expert but I’m reasonably sure of this.

    About the last part, I guess I forgot to add ‘-in this regard’ My sole purpose has been to suggest that Indians are not being racist in this particular context. That a great many of them are probably racist in many other ways to different cultures is beyond doubt!

    I did not at any point suggest that whites are more racist than us. I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. My point is this; the western civilizations consider according preferential treatment on the basis of skin colour to be racism and rightly so. This is because, in their civilization, skin colour is an identifier for race as there is a huge difference in skin colour between the two prevalent races.

    In India, however, colour is not an identifier for race because we all belong to the same race! Instead, we indians have developed a notion of beauty which depends on skin colour. This is not any stupider than many other beauty criteria which have developed in other civilizations over the history of time. But that’s not racism or discrimination at all because no one today thinks according preference on the basis of beauty to be unfair. We see this all the time from actors, singers, models who are chosen because they are prettier according to the existing convention.

    The western civilizations assume that what is racism for them should be racism for everyone. This has led to Indians being tagged racist unfairly. I’m oversimplifying here, but that is the gist of my argument. I could describe it in more detail, but this is hardly the forum for a philosophy of aesthetics discussion..!

    Look, you know that we’re a sexist, parochial and puritanical society to begin with. I just don’t want to add racism to it unjustly..:)

    @ Nestaquin…

    Now you think I’m sexist as well! Why the animosity? I just participated in the spirit of debate, that’s all. I apologize again if my tone indicated otherwise. I just got caught up in explaining my point. I’ll desist from posting if you so desire..

    • Believe me mate there is no animosity but if you choose to post inane generalities and other nonsense at 99.94 you will be challenged and sometimes ridiculed.

    • My whole point is that it’s fair to treat intra-Indian white skin prejudice as racism, though it doesn’t fall under the strict definition – both deal exclusively with superficial skin color, and both are damaging.

      But forget that – what about the monkey chants and routine “kala bandar” and”blackie” abuse? That is directed towards another race, so surely that is racism? How about Rimi Sen, a Bollywood actress praising a photographer by saying “he could make even a black African look beautiful”? One idiot does not a society make, but this type of behaviour is not that uncommon.

      • I’ve no idea who Rimi Sen is, and don’t want to, but I expect she’d need a hospital if she ever said that in the presence of Sulieman Benn. What an ignoramus! If a Western actress said that she’d probably never work again.

        • To be fair, she is a two bit actress. So maybe she was blacklisted by Bollywood but nobody noticed :D

  11. I still dream of Roy.. me and Roy fishing, me and Roy giving a bit of lip to an unappreciative Indian crowd somewhere in Kolkata, me and Roy.. welll you get my drift. No one, none of my women friends dream about Shane. .There is something so graceful about Andrew Symonds, despite his bulk he can throw it around like a butterfly, magic.

    In the first season of the IPL they had men dancers as well as the women, and in South Africa, where I serendipitously happened to be watching AU flog the Saffers, the IPL had dancers of every hue, girls , boys, and even a dancing dog, adorable. They had exhibition dancers from the townships, Miners dancers, Bushmen dancing, Xhosa and all sorts.. it was terrific.

    I was saddened that the IPL didn’t make the dancers strictly Indian.. Indian women in those fabulous colours and fabrics from Rhajastan, and Chennai, the ankle bracelets, the jewellry, the unique choreography and music if India.. I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED!!.

    grrr.

    • A dancing dog! Mango must have been thrilled.

      • That is a good way to describe Roy, Pepp. He is really graceful which in a big bloke is sexy in a way that Watson… well, he just ain’t, is he?

    • There’s enough of the Rajasthani dancing in India, believe me!

      Tangentially, I’ve always wondered if it’s racist to call Andrew Symonds a “beastman from another planet”, as I sometimes do in admiration, in view of his other-worldly athleticism. I really don’t know, maybe someone can help.

      • I’d suggest that in regards to Roy, Beastman is a perfectly acceptable nickname.

  12. if those girls are Ukranian, it explains their rather detached efforts at celebrating a six or a four. I was watching last night, and two girls could hardly raise a feather.

    Nesta.. this IPL is asking a heavy price from us devotees!…. and soon we will have to get up to West Indies time as well as Eastern AU time.. it never ends. Never ends. After WI time it’s England time, the ghastliness of it all. But what else can we do? We MUST have it live, right here, as it happens. Such is the life of comitted cricket fans.

    • As much as I adore Daylight Savings, Pepp, one positive with it ending is that the cricket finishes an hour early now. Small mercies, I know, but as you say, what else can we do?!!

  13. While I agree with the premise of the article, summed up with “I understand that most find it easier to ignore but it does raise unsavoury questions about perceptions of race, equality and sexuality within Indian society”

    BUT I take umbrage at
    “and whether India should be held to the same principles as the highly developed countries it aspires to emulate.”

    What are the “highly developed” countries you have in mind? and what is India aspire to emulate?

  14. R – I admire your willingness to defend your viewpoint and you do have somne good points in between others with which I would disagree. Fundamentally, racism is not genetic, it is social and psychological – see that, and the argument that it is about beauty or the definition of a “race” dissolves.

    Cheerleading is becoming big in the UK – it has some unpleasant overtones for sure, but it is an excellent way of getting to a group notoriously reticent about exercise and health. If it stops one kid smoking to stay thin and exercising instead, it’s a good thing.

    • If you claim that racism is social and psychological rather than genetic, that opens a can of worms for me. Doesn’t beauty itself become a type of racism? You’re judged because you belong to a certain category and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You will end being labeled good looking or not through no fault of your own.

      • Racism is a hideous and pernicious scar on the face of humanity. Perceptions of beauty can have an impact on people, but to stretch the definition of racism that far, breaches what should and should not be done with language.

        Parallels yes – but there are parallels between a horse and a rabbit, and nobody should confuse one with the other.

  15. “If it stops one kid smoking to stay thin and exercising instead, it’s a good thing”

    Toots, the flip side to this argument is that some smoke to stay thin. I have seen ballerinas smoke like chimneys for this reason

  16. Dement – I used to work in fashion where lots and lots of young women smoked instead of eating in order to stay thin. It’s going to happen – so if they cheerlead instead of smoking to stay thin, that’s a good thing.

  17. Toots, after discovering you used to work in the fashion industry I’m now troubled by the rather disturbing image of you modelling underwear!!

    • Must confess I had the same thought Nesta :)

      So would “Eulalie” render you null and void Toots? Just me being Bertie Wooster to your Roderick Spode

  18. Me and David Beckham in Armani!

  19. Dement – There’s a few Roderick Spodes standing for Parliament next month. Fortunately I’m not one of them!

    And I’ve guiltier secrets…

  20. It is racist to hold Indians and other non-westerners to a different standard, even when referring to racism. Just because accidents of history combined with an enlightenment philosphy meant people with light skin dominated the world for a few centuries – and these people for many years considered the colour of their skin to be the reason doesn’t mean only white people can be racist.
    Also, everyone (secretly or otherwise) considers it unfair that we discriminate based on attractiveness, it’s just that it’s too ingrained for us to remove through enculturation. Racism, on the other hand, can clearly be ‘taught out’ even though we instinctively fear the other.
    The IPL cheerleader thing is plainly racist with a little culturism thrown in (western women are obviously sluts is the message, even though it sounds like many of the women are from Eastern Europe anyway).
    Indian society is highly racist and all my Indian friends agree with this, even if sometimes only in quiet moments.
    The problem here seems to be an odd self-loathing combined with the opposite – a type of superiority complex. Perhaps this is a symptom of an adolescent society finding it’s place in the world and will go away as more Indians become better educated and wealthier. I don’t mean an engineering degree by better educated, either. I mean an understanding of societies and their make up.


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