An interesting feature of the IPL is the presence of cheerleaders. During the opening weekend of league play, the Washington Redskin cheerleaders did a dance number for shocked/delighted Indian crowds. Following their lead, each team has its own set of cheerleaders, who dance around the boundaries in the same fashion as NFL cheerleaders do on the sidelines.
In Saturday's matches, I was surprised to note that the cheerleaders wore extremely revealing outfits. The exception were the Chennai Super King girls who, reflecting the still traditional ethos of the city, were fully clothed. However, during today's matches, cheerleaders for the Mumbai Indians covered their midriffs and legs and those for the opposing Deccan Chargers went a step further and wore reasonably demure Indian-style outfits.
Why the change? Apparently, the cheerleaders have caused quite a stir among conservatives in India, who find the whole concept "vulgar."
I find the whole hullabaloo to be ridiculous. Here's why:
1) I think Indians have a skewed concept of vulgarity. How are cheerleaders in short skirts more vulgar than the content of a typical Hindi movie, with all the gyrating and suggestive imagery/lyrics? It's pretty hypocritical for high level ministers to run around and comment on cheerleading when the very elements the criticize are present in their own region's media.
2) In the link posted above, one of the cheerleaders comments:
"We do expect people to pass lewd, snide remarks but I am shocked by the nature and magnitude of the comments people pass here (in India)" cheerleader Tabitha from Uzbekistan said.
"Be it a 70-year-old or a 15-year-old kid they all letch at us and make amorous advances.
"We are living in constant fear of being molested," she bemoaned.Sadly, this is an experience shared by many women I know (especially foreigners) who have either traveled through or lived in India for some period of time. My running theory is that this can be chalked up to repression. Short of a large scale cultural education in how to treat women (which is definitely needed in many parts of the world), perhaps the very presence of cheerleaders can go so distance in lowering the "shock value" of sexuality in India, thus helping quell the kinds of wolfish behaviors that happen in regimes of repression.