Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The sexual revolution for the west may have happened in the 60s- for us it is right now!
Can you Imagine this? The fortune of a TV channel rode on ‘The Bachelor’ gender bent into a telling Sign of our time – a reality show titled ‘Swayanwar’ (or ‘self choosing of a groom’, translated literally). Although Swayanwar as a practice harks back to one of the many progressive historical rituals, its re institution today is a stark implosion of the extended feminine repression in the Indian society through the colonial and post independence era. The Signs corroborating the same are many.
Flexing the gender muscle For their own good, and for everyone else’s, women are being more explicit and comfortable about their femininity and sexuality.
Perhaps the first public Signs of expression came from the Demi Mooresque Priyanka Chopra portraying the aggressive seductress boss in the Bollywood’s take of Disclosure few years back. And the shades of passion have only grown bolder since then.
Let’s begin with the first shade of mauve pink that has turned decidedly deeper - that feminine evolution tracing Brand Fair & Lovely. It first shrugged off the historical coy girl persona consumed with winning attention of her prospective groom. Going on to touch the discriminations of an Indian daughter against the favored son, and finally heralded the Power of Beauty in its current avatar.
Another shade of pink, the emerging cultural brand Scooty, had emboldened teen girls coquettishly perking up to echo the simmering conflict of genders with ‘Why should boys have all the fun?’. That too has graduated to advocating their abandoning the pillion status, leaving the boys funnily asking each other to surrogate for the missing intimacy.
Women are showing more
Continuing the emboldening and showcasing of the new feminine spirit, spaghetti tops and noodle straps emerged as the post Indo Western genre in women’s fashion. Kurtas got shortened into Kurtis and then the plunging necklines gave in to the rising hemlines to create the Shrug. Indian born French designer Promod led the improvisation of laced innerwear like ensembles in minimalist stylizations. A closer inspection of the lingerie trends too reveal interesting expressions. The ‘U Bra’ is a top down version of the d├ęcolletage; the ‘crest’ bra is the bottom up peek. And then there’s the bizarre version of A Bras, bras worn on the outside!
Is this whole thing only a way of displaying some assertive 'gender muscle'? Or is it a way of reclaiming ownership of and openly expressing – with a purposefully ambiguous non-sexual intent – aspects of a gender identity that were previously considered inappropriate or even shameful? This assertion of 'gender power' seems apparent in other fields too. We are surely seeing more media patronizing of the women reaching higher levels in business, politics or sports - a good media exaggeration for a change. Not to mention The TV where there seems to be a serendipitous trend of girl-child causes dominating mainstream programming – From ‘Baalika Vadhu’ to ‘Agle Janam mohe bitiya hi kijo’ to ‘mere ghar aaee ek nanhi pari’ to ‘na aana is des laado’. The fact that they all are leading their Channel fortunes suggests there’s a resonance of the Sign across.
But Why are women showing more?

Feminism is dead. Long live the feminine power.
Urban women to a large degree got what they wanted- they've been empowered in the classic sense, where they can work and run companies – So now what?
Well, now femininity is about exploring the new power for women. And that’s where d├ęcolletage, higher heels and shorter skirts slickly fit in. Veronica may have won over Betty in enslaving Archie, But today feminity is not about netting someone, or even looking more ‘with it’ than the peers, it is simply about using what you've got to the maximum advantage. Indeed, femininity and sexuality have become powerful tools.
And yes, women are increasingly setting agendas, including the sexual agenda. They do this by openly wearing their sexuality, using their femininity and sexuality consciously as well as insisting on sexual satisfaction in marriages and relationships. From being a passive object in the act, more gym going, sexually peaking young mums are increasingly talking about higher expectations from their overworked n tired spouses, albeit only in their kitty parties, yet.
Women are showing more and demanding more as their sexuality has, in many ways come out of the closet. While the Signs are not yet as overt as the recently introduced San Francisco Spa dedicated exclusively towards pleasuring women, but yes, there are subtly but surely increasing incidences of toy boys, male masseurs F Buddies and the binge sex on the rebound.
Besides this don’t overlook the fact that many women have invested heavily in achieving enviable shapes and would want to flash their investment just like any man would flash a new car.

Return of the coy?
These redefinitions of sexuality are creating socio-cultural conflicts for femininity and, in the subsequent future, would do so for maleness too. That is what is presenting Programmers, Content Creators, Script Writers and even Brands with an opportunity. Opportunity of creating appeasing or encouraging Myths that would provide a resolution to these conflicts and create a Cultural Connect. Or even consider imploding the trend, to create a Contra Sign. Which may amount to creating and encouraging stereotypes opposite to the masculine, aggressive put offs. May be the coy and tender will become the role models again, someday soon. And given the not so pleasant army of muscle bodied, hard faced, men-parading women; this Sign could be a welcome sign.