Half a cheer for Indian cricket

May 6, 2008

So some of the cheerleaders are going home, and some of the others are being forced to cover up? If you ask me, that’s a bit of a shame. More importantly, it’s an example of people getting worked up about the wrong things.

TV grab of cheerleaders for the Bangalore Royal Challengers practicing at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. REUTERS

A female, feminist friend of mine, living here but born in England, was complaining to me about the cheerleaders, saying they were simply not appropriate in a country like India, and demeaning for women.

I am not sure. As anyone who spends too long watching ESPN will know, cheerleading is a serious business in the United States, a sort of synchronised gymnastics with some pretty impressive routines.

I doubt that many of the girls from the States, or Uzbekistan, felt like they were being exploited when they were invited to India for what promised to be a thoroughly enjoyable few weeks.

That is, until certain, male sections of the crowd, began abusing them.

“It’s been horrendous,” Tabitha, a cheerleader from Uzbekistan, told the Hindustan Times. “Wherever we go we expect people to pass lewd, snide remarks but I’m shocked by the nature and the magnitude of the comments people pass here.”

But who seems to be getting the blame? The men making those remarks, or the cheerleaders themselves?

As one Indian friend told me recently, blaming the cheerleaders is not far away from blaming a woman for wearing a short skirt if she is abused or raped by a man.

Politicians, or at least those from the left and right wings, are up in arms about something they seen as an insult to Indian culture.

But who is complaining that the men making the lewd comments are letting their countrymen down?

Earlier this month, a 12-year-old girl was reportedly bundled in a car in broad daylight in New Delhi and raped by a policemen and his friend.

The policeman has since been charged and sacked, but there has hardly been any outcry
from India’s politicians. Is anyone demanding a serious and concerted effort to clean up the police force?

That of course, would require a major political effort. Far easier to snipe at a few foreign girls making the cricket match just a bit more fun to watch.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Yes! This is totally true. Way to get to the heart of the matter. Why aren’t more people outraged by the lasciviousness of the male spectators? This behavior does not just happen at IPL games with scantily clad women. Get any big event and you’ve got trouble. That’s why no one can play Holi in public anymore. It’s a shame. And by not speaking out against it, the politicians are letting the public get away with it.

Posted by masaladosa | Report as abusive

Agreed. India should be doing some soul searching on why it’s men (or the presumably small fraction of men that misbehave) are “allowed” to treat women the way they do. And why aren’t the politicians and the policy makers doing anything about it? Perhaps this is due to a wider problem of sexual repression in modern day India. Heck, politicians themselves are a bunch of goons who have hounded out the women from parliaments and state assemblies. How can they be expected to correct anyone? It’s thuggery, what we’re doing to our women.

Posted by bajji | Report as abusive

Hypocrisy at its best. With innumerable cases of rape and women oppression, I am baffled on how oblivious we are to solving real problems such as law and order, corruption and poverty.

Posted by parthy | Report as abusive

I am from South India, but now live in US and I have learned a lot about western culture and now feel disgusted by the way women in India are treated. To be honest it is the society it self to be blamed and the way they percive normal human behaviour. When it comes to India, it is a alien nation, Indians look at things completely different. It will take generations to change the mentality and even at the end the’ll accept things but will never understand others perspective. It is very narrow thinking, it is in our DNA.

Posted by Neo | Report as abusive

Dear Sir,
I am a Sri Lankan, who migrated to Australia twenty four years ago.
I am a proud South Asian, and have the highest respect for Indian and Subcontinent culture, heritage, language and religion. Based on this, I was disappointed to see cheerleaders from the United States of America being presented as a source of entertainment for the Indian public, and to television audiences, who view the game around the globe. This does not present a good picture about aspects, which are good and wholesome about India, which has so much to offer in in regard to entertainment and culture. Therefore in conclusion it will be good for all concerned if the cheerleaders are taken out all together, and it is also not appropriate to think that Indian gentlemen require to be entertained in this manner, because they are sexually deprived. It is most unfortunate, and incorrect to view or think of them from this perspective .
Yours Faithfully,
M. R. Somasunderam.

Posted by Muralidaran Ramesh Somasunderam | Report as abusive

mutual respect to opposite sex, civic sense and appropriate behaviour is missing when it comes to not having to know a female.. The new Song having Rakhi Sawant.. “took took dekhee.. dekhe aankhein phaadh kar….” – is real Indian public behaviour. even 90% of 50 year old men do the same ( that too when out with family).. So well written : cheerleading is a profession and takes amazing fitness to be such gymnasts.. WE should have 5 year plans on teaching Civic sense and appropriate public behaviour. People need to learn to channelize their sex deprivition, aggression in a better way… Cheer the Cheerleaders.. it will be more fun and vibrant.. dont abuse or use inappropriate words and body language.

Posted by siddharth | Report as abusive

As an American woman living in Delhi, I can understand the reticence of some people, such as Mr. Somasunderam, to import American traditions to a country already rich with their own culture–especially distasteful ones like scantily clad women. However, it is people like him who are again bringing the debate away from the real problem: some men’s lack of propriety in India.
There are hundreds of examples of American culture infiltrating this country. While mainly distasteful and unattractive, the American-influenced trends do not rape, molest or intimitate women. I’ve yet to hear of a McDonalds hurting a woman, beyond adding a few unnecessary calories to her diet.
So, while you can bemoan the loss of good Indian culture, the country MUST take responsibilty for the degrading way men act here. I don’t walk around in short-shorts and mid-drift baring tanks; I don’t jump up and down extorting men to cheer. But I am grabbed inappropriately, harrassed daily and stared at nonstop. And I’m not alone. Every woman I know, regardless of age and race, bemoans their treatment by men.
As little as I like cheerleaders, I find the behavior of men here far more repulsive and far more troubling. This shouldn’t even be a debate. Every man and woman should be disgusted. Instead, I find myself disgusted that so few people are speaking out against this.

Posted by Charlotte | Report as abusive


India will remain same for girls & women until unless any revolution comes. No. of eve teasing increased due to many tv channels launched in India and more girls started working like men in offices specially in Night Shifts in call centers. It doesn’t matter whether she belongs to India or any Foreign Country.

Dresses of girls plays major part in teasing and rape cases. So, I think girl in India is equally responsible. You cannot clap with single hand. If any girl moving on the Indian Roads at 2:00 A.M. just to have tea and the whole town is sleeping, whats the meaning of walking at 2:00 A.M.???

Likewise, in India, if any girl (Indian or Foreigner) dances in front of thousnads of people wearing shortest of clothes and billions of people wathes that on television and Govt. expects that crime would be reduced !!! I am sorry to say but in coming years Rape & Teasing cases are going to be increased and only Indian Govt. would be responsible for it.


Posted by Tejinder | Report as abusive

I agree with Ms Charlotte, but I disagree with Mr. Somasunderam and Mr. Tejinder. It is much easier to be a Indian in a western country than being a foreigner in India. If late night shifts and TV channels induce rape and eve teasing, then why don’t other countries report the similar trend? The number of sexual harassment and rapes is far too staggering than many western countries. Obviously there is something to do with the Indians. While we are too eager to “preserve” Indian culture, we don’t really protect women rights and freedom. If a rape happens, we are quite happy to keep our women at home instead of preventing such future cases. Restricting women freedom is not a solution, it is rather a workaround. In my view, blaming a woman’s clothing for her rape or harassment is a show of society’s dominance over human.

Posted by parthy | Report as abusive

I am an American woman who is engaged to a wonderful Indian Man. We have talked endlessly about things that concern our upcomming marriage, our family values, how we will raise our children, where we will live, etc. I want nothing more than for him to protect and preserve the culture in which he was raised, but I have a concern about raising our children in India, specifically if we had a daughter. I have been to India several times and there are so many things of value that I love about the culture and the people of India. But, like Charlotte, I have seen the ugly side of the culture and have fell victim to unwelcomed stares, comments, and physical touch. I think the Gov. in India should shift their focus to changing the ugly aspects of their society as well as striving to preserve the things about India that make it a great country. How will they do that? I dont have a solution. My only suggestion would be to try and cultivate a new generation of people that value the contributions that both men and women bring to society. They also need to focus on teaching what is apropriate behavior in both public and private settings. It is a growing problem that will only be able to fly under the radar for a little while longer until its reached a breaking point. My hope is that it will not go unnoticed for that long… for my sake and the sake of the next generation of children. Its also important to mention that as my fiance and I have talked about our culture and what is important to us he always expresses the things about India that he is frustrated about and that he thinks are shortcommings… I also focus on the aspects of India that I love so much. With our combined vision I know that we will bring out the best in our respecitve cultures and not focus on the where both the US and India have fallen short.

Posted by Joanna | Report as abusive

Dear Charlotte,
I am very sorry to hear that inappropriate and unacceptable acts are taking place in Delhi, where you are living at present.
My understanding of India was based, when I made a trip to India in 1989 and it was to Madras, South India. Therefore, I apologise to you, that my comments were made on sentiments, and I never realised that India has changed in this way.
I hope you understand my position and please not misunderstand me for my views.
Yours truly,
M. R. Somasunderam.

Posted by Muralidaran Ramesh Somasunderam | Report as abusive