Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sexualizing school kids

The judge’s chair during a junior wing dance competition gets increasingly uncomfortable. I sit there fiddling with my pen and staring at the score sheet. The costume is authentic, the synchrony is great, the stage has been used well but the lyrics of the song are age inappropriate and so are the expressions and the accompanying body thrusts. There is, “Darling aankho se aankhe chaar hone do” and “Desi girl” and “Jhumka gaira re” and “Chad gayo papi bicchua” even “Atharra baras ki main hone ko aayee.”

Sure, it is easy to indulgently dismiss the butterball reproduction of raunchy, Bollywood choreography. The tubbies do look cute in adult finery, although the eye pauses on the strings and lack of them. To make it tougher to protest, the audience are quick on the trigger, precisely on these dubious numbers, clapping and joining in with a hearty chorus. I have pinched myself and turned 360 degrees to try and catch the eyes of the other seniors sitting there. Some do shake their heads slowly but quite a few wear a mock stern expression, barely hiding the twinkle in the eye.

So the competition moves on, in the same gear. Year after year, grade after grade. The beginning is well intentioned. Class teachers are told to discourage their students from turning in performances based on suggestive music. One particularly concern filled year, a blanket ban was implemented on all filmy song and dance. The participation plunged to an alarming low. There were some protests from the parents! Many were not equipped to assist their children in the preparation; the TV eased the preparatory rehearsal somewhat. And so we had these little ones, stumbling up to the music table with their CDs of Lady Gaga and Rihanna. I twittered inwardly, wondering at the deadly music video images that had to be streaming through the tiny heads when the notes of these worthies came on. 

There has been a social turmoil lately over the increasing sexualisation of children on all forums and in the media. Aqseer sent me a gruesome link the other day

My concern is: have we, as a society become anaesthetized to age and grace inappropriate sexual messages? So desensitized is the prevalent social air that anything and everything seems to go. We are completely blind to what this irregular acceptance is doing to our children. In fact, we are joining in. I have to admit, that I swung to both the Sheila and Munni numbers with our Fifth graders, during a school camp.  I am certain that the volume the DJ was holding the songs at, was rendering the lyrics quite inconsequential; we mostly stayed with the beat. This is no justification, but naturally.

The question is not about sexuality per se but of a version that does not go well with a certain chronological, mental and emotional level of growth. Time then, to stop tapping that foot and instead, put it down loudly.

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