Introduction: My short illustrated story with the Kadak Collective’s  ‘The Reading Room’, as part of Gender Bender 2016!

The Kadak Collective is a group of 8 south-asian artists, illustrators and designers that collaborate on projects across Bangalore, Bombay, London & LA.

This is the online showcase of the work that was exhibited at the Goethe-Institut Bangalore on September 3rd and 4th 2016. The Reading Room features eight new pieces created for Gender Bender 2016, which include graphic shorts, mini-comic zines,  visual essays and illustrated stories — all exploring different  aspects of gender and gender identity across India, post-Brexit UK  and the Philippines.

Everything Drag by Janine Shroff is a piece that illustrates  her personal understanding of drag, societal perceptions,  as well as cultural legends and myths about gender roles and power.

Everything Drag Cover

We’re born naked, Everything else is drag” — Ru Paul

Drag is way to play with, or a performance of gender.

A parody of the stereotype of the gender roles and a way to reverse them.

Gently poking fun.

Over the top hair, makeup, hyper-feminine or hyper-male outfits. All exaggerations to blur the line.

Dressing ‘feminine’ has always felt a bit (sometimes a lot) like drag.

Drag Persona

Drag Persona

So! what do you want to be when you grow up beta?”

“A Hijra!”

Part provocation, Part truth.

The aunties asking would shriek and laugh.

Or say “Beta don’t say that!” in shock. An outrageous idea.

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But I liked that men were afraid of them.

I liked that their curses had a power.

I didn’t believe in their curses, but I liked to see them used and the men cower. A pleasing turn of events.

I was told under extreme circumstances, if they were truly displeased, they would raise their skirts at the men, a final act of shaming them.

Men seemed to fear this most of all.

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Raising the skirt

 “Frighten the devil by raising the skirt”

A ancient female myth from around the world, from Europe to Asia.

Fear of the power of the raised skirt seems to be a deep one.

Notes on Raising the Skirt:

France

The 16th century Rabelais recounted a popular story about a woman who put the devil to flight by showing him her vulva. Such stories were a folk culture counter-weight to the demonologist doctrines that claimed witches were slaves to the devil and forced to have painful sex with him. These traditions of the powerfully protective vulva predated Christian belief in a devil by a long shot. The story also appears in the 18th century Fables by Jean de La Fontaine.

Catalunya

A proverb says that “The sea clams down if it sees a woman’s cunt.” (La mar es posa bona si veu el cony d’una dona).

·Ireland

A similar story was told of Cúchullain in the Táin Bo Cuailnge. To oppose him, his uncle sent out 150 women “utterly naked, all at the same time, and the leader of the women before them, Scandlach, to expose their nakedness and their boldness to him.” The famous warrior of Uster lowered his eyes to avoid seeing these bold women and thus being overcome by their power.

·India

Even representations of vulvas can have this danger-warding effect. South Indians made atropopaic pots (“exceedingly obscene” in the eyes of an English observer) smeared them with whitewash, and placed them in grain fields and on house tops to protect from the evil eye. [W.T. Elmore, Dravidian Gods, 1913]

Source: http://www.raisingtheskirt.com/historical-accounts1.html

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It puts the lotion in the basket

“You must wear some jewellery”

My mother pleads, before my brother’s wedding.

“Don’t you wear heels anymore? Not even a little heel?“

My mother spends most of the wedding fiddling with her uncomfortable glittering saree and hobbling on uncomfortable shoes.

“So what?” my father says when I point out my mother in pain.

“They just hurt a little. And she looks so pretty!”

To be feminine means to be comfortable with discomfort.

And then to deny the discomfort even exists.

Foot Binding

Notes on foot binding: Feng Xun is recorded as stating, “If you remove the shoes and bindings, the aesthetic feeling will be destroyed forever” — an indication that men understood that the symbolic erotic fantasy of bound feet did not correspond to its unpleasant physical reality, which was therefore to be kept hidden.

Source: Levy, Howard S. (1991). The Lotus Lovers: The Complete History of the Curious Erotic Tradition of Foot Binding in China. New York: Prometheus Books. p. 322.

Aunties & 1 Uncle

Aunties & 1 Uncle

At weddings I look at glittering women, decked out like christmas trees next to flabby, balding, paunch-ridden men and privately wonder how they can bear being this heterosexual. I know being straight is considered the default, but man, is it grim.

The wedding aunties in their turn look back, and are far more frank about their disappointment.

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Aunties

“Oh you look so….thin…and your hair…” they say sadly

This is aunty code for “You look old”

No one likes a drag queen not pulling it together

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Everything Drag

Event Photos

 

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