My subscription to several YouTube channels was a natural outcome of living in the times of touch culture. It is in such ambiance the outreach of idea of being a YouTuber had already rapt lot of Kashmiri netizens. While at the outset new notifications from Kashmiri comedy channels would be an e-treat that conditioned the moments of hysterics for me. But as winter turned to spring, I could smell the fishiness of the content that was conditioned into public imagination. Genderally I could see content of these texts nurtured from phantasmagoria and normalized with patriarchal injections. It is such videos/comedies as cultural texts which reproduce the hegemonic ideologies and also impediment the development of an egalitarian society.
Amid the streets busy dissolving blood of innocents, air smelling of rotten politics, the normalization of curfews, encounters and stone pelting; in such tempestuous time the access to comedy has a therapeutic effect on the mental geographies of people. While comedy in such trying times serves the function of catharsis, it also becomes important for us to be critical of the discourse that motivates the production of such comedy. This links it with the significant number of Kashmiri YouTubers producing comedy through various YouTube channels. The reflection of problems in Kashmiri society with comic witticism and extensive use of theatrics are some of the eclectic features of these channels. But as far as the discourse of gender is concerned, they are schooling the society with sexist texts that are derogatory to women and transgender community. Women continue to be sketched as characters drawn from patriarchal imagination.
The critical inquest into the select episodes of these channels throws surprises, as far as the politics of representation of women is concerned. The episode “Be Hayayii Ka Natija” is about a woman character who is harassed on the road after she refuses the proposal of a boy. Apparently the boy and his associates cannot face the rejection by a girl wearing jeans. “Blackmailing Girl” justifies and rationalizes an act of blackmailing the girl who wears the jeans. The episode has a closing message for public to normalize the violence for women wearing jeans. Similarly in “Tiktok” a viral video of a girl leads to the heart attack of her father. “Baikal Zein Part 1” crosses limits with a story where a married stupid Kashmiri women is shown washing a mobile phone with water in their washroom. “Women Antics/Zanan Makhir” reflects the essential qualities of women to be devilish and villainous in nature. The episode warns the men to be away from this character of women. In a similar fashion “Unmarried father” portrays sexually frustrated man who aspires to marry at an old age and keeps unremittingly pushing his son for his marriage. I was wondering about our reactions for making the same episode with the opposite gender.
The reductionist and simpleton understanding of watching these comedy episodes only with the lenses of entertainment needs to be critiqued. With lacs of subscribers for consumption, these video texts act as audio-visual therapies to condition the public imagination with sexism. The patriarchal and chauvinistic imagination is at the core of these videos that are meant to entertain people. The consumption of such episodes reproduces the ideology that leads to the sexist social construction of gender. The accessibility to such entertainment leads to an Althusserian Interpellation of gender insensitive subjects, that have a huge tendency to bolster the exclusion and marginalisation of women in the society. It is further in such context that such consumption goes a long way in mythification and stereotyping of women, that acts as an impediment for materializing the goals of a polished society. Given the turbulent and trying ambiance in Kashmir, we wish to see a comedy that brings laughter to the wretched souls of Kashmir, but not at the cost of pigeonholing women.
While mis-represented women characters of these episodes are in search of gender sensitive authors to complete them, I too conclude with questions that are in search of answers. How long will it take to make a comedy without body shamming and sexism? How long will it take for us to stop a comedy episode that disrespects women and other genders? How long will it take, not to glorify and over- sexualize the transgender community? How long will it take to stop the cross dressing of men as women? How long will it take to laugh at our idiosyncrasies, without marginalizing any gender? How long we have to dream to dream such dream.
Aamir Qayoom is a research scholar of Comparative Literature, Delhi University. He also works as research assistant for University of Western Australia (UAW).