Gender Identity: Artistic Expression Vs. Aesthetic Oppression

Through his performances, Raheem has challenged the concept of gender roles within Kathak. Exploring an artist’s outer aesthetics and immersing them within a community that dictates long-established and conventional roles in society.

Identity. It’s a puzzling concept.

I am a man. I want to dance as a woman. I do not want to be a woman.
Drag?

Dance, art, any form of artistic expression should not be confined to a set of limitations or rules. Rules within a concept as fluid as gender achieve nothing but restrict the artist from their full potential of silent articulation. So why cling onto a tradition within a society that has spent its modern years fighting for this freedom of expression.

We sat down and spoke to Raheem Mir; a dancer, an actor, and I guess you could call him somewhat of an activist. Through his performances, Raheem has challenged the concept of gender roles within Kathak. Exploring an artist’s outer aesthetics and immersing them within a community that dictates long-established and conventional roles in society.

Kathak is one of eight forms of Indian classical dance. Its roots derive from the North of India, and its history travels across the country, having now reached out to every corner of the globe. It started in the ancient temples of India and expanded to the courts of the Mughal emperors. Kathak has slowly begun to shed its original identity of being a simple form of story-telling and has begun to delve into an abstract exploration of rhythm and movement.

Even so, we continue to turn a blind eye to those who not only want to explore new rhythms, but also want to venture into a world of gender ?uidity. Why doesn’t our culture allow a man dress like a woman and perform with as much respect and authority as a woman portraying a female voice? Why is it immediately seen as a ‘comedy act’? Is it wishful thinking to believe it should receive a response as indifferent as that received by a women swanning around the 1920s in a pair of skinny jeans?

Have a listen to the podcast, keep an open mind, and don’t take the idea of a padded bra too lightly.

About the guest author

Saloni Saraf

A freelance Journalist and Kathak dancer currently hidden in London. Her work revolves around social issues, gender issues, and decolonising the world's creativity. A lover of literature, lassi, and long naps, Saloni aims to fight intolerance with tolerance, one incredible human at a time.