• The Chi-Chi syndrome and the slam poets

    By Amrita Paul, Content Writer
    A couple of weeks ago, a unique advertisement managed to scratch the surface of the artificial conversation we are used to having about mensuration by delving straight to the stereotypes which perturb us, but are often not discussed openly. At it’s helm was René Verma, a third year student of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, whose performance at the Delhi Poetry Slam six months ago, addressed to the ubiquitous Honey Singh boomeranged her into a kind of instant fame and recognition.


    ‘When they complained about moodswings  ‘chi-chi’ and how hysterical I was when I got my cramps, I could tell them, the only thing cramping my style is their ignorance.’


    René says, “I was contacted by Jamun, this wonderful little film company, who were doing an ad film campaign for the brand Sofy. I’ve always been fascinated by how brands work, the possibilities, challenges and limitations of espousing social responsibility. The reason I was so keen to perform for Sofy was that their message was clear, simple, and revolutionary- the use of euphemism to hide menstrual emergence and periods is rampant. It is located within larger silences on domestic violence, sexual assault, foeticide etc. One reason the Sofy ad is important is because there was no intervention in my piece—its rawness is its essence.” 


    Looking back, René adds that even in her wildest dreams she couldn’t fathom the sheer proportions in which her piece on Honey Singh was consumed.


    “It was never intended to be a takedown of say rapper A or rapper B, but a larger commentary on the insidious narratives we consume, the overt and covert, sometimes ‘benevolent’ misogyny and queer and trans phobia in pop culture, music and rap, and our own complicity in those hetero-patriarchies and cis-normative ideals, that are constantly denying access to the proverbial ‘Other’.


    “The response was overwhelmingly positive. I’ve received eloquent letters of encouragement from all across the world, from Beirut to USA to Dubai, from school teachers to students discovering their politics, from inspiring feminist activists, media persons and journalists—it’s been wonderful to have contributed to a larger conversation that is very immediate and painfully important,” informs  René, who was also declared an all-India topper for humanities by the CBSE board in 2013.


    However, devout Honey Singh followers also made it a point to give her a piece of their mind.


    “Personally, I love deconstruction, critical analysis and feedback. My only assertion is a modicum of civility. Unfortunately, most of the negative comments I received were not constructive, but coming from a place of misdirected anger, casual sexism, and the abuse of community ethics that anonymity provides,”  René shares with SheThePeople.TV


    Currently, studying two courses on anthropology, sociology, and film at Harvard University,  René  considers slam poetry as cathartic. They are not just the written word, but rendered and recast through the body—through gesture, enunciation, rhythm, which again is something she is deeply invested in.


    René  also throws light on how slam poets herself included are often self-censoring themselves, in accordance with political climates, misogyny and threat of violence on the internet. She hopes that along with others, she can contribute to creating a hate-free, tolerant, truly free world where having an opinion doesn’t make it difficult to reach back home safe.

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