Sound spheres and gendered realities


Dr Moina Khan

Dr. Moina Khan is an audio enthusiast, currently working as an Associate Professor at Times School of Media, Bennett University, India. As an industry professional and academic LESS MORE

While listening to an audio show, I heard the host praising Katrina Kaif for never sounding vulgar while performing on an article song and the next track played by him was Chikni Chameli. The lyrics of the song that engulfed my ears, which read “Jungle mein aaj mangal karungi”, made me realize that we often associate vulgarity, obscenity and objectification with the visual symbols that surround us, and that we We kind of tend to ignore that our everyday sonic encounters could also be powerful elements of indecency and obscenity. In our daily lives, we experience sounds more than visuals. We listen to songs and music in public and personal spaces. We hear conversations and swearing. We listen to sounds from places near and far. We spend a lot of time getting information by listening alone, especially in a time when audio search, social audio, and smart speakers are increasingly part of our lives. Listening has a powerful role in the construction of our world which is a negotiated reality. The reality is horrible when these sounds reflect sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. Whether it’s deliberately produced auditory tactics like songs with sexist lyrics and sexual intonations in their sounds that objectify women or the habitual use of swear words that are derogatory and often not gender-neutral, the sound in many ways could be an element of contention in the public domain. We might not really want our five-year-old to watch Badhshah’s “Garmi” number, however, we’re usually unaware when kids listen to such random numbers. Therefore, we also get the shock of our lives when they innocently whisper the lyrics “Paas aaun toh sek lage”…Listening is largely a social activity, and it is indeed a common occurrence not to censor the sounds on various platforms and in public places.

We continue to be regressive in this technologically advanced and post-modern society. We continue to show our benevolent sexism here and there. Sounds reflect cultural gender norms and play an important role in shaping gender mindsets, yet we continue to censor only our visual realities.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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