Recently a performance by a contestant on India’s Got Talent got an interesting reaction from one of the judges, Kiron Kher. Primarily, the contestant was performing a Lavni dance, but she decided to mix it up and combine it with Twerking. But Kiron Kher felt that the fusion was unnecessary and described the Twerking portions of the performance as vulgar. This has sparked a debate and divided the internet.

As some people questioned why Kher was so harsh about judging the contestant for twerking, others applauded her and talked about how important her statement was.

All this is fine, a healthy discourse is great but it got me wondering why twerking is considered vulgar. According to some comments that shared the definition of the dance style, twerking is a sexually suggestive step similar to the mating call of certain animals. But, here’s the thing – for centuries, the Western world has looked down on twerking for the same reasons.

Twerking, Dance India Dance
Credit: STEEZY Studio

The historical origins of the dance style are deeply rooted in black people’s fight against the racial oppression they faced during the slave trade. It was a way to connect to their West African culture despite the heavy oppression they were under.

Not only this, twerking is not only sexual in nature but also sensual, and it represents owning one’s sexual agency (not just attracting a ‘mate’). Many black women owe feeling comfortable in their bodies and with their sexuality to twerking! For years, white people have turned their noses up at twerking for being a ratchet dance step, much like most of the black culture being thought of as unrefined. In fact, most indigenous communities are judged in a similar way, where they’re thought to be barbaric and pretty much unpolished and uncivilised in some way or the other.

The internet had a lot to say about this particular interaction though, some people did defend the contestant. Take a look:

Oh oh! Here comes the mandatory slut-shaming comments, many people thought that her steps were in fact, vulgar.

Why do we so easily look down on practices and rituals associated with different races and communities without fully understanding them?