Eye of a Little God: Gender Performativity and Identity

Dipjyoti Banik is a photographer based out of New Delhi, working primarily with alternative cultural spaces, diversifying narratives in evolving urban spaces, and negotiations with gender and sex in India.

The title “Eye of a Little God” has been drawn from Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror”, reflecting upon the anxieties of what it means to be a woman and the crisis of femininity. Socialisation into most of societies requires us to perform our genders every day, and as we grow, we come to internalise symbolism, actions, gestures, and other aspects of behaviour necessitated by the gender. This photo-essay has evolved around a trans-woman and her attempts at integrating the codes of gender. India as a cultural space accommodates diverse norms on gender, and yet the impact of the domestic film industry and its visual codes has shaped, copied from, and yet overridden most of these norms, especially in the urban spaces. The ideals around femininity draw from a range of behaviour patterns and the need to imbibe these codes comes out in hyperfemininine expressions of cross-dressers and transwomen.

M is a Hindustani classical musician and artist based in Kolkata. After years of having identified herself as a woman, she finally underwent surgery in 2016. This rebirth has landed her in confrontations with the crises of femininity in the very act of performing it, specifically in her intimate relationships with others and herself. Her early navigation into the prescribed notion of femininity is coupled with the search for comfort and security in her identity. What it means to be a woman, and who the woman is that she wants to be, are questions pertinent to her, rooted in a need of legitimacy and validation of the woman she has become. Learning and unlearning, it is difficult to ascertain the measure of womanhood that she desires to attain, even for herself. Her spaces, her attires, her explorations into gestures actively interact with the need of security in her identity, which she seeks out images of herself, aided by the mirror and the camera. Over the past five years, before and after the transformation, a documentation of what she wanted to be and what she manages to be has emerged, and this is a segment of it.

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Credits

Photographer: Dipjyoti Banik @dipjyoti_banik

Model: Madhuvanti @madhuvantipal

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