Inspired by Israeli docu-reality series Regender, Indian content site Arré just launched Ho Ja Re-Gender, a reality web-show in which six contestants – three men and three women – lived in a house together for a month, and "swapped" genders.
"The participants all have certain unresolved issues with a member of the opposite sex in their lives," Roshni Ghosh, Creative Director of Arré, told BuzzFeed.
She described the show as "an attempt to bring the sexes together to understand each other better," describing the show's hypothesis as: "To understand the opposite sex, you need to be the opposite sex."
The six participants underwent costuming and prosthetics to assume the opposite gender. In disguise, they went out in public, interacted with the world, and performed tasks. At home, household gender roles were reversed.
Trained counsellors were on call through the month.
"While the beginning of the journey was fun and games, the anxieties of being the opposite sex, the insecurities, the confronting of people and issues from the past started taking their toll, resulting in aggression, paranoia and breakdown," Ghosh said. "We were not prepared for the kind of intense break downs."
Each of the six participants reflected on their month of assuming physical attributes, stereotypical behaviour, and societal roles of the opposite gender.
1. Farrah Kader to Farhan
I was asked to get phone numbers of young women even as I was in my masculine avatar. I mean, I looked creepy as hell and I knew that even I wouldn't have spoken to a man who looked like how I did during that task. Until that point I had very little respect for men. This task made me understand how difficult it is for an ordinary man to just talk to a girl.
I also discovered that hating and blaming men is as sexist as persecuting women; I realised that feminism was not a license for misandry. The feminist in me evolved to accept that I also need to show men respect if I want them to respect me.
From my previous mentality of "all men are dogs", I went to believe "we are all equal and we are on the same team."
2. Vishal Jain to Vaishali
"I held a lot of negative and wrong views about women.
The numerous challenges and hardships a woman faces is heart wrenching. I felt the humiliation of eve teasing, which a lot of men find amusing and ego boosting. How degraded a woman feels when some sick man is making lewd comments, touching them against their wish and has no guilt or regret for it.
We forget that every man that walked this earth has been given birth to by a woman. I only hope that the show brings a change in the mindset of people to understand and feel how much a woman puts in and what she is given in return."
3. Kriti Gautam to Kartik
"When I entered the show I was undergoing deep emotional distress and didn't know why things were going wrong in my personal life.
During the course of the show I got the opportunity to put myself in a man’s shoes and experience the world from that perspective. It's such a stressful life both mentally and physically.
The sheer pressure of being the breadwinner and the one responsible for running the home is back-breaking emotionally. I have come out with a completely different understanding of men and can now relate better to why they react a certain way in a certain situation.
I have learnt to empathise for the first time in my life and my respect for my husband has increased many million folds. My love for him has reached its pinnacle and I feel so rejuvenated!"
4. Joey Debroy to Juhi
"There was a time during the shoot when I started being so comfortable being a woman that I was getting shit scared. Scared of losing the macho Joey inside me. Scared of turning into a woman. Once the shoot ended, I would roam around as Juhi for hours, as if that was really me. Gradually, I started owning it, and that’s when I started understanding myself. I found the balance between being the macho guy, Joey, and the sensitive, empathetic Juhi.
I’ve always been away from my family, and unable to connect with my dad, but after this show I cried like a baby in front of him. My dad hugged me, for the first time in I can’t remember how many years.
This show wasn’t just a show for me. It was my catharsis. My introspection. My reinvention."
5. Lasheeta Sahay to Lakshit
"As a girl, I used to think that we are at a disadvantage as people judge us easily. But we also, in many ways get treated better as compared to males. For instance, a simple gesture of getting a seat in a metro or a bus. I don’t think that guys get it as easily as we do. In simpler words, we get attention and we also enjoy it.
When I used to step out as Lakshit, nobody used to look at me the way people look at Lasheeta. Sometimes it’s disturbing that people check you out and you can’t really stop their minds. I bet if I would’ve roamed as Lakshit in the market, I would hardly get attention. There’s both relaxation and annoyance in being a guy.
Yes, society is not that judgmental about them but if a guy is not good looking, doesn’t have money etc., people hardly take him seriously. They have their burden of responsibilities.
Being Lakshit was not gonna give me the freedom I was looking for. Freedom is not being a guy, it’s being yourself."
6. Jackie Deol to Jacqueline
"All my life I have concentrated on being a better man but being a woman is something I couldn't imagine. If I had to choose the best part then it would be the moment when I walked out of the transformation room not only looking like a woman but able to fool everyone like one!
Basically, women are far superior to men mentally, and through the years of my life trying to understand women as beautiful in their own way but also that the life of a man revolves around a woman.
I have a better understanding of women than before. Earlier I only had a male perspective but now I have a better chance of guessing how a woman would think. There are always two sides to everything. And like men, women also have their negatives and what I learned is that 'it's not that women are always right, its just that they are never wrong'.
Those goddamn heels killed my feet every time."