SXonomics, the brainchild of Ramya Pandyan (Idea Smith) and Dr Ishmeet Nagpal, came into being because of the spoken word scene. Having watched each other perform for a while and sensing that their politics were aligned, Ishmeet and Ramya knew that they would be good collaborators. Both found an ally in each other and together they became a force called SXonomics, combining poetry, theatre, music, improv, spoken word and more, against the misogyny around them. SheThePeople.TV converses with Ishmeet Nagpal and Ramya Pandyan about SXonomics the band and their journey to make feminism mainstream.
Feminism is still a scary concept to people even though they do believe in equal rights.
SXonomics is an amalgamation of the words “sex” and “economics”. This came from one of Ramya and Ishmeet’s early discussions about feminism, where both agreed that patriarchy subsisted on the economics relating to assigned gender roles.
Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal want to make the idea of feminism accessible and clear to people. SXonomics uses comedy, drama, parody and music to entertain people while leaving them with a message that they can’t forget easily. “People are so comfortable in their minds with misogynistic references in pop culture. We just want feminism to also be something that is welcome on the furniture of your mind. It ought to be sitting on the same plush sofa that has been the prerogative of Salman Khan or Honey Singh so far,” explains Ramya.
SXonomics is an amalgamation of the words “sex” and “economics”. This came from one of Ramya and Ishmeet’s early discussions about feminism, where both agreed that patriarchy subsisted on the economics relating to assigned gender roles. They spoke of the transactional nature of all relationships (including parent-child) driven by sex categorisations, and decided that they wanted a name that would convey their ideologies and provoke curiosity simultaneously – SXonomics happened to capture it all beautifully.
Art is inherently political.
As two women of different age, religion, caste, disability status, economic and geographical background, as well as their own diverse expression of gender and sexuality, Ishmeet and Ramya’s experiences translate into a voice that has intersectionality at its core. “Any feminist messaging would be remiss if it cannot give due consideration to all the factors that lead to any form of inequality in society,” says the duo. SXonomics maintains that art is inherently political. Artists have an impact on society whether they intend to or not, and even the most personal emotions spelt out in art define where one’s politics lie. “Our prerogative is to make that a positive impact and bring about constructive ideas that can change long-held beliefs in society which are holding us back. Art has a responsibility towards society. It is up to the artists to accept it,” say Ishmeet and Ramya.
SXonomics maintains that art is inherently political. Artists have an impact on society whether they intend to or not…
Humour has historically been an integral part of any rebellion, and exaggeration and parody are SXonomics’ preferred tools to chip away at the foundations of the problematic structures of patriarchy. Their comedy sketches often come across as non-threatening and palatable to people, giving Ramya and Ishmeet a chance to introduce the audience to radical ideas without the people even realising it. “The key is to listen. Spoken word is as much about performing, as about listening to other poets, encouraging their work, giving and receiving constructive feedback,” reflects the band. As of now, SXonomics is the first and only duo to emerge as a solid collaboration from the spoken word scene and create a genre of its own by combining comedy, theatre, music and poetry.
The band recently performed a show called Hands up! which specifically addressed trigger topics. For Ramya and Ishmeet, speaking about sensitive topics is always an emotional ordeal as art comes from a very vulnerable place within them. In their show, the duo talked about what triggers mean to them, how performers can issue appropriate trigger warnings and how the audience can deal with these triggers. “We have witnessed poets perform misogynistic, sexually abusive, and Islamophobic content on stage, while we have sometimes cried and at other times just fumed as we sat in the audience. We respect the stage and it would be derogatory to the stage to interrupt a performance, but we have always called this behaviour out once the performance is over,” say Ishmeet and Ramya.
“…We respect the stage and it would be derogatory to the stage to interrupt a performance, but we have always called this behaviour out once the performance is over,” say Ishmeet and Ramya.
The more sensitised the performers and audiences are, the safer is the performance space. This was SXonomics’ aim when they started out with a six-part sensitisation series on issues such as sexual assault, mental health and domestic violence. In an attempt to promote sensitivity and empathy, they put up a theatrical performance on a new topic fortnightly, and Ramya and Ishmeet hope to keep doing this series in other venues and cities to bring their message to more and more people.
Through SXonomics, Ishmeet and Ramya wish to amplify their feminist voice.
As for the audience, people have told the band that it’s fun to watch their real-life issues presented in a fun way. They laugh about these issues but also realise how the issues are problematic because of the way that SXonomics presents them.
Ramya and Ishmeet believe that the world needs feminist collaborations. “We were interviewed by an Indo-American podcast recently, and the hosts are two women living on opposite sides of the world, producing a show about Reproductive Justice. Just hearing them in action was so empowering, and we hope that SXonomics has the same effect on people, rubbishing the ‘Aurat hi aurat ki dushman hai’ trope once and for all,” shares the duo.
SXonomics is here to stay!
Ishmeet and Ramya plan to take their plays and shows to different venues around Mumbai, other metro cities and towns. The band is incorporating other local languages into their performances – which have been bilingual till now – as well. “We’ve developed a lot of content and we’re working hard to bring it to everyone’s living room,” say Ramya and Ishmeet excitedly. Until then, keep an out for videos by SXonomics – there’s always a new intersection of feminism to learn about!
Feature Image Credit: SXonomics.