So what’s instigated me this time around?
An innocent early morning walk in the vain attempt to renew my New Year resolution of shedding some pounds off myself!
Okay, the details now. So once in a blue moon I usually end up at this park near our place in T Nagar, usually after days and days of gastronomic indulgences. It was around 6:45 in the morning and I was slogging it out on my 10th round of the small enclosure, when I hear this dismissive reproach, obviously aimed at me, “These girls wear just anything! What is happening these days?”
Imagine the gall of the guy!
As if getting up early morning was not irritating enough, I was totally riled up and turned around to give the man a befitting reply to shut him up.
As I looked back to zero down on my prey, my anger vanished.
Haa! Here is this oldie (and need I add baldie) in a veshti/dhoti (the muslin/cotton cloth men in India tie waist down) folded half, reaching inches above his knees, and that could give tennis skirts a complex (okay, a slight exaggeration) – with his wife who’s draped in a synthetic sari that clings to her body as she walks in the Chennai heat, her entire midrib and almost half the back exposed (as is for any woman wearing a sari, and apologies for the way I describe a sari, but am sure you agree) – commenting on a girl who’s wearing Bermudas that reach below the knees, a T shirt that covers her entirely and sock and shoes!!! (the girl is me, just in case you didn’t figure it out – I like being referred to as a “girl” still, but that’s besides the point).
So, I repeat, imagine the gall of the guy or rather, uncle!
This brings me to the larger debate around the societal coercions on a woman’s dressing, specifically in the Indian context. Though, I understand India is better off compared to countries like Iran where you could be whipped for wearing a mini skirt. Read about it here.
But we are no better. Even though our law does not allow corporal punishment for women not adhering to social norms, we, as a society, leave no stone unturned to ostracize a “modern” girl (who, in the Indian context, is any girl who decides to take her own decisions when it comes to her life and being: dressing, working, marriage etc.).
What I have heard so many times myself, and only on the basis of how a girl has dressed, are the following comments ranging from subtle disapprovals to grotesque character assassinations; “She is too modern, too forward (read characterless)”, “I am sure she has lots of boy friends”, “She seems a little loose”, “Her parents have not taught her our Indian culture”, “She will never get a good house (meaning after marriage, of course!)”.
The worst demeaning assault is when provocative dressing is used as a justification for sexual harassment. So many educated people, parents, teachers, politicians are guilty of this.
Back in college, we once had Kiran Bedi talk to us about Women and Safety, and she made a statement that we girls (I was in an all girls college – LSR, DU) should dress up “like men” – hide our femininity in the garb of loose male clothing. Obviously, this did not go down well with us and a major argument ensued.
While I advocate complete freedom of dressing for women, I also admit there are some of us who dress appropriately and some others who don’t.
Wearing hot pants for a puja may not be such a great idea after all, just like I don’t understand why models should parade in bikinis in a ballroom full of tuxedo-clad men during the Miss Universe contest, have the bikini round at a beach or at the pool side instead and ensure all present are dressed in a similar fashion.
I think I digress.
However, stating that a woman asked to be eve teased given what she was wearing is preposterous to say the least.
Are men beasts who cannot control their carnal lust the minute some flesh is exposed to them?
If I wear sleeveless I am available, and if I wrap myself in a burqa I am the epitome of chastity?
Who are we trying to fool here?
I can wear 6 yards of saris all my life and be morally corrupt and I can wear shorts all my life and still retain my integrity. Is it so difficult to believe this?
While eve teasing and other such forms of sexual harassment is a much greater subject than I attempt to talk about here, one thing that I can vouch for is that the way a girl dresses has nothing to do with whether she is eve teased or not. Girls are eve teased in saris, salwar kameezes, jeans, skirts, shorts, school uniforms and even in diapers!
What is so sexually enticing about babies in nappies and girls in frocks?
There is no rationalization for the perversion of harassers and rapists. They cannot be defended. Every woman and every sane man needs to raise their voices against such miscreants.
I have heard many “sympathetic” law makers say you cannot change mindsets over night. Yes, you cannot magically wish away the social structure that still treats women as objects of possession rather than active architects of the present and the future, but you can bloody well put them behind bars, hang them, castrate them in public for all that I care – Just one or two cases of rigorous and torturous punishment is all that India needs today. One or two examples set for all the bastards will instill the fear of death and legal wrath in each one.
Maybe this is not the only solution, but it sure is one of the most efficient and impacting, especially when it comes to at least controlling such cases.
I am dressed to kill … kill barriers, kill hearts, kill social bondages - not your morals, not the human soul in you.
(Addendum: And if I am not dressed as well as you would want me to, the least you can do is not pounce on me)