Friday, April 9, 2010

Dressed to kill!

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)


  1. It should be no ones business as to how is one dressed.

  2. The old debate again. Yuvika, how many time women/girls have to defend their dressing. I guess it's been done over and over. It's not about the dress. It's about the mindset. Some people can never change the way they connect dress and behaviour. It's preposterous and stupid.

    How mnay times we have heard: She was raped because she asked for it by her dress! Ridiculous. Many tribal women who are poor and sari-clad get raped. I don't know what's the argument then.

    Then there the Shiv-senas to deal with.

    I don't know when this will change. maybe another 25 years. let's see.

    I see that this post closely follows the heels of the last one which also talked about women :)

    Joy always,

  3. Yup, exactly my thoughts! Women r judged by their clothes prima facie. How 'fast' and 'easy' we are depends on how many meters are clothes are amde of..sigh! sad! i dont see this perception changing on the streets.

    Worse, the moral brigade in this country is getting stronger and forcing their views on how we cloth ourself, what we drink, what places we frequent!

    Its just plain silly and sickening. Anyway, i don't think we should bother at all!

  4. Grow up India...Just reaching 7% growth rate does not mean..we are growing..we need to come out of the mental barrier...Way to go...gr8 post!!

  5. you see the problem of women is exactly what kiran bedi says "dress up like wen' Why? Why do women have to dress up like to be strong.

    The situation is changing but very slowly. The next generation will definitely not suffer this problem. Earlier people used think wearing shorts was bad but now a lot of oldies are wearing them. This is a generation gap.

    If they say your dress looks bad it means you dress looks good :D if they say it looks good they you have got to watch out ;)

    As far sexual harassment and dressing that is bullshit. I am buying that crap it is responsible for harassment.

  6. yuvika,,
    irrespective of who he is, u should have slapped him.. and asked him to talk wats required of his age
    2) ask him to make his daughter wrapped up in everything and stay at home........

  7. @Chowla ji: I wish we all learnt and remembered this basic fact.

    @Susan: I too hope for change..sooner or slightly later - but the change needs to happen../Yep, another post on women...a kind of coincidence - I end up blogging only when I feel strongly about something!

    @Maria: Yep we shouldn't care a damn!

    @Niraj: Sigh, wonder when we will grow up!

    @Venky; We can hope things are better for the coming generations!

    @karthik; Maybe I should have, I still don't know what exactly stopped me!

  8. Oh my God! Yuvika, while I am completely in agreement with you and I do enjoy watching (alright you can call it sighting, if you want..hehehe) girls dress up to their liking their taste, the words seem to have come out too strongly!
    Talk about India punishing people. Now that is the last I would expect from any of our governments. When they cannot firmly hang the b****d who attempted to blast the parliament, who else will they be able to punish??


  9. nice one!! though I believe you are in the wrong part of world .. I had been to chennai ..

    though the punishment you are suggesting, its worthy for the deeds done, that is justified. But i believe you cant be sure that this cant be used for threatening some "not bad" person, in case of "conscious sex" presented as "rape" ..

    and for just eve teasing its too much of punishment.

    I agree with you on most of the points ... you cant just rip off some gals character.. given she wears not so traditional clothes.

  10. @Ram: I am gald u agree but I think I was not "too" strong. It's high time voices became louder and protests stronger!

    @Annonymous: Well just because somebody will misuse the law, u can't stop making rules.
    EVe teasing can get ugly dude! I assume you are a guy. Attempt to murder and murder fall in the same bracket.

  11. me being a guy .... ?!! do you think i am trying to justify eve teasing just because i am a guy??

    well no-one can justify eve-teasing, and you being a pro-feminist, think over ... its jst a thin line between pro-feminism and misandry.

  12. Nope, I didn;t think u were trying to justify eve teasing - I only thought maybe u didn't understand the emotional impact of it on a girl's psyche, confidence and well being.
    and no I am not pro-misandry - I love the men in my life - have a wonderufl hubby, a great dad, an awesome bro, intelligent colleagues and dear friends - i am totally anti generalizations!

  13. And to add on there is a huge difference between pro-feminism and misandry

  14. I feel Street Sexual Harassment should not be passed of as Eve teasing - and I totally am with you here, how one is dressed, has nothing to do with how much one is harassed, places where men are used to seeing women being told to dress un-provocatively have the most cases of sexual harassment because such talk makes them see they can get away with such criminal activity.

    (I read a post where Saudi women in burka complained that they still face street harassment, while men have all the freedom - and a wise man advised them to make sure not even a bit of their hair or clothing inside showed and he emphasized upon the need for dull looking burkas to stay safe on middle eastern roads, while cursing the western culture "where women get no respect".)

    We live in a society that tries to control women, by telling them if they did not follow set norms they would get sexually assaulted - what they wear, what time they are out, who they talk to, where they go...

    It hasn't worked so far (a few centuries should be long enough trial period?)

    Most women who are assaulted are assaulted/harassed/teased because the offender felt he could get away with it. So the solution is to now finally focus on the offender (like in every other crime). Punishment and before that information is necessary.

    Some sections of society seem to believe that women 'don't mind' a little 'eve teasing', some others claim women mean 'yes' when they say 'no' - Indian movies show women only pretend to dislike sexual harassment (can't get more ridiculous than this!).

    There is something seriously wrong with a society that makes such excuses for half it's citizens and then locks up the other half...

    Here's what we actually need to do to dispel some myths and some pretense of living in denial.

  15. Found you in IHM's FB group. Loved what you wrote 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?"

  16. Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

  17. Great post Yuvika.... the problem is not with the way women dress, it lies in the sick minds of men who harass them over it and justify themselves by saying "she deserved it"...

    Its like saying that a bank robbery is justified because a bank's contents are provocative!!

    Do stop by my blog sometime :) ..... M * U * S * I * N * G * S

    1. Thank you Ash for writing in. Checking out your "musings" now :)

  18. Loved the lAST LINE!! GREAT POST!


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