Why do some women see western clothes and being able to flaunt their bodies, without fearing being called sluts, as empowerment?

Women, feminists and others, have been writing about their bodies, about sexual exploitation, about objectification. So, why is the SlutWalk being heralded as something that has finally arrived in India, like some colonial hangover after a rave party?  (Thanks for the link Hrishikesh)

1. I think because this protest is not a cautious plea disguised as protest. In Slut Walk women are not careful not to ‘cross their limits’ (limits set by those who seem to have no understanding of what they are protesting against, even when the problem affects them, they would rather stop a daughter from studying/working than understand the problem).

2. For the first time women are questioning the misconceptions about sexual crimes and what the victim was wearing. And demanding that they be respected as being the best judges of what is appropriate for them to wear (and read, eat, drink, talk etc).

3. Protesters are not asked to wear modest saris and salwar kurtas  (and wearing saris hasn’t automatically created an understanding so far).

Maybe protesting in saris conveyed that women thought saris were needed for women to be taken seriously? 

4. Like the Pink Chaddi Campaign, here too women are refusing to prove their Indian-ness to the molesters, law makers, law enforcers and the society, by protesting in ways that the society permits women to protest. (For example by sending bangles.)

5. Protests that were found satisfactorily modest and appropriately Indianised have not succeeded in creating awareness about how harmful victim blaming is for the society, and how it encourages crimes.

6. Women who disagree should think about what they were wearing when they were harassed on the street. Keep in mind that domestic helpers, construction workers and rural women of all ages face the same harassment.

My 17 year old cook in Pune was slapped by her uncle for carrying a cotton bag I had given her because it attracted attention to her. The small bag to hold her Entry Pass and a tiny FM radio was bought from Janpath, Delhi, and had pictures of Krishna all over it.

The Slutwalk is a minor tic, but today when everyone wants to be a concerned citizen, it could turn into a movement. I won’t be surprised if some media group joins in to sponsor the event. After all, we do have beauty pageants that already flaunt the female body as an example of empowerment.

In a society that uses clothes, to control women and their sexuality, why do some people see western clothes and being able to flaunt their bodies, without fearing being called sluts, (or being able to cock a snook at such attempts at labeling or controlling) as empowerment?

It’s the same as married women in India being ‘allowed to’ wear jeans or not be forced to wear sindoor, tali, mangalsutra are generally considered luckier.

For many women in India not being forced to do something is seen as empowerment.

The ramp is the precursor of the SlutWalk. No one calls it ‘besharmi’ because these girls are trained by ‘experts’ and Mother Teresa protégées in diction and clichés. They speak up for causes ranging from global warming to education.
Not one of them has spoken up for the real slut. The whore. The sex worker. The woman who works by getting fucked. Really.

If on the appointed day they can walk and show solidarity for those women, then these hawks can tawk.

Sexual harassment concerns everybody, all women (including sex workers). And their families and friends are affected. Why do they need to show solidarity for anybody else before they can expect crimes against them to be taken seriously?

61 thoughts on “Why do some women see western clothes and being able to flaunt their bodies, without fearing being called sluts, as empowerment?

  1. I too am an empowered western slut :)
    I wear halter tops, skirts that show my legs (ai ai awww), churidars, sarees, jogging clothes, tent like dresses – depending on my mood and the occasion. Sadly I often carry a dupatta for safety, in case i have to go somewhere where the uncouthness of men who have not been taught by their mothers, sisters, teachers, aunts, girlfriends or wives that its RUDE to stare, pass comments or. And that its absolutely unacceptable to do anything more and that harassing a woman is not a minor aberration that can be shrugged off with a ‘boys will be boys’ comment but that it is a sign of sickness and depravity.

    • Do you think that the dupatta afforded you safety though? As in, with the dupatta, were you touched less? Not so concerned with staring – as you said, staring is rude but people will stare at anything they think strange. Calling out repeatedly to a person would be considered harassment, but the one I am really concerned with is physically being touched. I have been touched in all kinds of clothes…but in your experience, has having the dupatta stopped people from touching you?

      • I have blogged about the time in a train, when I was wearing jeans and another woman a salwar kurta and I realised sometimes being dressed in Western clothes can also convey that you come from a background that might have ‘connections’, and/or there could be repercussions if you are harassed. Exactly the same message is conveyed when you look confident.

      • Yes, that is a powerful example. There will be the odd psychopath who wants to bring down someone they think looks too confident but most cases it’s the opposite, they go for who they think is easy prey.

    • In college, they were extremely strict (crazy chauvinistic pigs ran the place) and the dress code called for salwar khameez with pinned (this part is important) dupatta. The unwritten code was for it to be of tent-like cut and stitching.
      I was even sent back from class for wearing kurta and jeans.

      And none of this saved me from the creeps who passed nasty comments when I walked past them or made them look at the girls any less lasciviously.

      So yeah, college was a difficult time for me, and my way of retaliation was to throw away ALL my indian clothes the minute I left college. It took me several years to even wear kurtas, and now when I do wear them, I don’t wear dupatta unless it adds to the look of the outfit.

      Creeps will be creeps no matter what you wear. It’s more a case of being able to get away with it. If they think they can, they’ll get to you.
      We are indeed, the weaker sex that way.

  2. The thing is, even the modern woman does not, at most times, realise that she is not committing any wrong by wearing western clothes. I remember going for a late evening movie wearing a skirt, with my husband once. The treatment I received from few groups of men inside the theater was so bad that I rmbr not being able to watch the movie. I kept cursing myself for wearing the skirt instead of a more conservative attire. Later on retrospection, I wondered, what gives those b*** losers the right to judge whom to tease or not? But, the worst part was I did feel guilty for quite sometime for not dressing up more conservatively. Reading such posts will atleast make lesser woman feel like that and blame themselves.

    • Yes, do not feel guilty. I have been felt up in a theatre in jeans/t-shirt and had a guy wank in the seat next to me when I was wearing a salwar. I think it’s more about the quality of people than what you are wearing. Certain kinds of people will see a woman and just think it is their right to touch.

  3. While a woman ‘wearing western clothes’ might not mean ‘empowerment’ , the lack of freedom to wear what she wishes certainly makes her need some.

    There are other aspects of women empowerment as well – how she is treated at home, by family, and society in general. But we can’t deny that ‘wearing what one wishes to’ without being looked down upon is also important.

    Awareness is important. Change in attitude is required.

    Such campaigns might invite jeers and thumbs down by many. But they do convey the message and clarify the woman’s stand that her clothes are not meant to invite harassment. You may like or dislike what she wears. But you must leave it at that. Do not abuse her for the choice she made. It doesn’t affect you or anything else in your life. And if it makes it hard for you to control your ‘desires’, then get some medical treatment. Immediately.

    (You = the ‘high and mighty’ abuser)

  4. Gud post.
    The use of word Slut and dressing not so modestly are symbolic of the issues behind the protest. Without it the protest becomes less effective.

  5. hahaha! Actually I don’t! Much as I would love to cock a snook at these moral policing idiots by dolling up in halters and shooorrrt skirts, I prefer life in a loose jeans (or cotton pants in summer) and tees. Of course, I like getting dressed up once in a while in short dresses or saris, depending on occasion and mood, but these instances are quite rare. It does not matter at any rate. I have been told off for being comfortable! :S And I have told them back that they are idiots whose business this is not.

  6. I read in FBs SlutWalk Delhi page:

    Tu kare to Stud, Woh kare to Slut
    Kab Tak?!..
    Kaunsi duniya main hai tu mere dost…Ab toh jaag jaa..
    Aur Apni aakhen khol aur Kuch toh Bol….
    Kitna aur dekhega aur Chup rahega…
    Ab toh Bol!!

    I loved the first line!

  7. When I had a body to flaunt I was married in a family where I was required to cover my head with a dupatta no matter how humid, how hot the weather, I was suggested to stitch only long sleeved kurtis cuz my MIL felt my arms were too fair to be noticed…I ignored her and wore short sleeved kurtis but had to abide by the other dress codes like no western clothes while in India…after we moved abroad when my IL’s visited I had to wear Indian clothes in front of them even when we went out ….
    By the time I started working….I had become so conscious about not showing skin that even in my own swimming pool I had to think twice before wearing a swim suit…I tried to wear short sleeveless dresses but never found the confidence to carry them well or the courage to walk out of home in one. So after a few tries, I just got stuck to jeans/capris and a t-shirt or shirts or kurtis. For the same reason I can’t wear low necklines…

    Today looking back I see it as abuse…but in comparison to other things I had experienced this was a very minor issue at the time and so got the least attention from me.

    In keeping with my in-laws demands, I had to face a lot of humiliation from my husband…he used my un-stylish and conservative dressing sense as an excuse to label me as unattractive, ugly…I was too young, afraid, dependent at the time to know any better and believed him. I forgave him for feeling attracted towards other women or showing his affection everywhere else but me…I felt it was my fault.
    So, I became a good cook, a good housekeeper, took care of my kids single-handedly and never asked him for help at home….ALL because I felt ashamed of being so unworthy.

    I try not to repent for my lost youth, I think it has just started…my daughter lets me borrow her dresses and I try them on just for pleasure…and to hear her say, ‘Mom you look great!’

    Lesson I learnt: Be yourself and fear less. Do what suits you, what makes you feel/look good, comfortable, confident.

    Why bother about people’s opinion in a country where 3 yr old children are not spared from sexual advances? Where there are millions of un-reported cases of long term child sexual abuse within the members of one’s family…what really needs to be done with, is this false notion of ‘lajja’ .

    Lajja, or fear of shame is the real culprit that makes women appear weak and powerless.

    And fearless women are a big threat to society, patriarchy.

    • The abiltity to wear what you want is power. Wearing western clothes is not necessarily emprowerment. If that was the case, Indra Nooyi, one of the msot powerful woman CEO in the world would not wear a saree and command so much respect. Point in case, Indira Gandhi,Gayathri Devi.
      I live in the US, where wearing western clothes well is the norm, I am married to american and lived here most of my life. Power is the ability if a woman wants to wear a salwaar kameex in Manhattan,She can with confidence, without being discrimanated. Power is if a woman in Delhi wants to wear jeans because it is practical, is not whistled at.
      Clothes don’t make you. What matters is the ability to walk the streets,without being eve teased and called “chammak Challo”. What matters is the right to make decisions with your body and yoru life.
      Whether you want to want to wear shorts, minis or a sari is small change.

      • @ariana,

        “The ability to wear what you want is power” – absolutely!

        Western wear = a notion of freedom from shackles of culture/tradition

        I loved what I wore, and I made the best of my limitations… My in-laws loved me, my MIL admired my ability to carry off Indian attire in a western world with confidence and pride.


        BUT I would’ve appreciated if it was left to me to decide what to wear…rather than not have any other option. It feels nice if people trusted your judgement , and love you for who you are and not who they want you to be.

    • This breaks my heart. You’re right…your youth starts whenever you want it to. I’m sure you’re a very strong and confident woman to have come out on top, one who can totally OWN everything she wears.

    • @Damn My Brain,
      Your comment brought tears to my eyes.I’ve been in the same boat and faced the exact same things.

      Only worse, because the first person to place all sorts of restrictions on my dressing was my mother.

      My parents were liberal enough to send me to an expensive convent school but their ‘liberalness’ stopped at that. After class 10th, when I passed out of school and started college,it was dowdy salwar kameezes and dupattas for me all the way. My mother convinced me that conservative dressing minimised unwanted male attention and helped maintain the reputation of being a ‘good girl’, which in turn would be of great help in finding a good match when the time came for marriage, that all important event in the life of a girl.

      I remember sneering at a girl who only wore tight jeans and tops and shrugged off the whistles and catcalls. I now realize that I was merely jealous.`

      After finishing my post-graduation in the year 2000, I got married like all good girls.My in-laws family turned out to be even more conservative than mine. So for the next few years I wore mostly saris, even slept wearing one.I wore salwar kurtas only when travelling. And I didn’t even stay with my in-laws. It was my husband who drove home the point that he expected me to dress according to my in-laws’ wishes even in their absence.

      Eventually after 4-5 years, when I finally took to wearing salwar-kurtas everyday, it was with no mean sense of achievement.(Hurray!!I’ve reformed them! I now wear salwar-kurtas and they don’t mind!!Wow!)

      Even my husband used to make me feel unattractive due to my conservative dressing style.I too was too young, too dependent to question his insinuations. Isn’t it ironical, they first all but force you to dress a certain way and then have the gall to make fun of you, implicitly or explicitly.

      Even I feel uncomfortable wearing sleeveless and am too embarrassed to show even a hint of cleavage. At 35, my figure is no longer what it was when I was, say, 20 or 25. When I think how good I would have looked in a slim-fit pair of jeans and a sleeveless top in ‘those’ days, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. But I wear jeans anyway. I don’t mind it much when my husband hints that i don’t quite look great in one.

      • @ Wildchild,

        Thanks for your kind words…yes my youth started the moment I left my marriage…and guess what, I can’t wait to turn 40 which for me is stepping into my twenties again! ;)

        @ Scribblehappy.

        Totally applaud you for not letting anyone’s judgement affect your likes and dislikes. I wish I had done certain things differently…but oh well, I learnt my lessons and that is important. Its great to see people making the best of what options they have but I absolutely love it when people fearlessly go for what they firmly believe in…and care about their own opinion of themselves rather than bothering about what the world will think of them.
        And you know what…you can have the body you want whenever you want, your age is just a number, remember its ALL in the mind! :)

  8. //For the first time women are questioning the misconceptions about sexual crimes and what the victim was wearing. And demanding that they be respected as being the best judges of what is appropriate for them to wear (and read, eat, drink, talk etc).//
    The problem is women are not considered as best judges of what is appropriate. Even for working women like me, I’m usually given logics that I have not seen this world enough and not aware of how men think….so why do I want to attract attention. For obvious reason my husband who is along with me is getting affected by the looks I receive…so what right do I have to cause him discomfort at the cost of my judgemnet of clothes???

    • and not aware of how men think….so why do I want to attract attention. For obvious reason my husband who is along with me is getting affected by the looks I receive

      Reminds me of a Ray Barone quote, (paraphrased), “every time a guy looks at a woman who’s not his wife, he’s mentally picturing her nude”. Of course it’s from a sitcom and is a bit of an exaggeration, but the underlying point is that you could wear a burkha or a bikini, but most straight men have fairly intricate imagination mechanisms when it comes to women.

      Your husband is being overly sensitive about this because he does the same to other women, and hates it that other guys will do the same to his wife. Btw, I am not justifying his attitude just trying to explain its potential roots.

      • @Nish,

        I completely agree to what you say. I have the same logic when he tries to give me illogical explanations for his behaviour. Mostly he never even tries to reason with me, he just wants me to oblige…and when things get bad the usual answer is “Can’t you do something for my happiness…are your clothes more important than me”. He thinks I lack focus in my life and thats the reason I worry about how I look or what I wear. I know he is highly unreasonable and beyond any help. I also blame it to his upbringing in a very small and orthodox town and in a very conservative and patriarchal family. Since he has never seen women of his family trying to reason with men, he finds it disrespectful.
        These are the type of people who feel freedom to dress is not the empowerment of women but as a threat to Indian society!

    • The first link talks a whole load of crap. Sex is a natural instinct for both men and women, as is human companionship. Marriage on the other hand is an artificial instinct that society has imposed on both sexes at different levels. So there is no question of “tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive” being an innate male nature. The writer is simply deluded on this point. I think he also must be thinking that being suffocating, nagging and clinging onto partners must be female traits. All bollocks! The bloke has managed to be highly offensive to both men and women simultaneously.

  9. IHM,

    “Cocking a snook”

    Thanks for that link to http://www.phrases.org and that pictorial illustration.
    I didn’t know about this web site.
    I am going to find it very useful.

    A Hindi speaking friend once asked me to explain the expression, believing I know all the English there is to know.
    I struggled to explain it satisfactorily to him. He wanted a Hindi equivalent.
    I couldn’t give him any.

    This simple illustration would have sufficed.
    He would have understood.

    Fem,
    “Tu Kare to Stud, woh kare to slut” is a catchy quote indeed.
    Will some pop group latch on to this and come out with a popular number?

    Thanks Abhishek for those links.
    Yes, I did find them interesting.
    I have enjoyed Dilbert comics but I haven’t read Scott Adam’s blogs before.

    On the subject of the post, I still don’t know what to say.
    Thank God I am a male and the way we dress has never been an issue with anyone.
    There is no need for “Stud Walks” to prove a point.

    No woman finds my dress provocative in any way, these days and also when I was much younger.
    I never had to dress to feel safe from unwelcome attentions from the opposite sex.
    Dress was important only when rules of entry specified the dresses to be worn.
    Otherwise we had full freedom to dress any way we liked and I always considered my comfort and never what others preferred.

    You women are being deprived of this privilege.
    I now appreciate what women are missing and feel sad at the unfairness.

    I normally wear formal pants and bush shirts to office with a good pair of leather shoes.
    On special occasions I wear full sleeved shirts with cuff links.
    In my younger years, I sometimes reluctantly wore a coat and tie and was glad when I could take them off.
    I wore a proper suit only on the day of my wedding reception, my daughter’s wedding reception and just a few more important occasions in my career.
    All my suits smell of mothballs today. I have given them up for good.

    At home, I laze around in Bermuda shorts and Tea shirts.
    I used to wear spotless white “veshtis” in the south Indian style but gave up when Bermuda shorts become fashionable.
    There was little sense in wearing “veshtis” any more as half the time I would be obliged to fold them up and wrap the loose end around my waist for better mobility. I was also trained to let the ends fall, in the presence of elders or women so that the legs were not exposed.
    The “veshtis” also needed too much space on the clothesline when put out to dry.
    The Bermuda Shorts were a Godsend. I have a fancy collection, both desi and imported, all selected by my wife.
    Bangalore weather permits wearing them all the year round.
    No one has complained that my legs exposed below the knees are “provocative”.

    When I go out informally, I wear pants and tea shirts only, with a good pair of chappals.
    When I go for my morning walk, I wear track pants and a tea shirt and sports shoes.

    What should I wear ? This question has never bothered me at any time in my life. Never once have I been admonished for what I wore.
    Unfortunately, “dress” has become a big issue only for women.
    It’s unfair, I agree.

    Regards
    GV

      • Sanjana,
        Apt words, but I haven’t heard this song.
        Which film was it?

        I have been hearing only about Munni Badnaam Hui and Sheila ki jawaani.

        Regards
        GV
        (I remember the furore in the sixties, when that song from Sangam became a rage: Main kyaa karoon Ram, mujhe Buddhaa Mil gaya! Even much later, the song Choli ke peeche kyaa hai, created ripples.)

  10. *My 17 year old cook in Pune was…*

    Kinda ironic that a blog discussing empowerment of women refers to a minor girl who’s working as a “cook” which in India is just another name for a lowly-paid borderline slave (servant).

    And as for western clothes, based on what I can see a lot of women wear it because it offers a more “modest” clothing option. The sari for instance is a very sensual dress and unless you take extra pains it reveals most or all of the person’s midriff. Compare this to wearing a shirt or t-shirt with jeans and you have a significantly more modest form of clothing.

    So maybe that’s why a lot of Indians complain about western clothing, because it hides more than the Indian equivalents?

    • I have blogged about this young girl many times while she was still working for us. It is terrible that she had to work when she should have been studying, and she would have been able to continue her schooling in Pune, if she had been allowed to take Hindi and/or English along with Kannada in her village. Her father nearly burned his family (he set the house of fire while they were asleep) because he wanted to marry another woman, they managed to escape to Pune to their relatives, and her mother, 35, couldn’t work because (she said) she couldn’t understand Marathi/Hindi.
      She picked up basic English and Hindi and a lot of cooking, and she read Hindi books with pleasure – she earned as much as other domestic helpers did as ‘Live in maids’. Being able to earn and move out of her village near Hubli empowered her, she said what she liked best about working was that there was enough to eat! It also delayed her marriage (eventually she married a truck driver despite all my efforts to delay it further).
      I also remember her shock when she once realised that Aishwarya Rai married at 33, and her own old, unhappy mother was only two years older at 35.

    • @Nish–sometimes employment = empowerment. I have a 17 year old maid (who’s completed tenth grade and I’ve enrolled in the NIOS for senior secondary education). She supports her whole family with her income of INR 6000 a month. Her father works as a security guard and her mother and 5 other siblings are not working. She loves staying with us because of a) less work here than in her own house b) living in a nice apartment with a/c c) she eats whatever we eat so she gets access to good food and d) she’s working towards her 12th grade degree. The reality is, if we didn’t hire her, someone else would. And there’s no guarantee that they’d pay for her education or treat her nicely. Working is not an option for her [or others in her shoes], it’s the ONLY option. That’s the reality of being in a country with millions of destitute, desperate people.

      I don’t think domestic help = slave in all cases. It’s unfair to make such assumptions.

  11. Wear what you wear with pride and joy, and according to your own sense of occasion.
    “Damn my Brain’s’ comment was absolutely heartbreaking:(
    My mother was so much happier interacting with my paternal grandfather once she stopped covering her head in his presence. I see many families where the daughters have carte blanche regarding their clothes, but the DILs have to be dressed traditionally, even now. Most unfair.

    • @Dipali, …and I have heard stupid explanations for that difference between beti and dil. “Bahu aur beti mein farak honi chahiye’ or something like that. Mind you, the ones saying this with the most sanctimonious air were young women. It was said to me because in Kerala the daughters-in-law don’t cover their heads! So the ladies felt it was utter chaos here because dils and daughters could not be differentiated! :lol: Of course they did not have an answer to my question as to WHY any difference should exist, why we need to advertise to outsiders that one is bahu, the other beti. We are getting along just fine without such differences. :)

  12. I think the “Western clothes are slutty” comes from the way the west is demonized- you know everything “wrong” in terms of individual expression and freedom is the fault of the “West” including even homosexuality according to our esteemed Gulam Nabi Azad.
    It probably has to do with the wears Western Clothes, speaks English, probably works, knows her rights and can demand them, connotations- all of which very strongly threaten patriarchy. If you look at it, Western clothes are more practical for work than a lot of Indian clothes are- can you really do physical work in a sari (not that there aren’t women who do) or get very far ahead in a salwar kurta? Anyhow it is not as if the West does not have these impossible standards women have to meet in order to be deemed attractive, smart or even human- though they do tend to treat women as more human and therefore fallible, compared to our patriarchies in the east.

  13. I agree with everything you have said BUT I still do not like the word ‘slut’. Having worked with women forced into prostitution and on issues of human trafficking I see this an elitist, not well thought out and discriminatory word. The cause may be good but the choice of the language is not wise.

  14. In response to ‘Not one of them has spoken up for the real slut. The whore. The sex worker. The woman who works by getting fucked. Really.':-

    The slut walk is about empowering the common woman on the road. She could be, or not be a whore. How does it matter? A woman is a woman, she has her dignity, she has her freedom to live the way she wants.

    NOBODY has the right to snatch that away from her, and then blame her for it. That is what the slut walk says:

    ‘Whatever we wear, wherever we go, Yes means yes, and No means NO’.

    Having said that, women do not need to be a slut/whore in order to be treated like one. You don’t have to live in a red-light-area to be called a ‘slut’.

    If you are an Indian woman, a poor or middle-class one at that, you will KNOW that you are anyway groped and molested (in a public bus in broad daylight) and made to feel like a slut, the only difference being, you don’t get paid for it.

  15. It’s not abt clothes at all, it’s about attitude, confidence, (relative) hotness. Any woman who looks like she’s put in effort into dressing up, or like she knows she looks good, or like she’s more pataka :D than bholi-bhali seedhi-saadi ladki gets flak. It doesn’t matter whether or not she’s wearing “western” clothes. (Even a saree can be worn in a completely non-glamorous way, regardless of how much it reveals. That’s how I’ve seen my mom/aunts/their friends always wear sarees.)

    I’d expect people who’re opposed to the slutwalk to have a problem not with the clothing, but with confident women who say YES I want attention wtf is wrong with it (maybe not attention from YOU), or NO I don’t mind being looked at, why would I. It’s the same thing with pregnant women p0rn. The mind boggles! As if a woman who’s got proof on her person that she had sex with someone is fair game for everyone.

    • And if a woman is looking attractive, confident, happy and in control, there are very bright chances that she will refuse to be dominated over- further threatening the happy patriarchal society. So they come up with the best way of controlling her…telling her that if she does not want come across as a ‘bad girl’ (euphuism for slut as per me) she should cover up and not reveal her figure.

      I am in my thirties, stay on my own with my daughter, have made an effort to stay fit and in shape. I have had enough of this nonsense all these years, dress up ONLY the way I want to and feel some kind of pleasure in giving the impression to my family that I am up to no good LOL :)

      I spend considerably in buying smart office clothes and refuse to look shapeless and wear tent like clothes like my mother who feels that this is how good, caring, middle aged mothers should dress-up…Not spending on grooming oneself and saving the money for family is a part of the sacrifice every women should make. Its not that big a crime if one is married and is doing so to look appealing to her husband (lest he strays and the onus of making the marriage work will once again fall on the wife)

      It is ironical that this whole dressing up part has always been such a big deal in the lives of half of the population for various reasons, (which is why taking charge of it makes me feel empowered)…while the remaining half had to never even worry or think about it!!!

      • Sorry- had posted an imcomplete comment- here is the full version, pls remove the previous one. Thanks IHM.

        Completely agree with you. Women who are comfortable with their sexuality make the entire society so UNCOMFORTABLE…and that is where this whole debate of ‘dressing up like a slut and inviting crime’ starts. Because as we all know, rape/ molestation has NOTHING to do with how one is dressed up, it is just passing of blame.

        And if a woman is looking attractive, confident, happy and in control, there are very bright chances that she will refuse to be dominated over- further threatening the happy patriarchal society. So they come up with the best way of controlling her…telling her that if she does not want come across as a ‘bad girl’ (euphuism for slut as per me) she should cover up and not reveal her figure.

        I am in my thirties, stay on my own with my daughter, have made an effort to stay fit and in shape. I have had enough of this nonsense all these years, dress up ONLY the way I want to and feel some kind of pleasure in giving the impression to my family that I am up to no good LOL :)

        I spend considerably in buying smart office clothes and refuse to look shapeless and wear tent like clothes like my mother who feels that this is how good, caring, middle aged mothers should dress-up…Not spending on grooming oneself and saving the money for family is a part of the sacrifice every women should make. Its not that big a crime if one is married and is doing so to look appealing to her husband (lest he strays and the onus of making the marriage work will once again fall on the wife)

        It is ironical that this whole dressing up part has always been such a big deal in the lives of half of the population for various reasons, (which is why taking charge of it makes me feel empowered)…the remaining half had to never even worry or think about it!!!

  16. When I was in my late teens and early twenties (but before I got married) I could never understand why my mom considered dressing up, like wearing jeans or long skirt, and looking and feeling attractive as something dirty…something that ‘good girls’ should not be doing. If I applied eyeliner while going to college she mentioned that I am loosing focus on my studies. Though she did not spell it out but always thought I am doing all this only to attract male attention- “something which good girls (studying in all girls’ college) should never be doing…what’s the need anyway…as soon as she finishes her studies we are going to find her a nice boy and get her married”.

    I don’t think it can ever occur to her that girls dress up, whether in western or Indian wear, put on makeup, basically make an effort to look presentable and attractive, to feel good about themselves..when I am dressed well (as per my sensibilities), I feel confident, it adds to my self esteem and personality. I personally feel it never occurred to my mom because as per people like her girls are supposed to do everything for others- including dressing up…meaning- after marriage a girls dresses up to look attractive for her husband, wears expensive sarees and jewellery so that her in-laws can show off to the society. Before marriage, a girl is supposed to dress up attractively in Indian clothes during family gathering so that she can attract good marriage proposals.

    When I was married and staying with my ex-in laws I completely failed to understand how can it be a show of respect if I never step in front of my ex-husbands family in jeans…is their understanding of respect this shallow?? I don’t even want to talk about dressing up in heavy sarees and jewellary while visiting his relatives (no occasion, just regular visits) in this horrible muggy weather, while ex-husband and his family dressed casually and comfortably in their regular clothes. I still remember the look on their faces when I said I prefer wearing skirts and dresses and not jeans in this humid muggy weather.

    Now that I am single again (and not dependent on my parents either) I fully understand and appreciate the value of freedom- including the freedom to dress up as per my wishes. The scenarios mentioned above make it an act of empowerment. I am SO grateful I now have this basic human right…something which men have to never worry about…also something which many women still don’t have.

  17. The cause is interesting, but I severely dislike the literary connotations that have been dragged into it, and I still fail to understand why women would want to take part in a ‘Slut walk’. Smacks of elitism and takes away the problems faced by the normal woman who sometimes even has to be a slut for a living. I do dress modestly while going out. Not because I think dressing provocatively/or in western clothes means ‘asking for it’, but because it is just more comfortable and makes me feel safer. No matter the level of awareness or how educated or civilised society is, you can never get rid of perverts. Its pure common sense to dress in a manner that makes you feel safer. Yes we need to create awareness, but this is not the way to do so. If a man wants to rape a woman, the clothes that she wears aren’t going to stop him. Please look up the statistics of rape in purdah-covered countries in the East.

    • Saranya, by calling it slutwalk, they are trying to say that even a woman who has to sleep with multiple men for a living or any woman, even those men may judge to be sluts (which is actually a very subjective judgement), should not be harassed on the streets. What are the literary connotations you speak of?

      • IHM, yes I do feel more comfortable dressing a little conservatively. I still wear knee-length shorts and a tee when I go to the beach by public transport, but that is the limit. I also do understand that if a guy wants to harass you, he will do it regardless of what you are wearing, but the way I see it, dressing does keep you atleast a little more careful. Its like wearing a thick gold chain and showing it off when you’re in an area where chain-snatching is very common. I’m just being sensible here.

      • @The Bride: I understand what you’re saying. I’m educated and broad-minded. But think about the majority of the population that the slut walk seeks to educate. The offenders and those who believe bad dressing invites trouble. Do you think they would even understand? They would probably look at it as some cheap thrill/titillation. And for those who believe bad dressing invites trouble.. they would think this invites more trouble! Awareness should be created, but I definitely believe there are other and better ways to do it. Not a parade of women walking across the road wearing tight bikini tops with the words ‘Don’t touch unless I allow it’ emblazoned across their chests.

        In fact, there is a section of society that believes that ‘women are pulling these stunts to show off their bodies’. Don’t you think that this walk defeats its very purpose – of taking away prejudices in society?

        This is only my opinion and comes from knowing that the typical Indian public would see it only as titillation and not a serious issue to be addressed.

  18. My parents are visiting me in the U.S and pretty much every other day I arrange day trips for them to show them around the San Francisco Bay Area. My father passed an interesting comment the other day when we all were having coffee at the local Starbucks, he said: “I just now saw a woman walk in wearing very ‘daring clothes’ [his phrase, not mine; BTW she was wearing tight pants and a halter-neck top] and yet no one has teased her and neither does she look uncomfortable sitting alone. Hats of to this country!”

    Indeed hats off! I wonder when women will start feeling safe in India…

    • I must add that we do seem to be making some progress :)…I know I can do something similar (and have seen a lot of other women doing so) in the Metro city I live in but certainly not in the small city in Uttar Pradesh I belong to.

    • I had similar experiences in the San Francisco Bay area last year when I went to spend some time with my daughter.

      I soon got used to seeing women dressed in ways unimaginable in India.

      No one gave them a second glance.
      My wife in her saree and me with with my jacket looked overdressed in comparison.

      Yes, I too wonder, whether we in India will ever get to that stage where a woman dresses per her choice of comfort and taste and feel safe from roving eyes and groping hands.

      Regards
      GV

    • @Leela, This is one thing I noticed and have been telling everyone on my return, how you find women covered and uncovered, couples hugging and kissing and yet each one minds his/her own business.
      And in India they worship all the half naked Goddesses, they don’t mind their women folk exposing vast tracts of body-land (of all shapes and sizes) on their tummies and backs, but the minute anything with a connotation of Western-wear is worn by the women, then a hue and cry is raised. Nothing but hypocrisy.
      I have been told by quite a few men that if they were to lech they’d any day choose a woman in sari rather than any other dress. What exactly does that say??

  19. I think ‘Dressing up’ and flaunting one’s body is mainly used to attract favorable attention mainly from the opposite sex. The freedom for that should be equally available to both sexes

    • Charakan,

      Most of us who want to use dress to attract favourable attention from the opposite sex would actually choose to put on more clothes !
      Our figures are ugly, in most cases.

      That is why I consider the saree a great dress.
      It can be seductive on some women who carry themselves off very well when dressed in a saree.

      In most women,with bad figures, the sari is the only dress that does a good job of concealing their figures.

      Regards
      GV

  20. I loved ‘Better late..”s comment. Sometimes I wish I had that kind of freedom. But at what cost? This alone makes me think twice. Rebelling for simple things like wearing jeans or apartment pants at home, makes me feel like I have become a fighter cock. That is what people think of me now. But all I want is to wear what I want and not what others expect me to.

    Unfortunately our generation is in the interim period, where our thinking is neither ancient nor has completely become forward. This makes it all the more difficult to take a clear stand without hurting other people’s sentiments. I wish the next generation women atleast have an easier time.

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