“So why do we wear clothes again??”

‘I wish one had the liberty to slap these kids to senses and send them back to kindergarten to be taught…”Why do we wear clothes again??”’ (From J’s comment here)

So why do we wear clothes?

1. For protection from heat and cold? Most civilisations that did not need protection from cold did not have rigid rules for body being covered up.

Did traditional Indian clothing have blouses or shirts? Men and women wrapped a dhoti or sari, children generally wore nothing. Body was decorated with flowers, ‘alta’, turmeric, sandal wood paste, kohl and jewelry, wanting to look good was not considered inappropriate.

When invaders arrived from locations where clothing was necessary for protection from extreme heat or cold, they also brought along the concept of ‘shame’ and modesty. In ‘Chokher Bali‘ the newly wed refuses to wear a blouse with sari, because it was too British (modern).

Once the society starts covering women up, Margaret Atwood describes how the threshold for what is found sexually attractive changes, soon even a glimpse of an ankle becomes sexually provocative.

One example: Pakizah has the hero falling in love with Meena Kumari – after he sees her beautiful feet. Was that love?

2. Do we wear clothes to look better – to look sexually attractive?

Was there this fear that if women did not cover up, men might stop finding a mere glimpse of a part of a woman’s body attractive? (Margaret Atwood, Handmaiden’s Tale)

Mr Balvinder Singh’s experience in Nagaland shows making rules about covering up a woman’s body, is the beginning of objectification of women, to ensure ‘excitement’ does not ‘turn into monotony’.

“The men wore only a loincloth and the females wrapped just a shawl below their waists. The women folk of all ages were seen working in the fields, carrying fire wood or hay for the animals, pounding barley, washing clothes at village water points, knitting on hand looms (almost every house had a hand loom where the women would knit shawls etc) or attending to other such daily chores of life, wearing nothing on top.

While a small cleavage visible under the thin dupatta or through the pallu of a woman’s saree is certainly a pleasant sight for any man worth his salt, without harbouring any malafide thoughts in the mind, but there in the villages of Nagaland it was an anti climax to see the dangling pairs of bare boobs, available to look at in abundance in all shapes and sizes. Initially they were a cause of some excitement, which was natural , but gradually the excitement turned into monotony. I was reminded of the words of a famous poet that the ‘beauty that is veiled looks more beautiful’.” [Click here to read the entire article]

3. To prevent offending the sensibilities of those who think covering up is a religious/social/cultural/safety requirement?

This is extremely subjective.

Some people find even the glimpse of a woman’s eyes offends their religious sentiments, some find sleeveless blouses offensive, for many only traditional clothing no matter how much it convers or reveals is acceptable.

Some think it’s okay to wear anything so long as one can ‘carry  it off’.

Most people simply resist any change. So in most places,  there are rules regarding not just skin, but also how much of which clothing should not show.

So the sight of boxers and bra straps offends some people.

For many other people’s legs (shorts, bermudas), calves, arms (sleeveless) and knees (skirts), midriffs (saris, lehengas), shape, curves (fitted clothing) are offensive.

In  India showing one’s back and midriff is acceptable when one is wearing a sari, but not if the outfit is Western. Nigeria disagrees! Read Nita’s post – ‘Sari an immodest garment?’

So it seems what’s okay in some societies is not acceptable in some other societies and the rules change with times, all the time. Most societies seem to accept and rigidly follow their current – generally unwritten norms.

How do these norms get created? And how do they change?

How is it that more of these rules apply to women?

Could these rules be a means to control women’s sexuality?

Why do you think do humans wear clothes?

Related Posts: 

The way a woman dresses.

No Jeans for an Indian daughter in law.

Not just a pair of jeans.

All teachers except Indian women can do their job well enough in Western clothes?

Even if Poonam does not run naked, she should be punished?

Model Poonam Pandey’s plan to strip if India beat Sri Lanka Saturday has angered the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) women’s wing which has sought police action against her.

“Indian women are revered and respected since time immemorial…”

How exactly do we show this reverence to women? Please do compare this to how we show respect to everybody else.

Can threats be called ‘respect’?

I have so much respect for you; don’t ask to eat with the rest of the family. Your happiness lies in seeing us enjoy the food you cook.”  Is that respect?

So basically,

If you disagree we can’t respect you.

Don’t try to give your point of view, we won’t be able to respect you…

Little girls earn this respect by respecting the fact that they are always second to their brothers. “What’s wrong with that, don’t they love their brothers?

It’s more like a Terror of Respect.

Do as you are told or else we will not ‘respect’ you.

Dress only the way we permit or else…

Don’t choose your life partner or else…

Let your husband and his family abuse you, or else…

Give us a male heir or else…

Don’t enter the temple, you are impure…

And worst,

Don’t complain if you were sexually harassed, molested or abused or else no respect.

So, when it comes to women, it seems respect is more a means to control than a privilege.

I would say the only kind of respect that matters is the respect we have for ourselves. Or Respect that is given in return of respectequal and mutual. All other forms of reverence and respect are not too far from ‘honor’ and ‘honor killing’ or honor related abetted suicides.

Kelkar objected to Poonam ‘sullying the image of Indian women before the whole world.’ (Read Bhagwad’s objections to granting Poonam such powers)

Another man thinks her actions can sully the name of his caste. So obviously this lawyer believes there are no Brahmin rapists, child abusers  and murderers? Or these crimes don’t insult Indian culture?

“Even if Poonam does not run naked, she should be punished as she not only gave a wrong impression of the (Brahmin) community but insulted Indian culture,” The case will be heard April 5. (Today)

We live in an India where some people can legally express their arrogant, sexist and casteist opinions and offend my democratic and tolerant sentiments. I find it difficult to understand or ‘respect’ such frivolous objections. Are they doing this for free publicity? In a country where rape victims have to wait for years for justice, aren’t such cases a waste of time and resources?

Thankfully we are a civilized, democratic society. Poonam Pandey, Rakhi Sawant and Mallika Sherawat are generally free to ignore these opinions or react (if required) through a civilized, legal process.  No stoning. No anti-blasphemy laws.

And that is something I respect about my country. 🙂

Women who value the respect they have for themselves more than the respect of every wannbe politician, publicity seeker, neighour’s third cousin etc are able to fight back.

Sraboney shared this video where this Pakistani actor Veena Mallik is fighting back against similar allegations. Makes me wonder if hypocrites are the same everywhere.

Three Saudi youths were arrested for attempting to sexually assault a teenager…

Teenager escapes rape attempt (in Taif,  Saudi Arabia)

Did you find this news difficult to believe? I did.

Is the victim going to be stoned for attracting the molesters attention?

No.

“The victim told police, after  escaping from the youths, that while walking down the road a car with three men pulled up and invited the victim to join them. When the victim refused to get in, two of the men tried to drag the victim  into the vehicle, but the victim resisted and managed to run away. They had also taken the victim’s mobile phone.

With the help of a Bangladeshi worker, the victim called police and described the car the attackers were driving.

A police patrol detained a car matching the victim’s description when it passed through a checkpoint later in the night.

After being interrogated, the youths admitted to trying to sexually assault the victim. They also confessed that they had sold the victim’s mobile phone for SR300 in a nearby market.

They took the police to the shop where they sold the phone and officers interrogated the shopkeeper.” (News from here with minor changes, to make a point…)

Can you guess why this victim is not going to be blamed for this (attempted) crime?

What do they choose when they have a choice?

Pune.

I was startled to see a Marwari neighbour in  jeans and a long, loose T shirt. She always wore sarees with the pallu drawn to cover her head.  She saw my expression  and smiled, “My in laws have gone out of station, for a wedding.”

So what did she choose to wear when she could choose what to wear?

*

Beirut.

This article describes young women in Beirut… [Link]

‘Salwa …a student… has devised a new way of wearing the veil… leaving her neck and face uncovered… Her clothes are up-to-date… designed to appeal to the Western fashions…

These girls, wearing rings in their noses and lips, make me ask myself what the purpose of the veil is, or why they wear it at all.

Are these just regular young women who, given the choice, would prefer to wear modern fashions than traditional Islamic dress and hijabs? Is it pressure from society or their families that compels them to take the veil? Or are they believers in the importance of the hijab and their own beauty.”

…what is certain is that these young students experience a freedom within the university campus that they lack outside it.’

So when they experience freedom what do they choose?

What one chooses when one has the freedom to choose says a lot, I think.

And when one doesn’t have a choice?

I think one would naturally be inclined to make the best of the restrictions.

‘There is a TV show that… runs a competition for female viewers. Viewers phone in to win a “cool” aba’a (gown) created by a fashion designer who specializes in fashionable Islamic clothing...‘  [Link]

Love Aajkal is against Indian Culture, but Kicking is legal?

I am so confused!

First thing I notice in Love Aajkal is that even the heroine is ambitious! I like that. I clearly remember Bollywood once suggested that an ambitious woman left her child alone at home, ‘burning with fever’ to fulfill her selfish ambitions. She learnt a lesson – often after being slapped by her husband (I am not sure, but it is possible that it’s excusable under the law, unless your lawyer uses the right Act etc, though it seems Brinda Karat has challenged this). How does one prove that kicking is not an act of kindness when the old Bollywood heroine turns around and asks : ”Yeh thappar aapne mujhe pehele kyon naheen mara??” (Why didn’t you slap me earlier my Lord? ) Anybody watching movies of those times could get confused and think Indian wives are generally grateful for a timely slap (or a kick).  So any confusion is understandable.  Now are my maid’s mother in law and husband not cruel anymore? … was I breaking a law in supporting her? I am confused.

… but Dipika Padukone is ambitious. I admire her for that even if she is expressionless while being ambitious.

Then we have a heroine committing the sin of being drunk. Again I am confused, Kawariyas are provided liquor in shivirs but girls in Mangalore were beaten for drinking liquor, I get all confused by these modern definitions of my culture. Is drinking against our culture or not? Citizens in Ghaziabad (and Noida and Gurgaon) are advised, ‘kawariyon se na uljhen’ (‘Avoid getting into hassels with kawariyas’, in a local newspaper) but girls in Managalore are dragged by their hair and molested for allegedly drinking in a pub. Please explain.

Deepika Padukone in the meanwhile claims that she only pretended to be drunk, so that her boyfriend could “take advantage of her“. Reminds me of Kajol’s horror in a similar situation in Dilwale dulhania le jayenge (justified because  Shahrukh Khan was not her boyfriend till then) and SRK assuring her that he knew, “ek Hindustani ladki ki izzat kyaa hoti hai (Translated: He knew what honor means to an Indian girl). Saif and Deepika have no idea that in movies long ago a girl was required to rush blindly towards the nearest cliff because she had crossed her ‘maryada’ (even if it was without her consent).

So I liked Love Aajkal for showing some real life. And for showing women as sexual beings unlike this. I know of girls living happy lives with their husbands who took …err advantage of them before they filled their maang with sindoor. And what if things hadn’t worked out??!!! (Oh horror!) I am sure the disappointed guy would have eventually got over and the girl too, because unlike Rishi Kapoor in Love Aajkal, I believe, one must move on.

Life is too precious to be wasted because a relationship did not work. One’s First Love need not be one’s only love. This is something Bollywood understood ages ago… watch the video in the first comment.

What do ‘Modest’ women have that their ‘Immodest’ sisters don’t…

I read this article that teaches women how to dress modestly. The article recommends that women avoid wearing shirts that show anything below the collar bones, skirts and shorts that go higher than the knees, and tight fitting clothes.

The article says that women must not wear certain kinds of  clothes,  to prevent men (who may not be creeps or bad people) from being tempted to imagining what they look like beneath the clothes.

I am not convinced because I have read of many other men (who may not be creeps or bad people)  who will be attracted to the  sight  of a woman’s collar bones or ankles, or knees, or lips (with or without lipstick) or eyes lashes, or hair or the arc of her back. ETC.

If you read the comment section of “The way a woman dresses…” you will find capris or three fourths are also considered immodest by some men.  Jeans which the article says nothing against are considered suggestive by another commenter.

If you have seen Pakizah then you will know that even the sight of a woman’s feet is enough for some men to be  attracted to them.

Some other men think modesty is in the attitude and eyes, and not in the clothes.

So it does seem that modesty is a subjective term. It seems it is almost impossible for women to fit into everybody’s idea of modesty.

But more importantly how do women benefit from giving up free movement, comfortable clothing, the satisfaction of looking good, sunlight, fresh air, and a lot of personal freedom?

…In other words, what do modest women have that immodest women don’t?

They are told they have men’s respect.

Well, I am sure men’s respect is a very worthwhile thing. But seeing how millions of (immodest?) women are doing very well without this kind of ‘respect’, I really wonder if it’s time women stopped worrying about how men are imagining unprintable things about them, (because they find their clothing immodest) and started living their lives.

Thousands of women, (mothers, students, activists, nurses, athletes, journalists, engineers, construction workers, artists, actors, writers etc) are going about their daily lives without giving a thought to what every Tom, Dick and Harry is thinking when he sees them striding past.  They are all doing fine without fitting into every rikshaw-walla, coolie, clerk, politician, principal, army jawan and dhobi’s ideas of modesty.

I wonder who does a woman’s modesty empower… who do you think?

Related Posts:

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. She does not ‘ask for it’.

4. Provocatively Dressed.

(who may not be creeps or bad people)

Provocatively Dressed

To Moral Brigade(s) and their Supporters,
We should know that frivolous terms like Provocative Dressing might make a sexual assaulter feel that the responsibility of preventing sexual assaults lies with the victim.

Violent men are helpless victims of provocation?
Saying women must not dress provocatively makes us sound like Taliban. (Now we wouldn’t want that?)
We also need to keep in mind that we are talking about adult citizens here, they have the right to vote, they can get a driving license, and they can even own property or start an independent business! And often do and very successfully too. (I understand that can make anybody painfully jealous, it does seem wrong that they should do so well despite the major hurdles their gender faces … but women these days are like that, give them a chance and they fly, reach the sky, and even the moon. Accept it.)

Your over enthusiasm and interest in her clothes might lead some to believe that you are looking at women more than you should be. (Most women consider such unwanted attentions very revolting; they might suspect your morals).
Your insistence on deciding the correct code of dressing here is against the law. (I am assuming most of you offenders and supporters have not been to school, so I am simplifying it for you.) Instead we need to ensure that men are guided very firmly about the acceptable code of their own conduct. They need to get it very clear that tight jeans and noodle straps are poor excuses for criminal acts against other equal (even if they are better qualified, they are only equal) citizens. We need to concentrate on providing a secure academic and emotional foundation to create a nation of women who do not hold themselves responsible for any and every atrocity committed against them. Your own mothers, daughters, sisters and wives also will benefit more from this (much more) than from being taught how to dress.
I know of thousands of women who have not benefited in anyway, when they were compelled to cover themselves from head to toe in traditional attire. Their families, specially their children have suffered because these mothers were often made too weak, by such controls, to stand up for them in all so many ways children need their mothers to….so it seems wearing traditional clothing does not automatically make you a better mother, sister, daughter, citizens, wife, woman etc.
Strong mothers and strong women make a strong nation.You think it is only about drinking in the Pub? The drinking in the Pub is just symbolic
(Just like PCC is). You understand symbols? Like bangles for weakness? Like Duryodhan and Duhshsan for … if only you had some education, it would have been simpler to explain. But let me try …When a nation overlooks an act of violence against it’s citizen only because they are women, they are not creating a very confident generation of women. Let me try and speak your language again, …these women are going to raise the future of this nation… Please let us stop treating them like they have no thinking capacity!

And this is a nation where women are anyway having difficulty even being born. We make it tougher for parents to have daughters, and for those daughters who are born to feel safe, let alone feel free.
Women (and men) need to be able to decide for themselves how they dress, what careers they choose, when and to whom, if at all, they marry or live with without marrying. Because we have hungry families, and unemployed men, and no drinking water, and houses which flood every monsoon.

Tomorrow you might find even a girl’s face, eyes, lips or feet provocative? How are you guys going to survive?

I think we need a stricter code of conduct for men like you here.You will benefit from gentlemanly behaviour and discipline. Women are now everywhere. And we will see them as bosses, better drivers, being able to afford better recreation … (I understand the surge of envy, but you really have to work harder, just being born a male is not really important any longer, at least in their circles…). Many of them come from families where success is more important than marriage and children are. (Yes I am aware that this is all too much to digest, it seems these women come from a different planet, well in a way they do.) Many are happily married with children, oh yes and their husbands are aware that they drink, and talk to men in their office and also outside but no, they don’t drag them by their hair for that … (You ask, ‘Why not?’. Let’s just say, self confidence does that to men. And women too. You won’t understand …)

The world has changed too much while you were worrying about which caste or religion or language or region was being victimised.
But it’s never too late. You just need to understand that they are your equal. No matter how much better they earn, what fancy cars they drive, how much more fun they seem to have, how much better they look … they are only your equals.

As for their clothes, for all you know there is probably a future scientist behind that Rakhi-Sawant-dress-alike.

Related Posts:

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. What do ‘modest’ women have that their ‘immodest’ sisters don’t?

4. She does not ‘ask for it’.


She does NOT invite it.

This post is in response to Chandni’s post on how girls are judged by the way they dress.
I have seen most people believe that if a girl is dressed decently she will not be harassed, molested or raped. So a burqua/chador/abaya should be the safest? It isn’t. Read what happens when you treat girls as objects, not as humans with their own minds, feelings and lives.

Pressure to wear appropriate clothing is a different issue, what’s appropriate for office may look too stiff on a dance floor. But pressure to wear clothing that shows they respect tradition and culture of the place in all kinds of weather is only for women. Tradition and Culture are the easiest ways to control women, or even a whole population. We need to use common sense instead walking on the trodden path.

Indian men gave up traditional clothing and switched to western clothing, warm blazers, trousers and shoes and socks, women continue to wear the saree even in shivering winters and dripping monsoons. Tabu struggling with her saree in the snow, in Namesake sums up the inconvenience/impracticality of following outdated traditional/inappropriate clothing. Churidaar and kurta which came to India with the Mughals was fine for their weather (Central Asia), Indian saree made more sense for Indian summers. Today, the saree is totally accepted, in fact respected in India, but in Pakistan the same saree is considered revealing! It’s less about how much is showing, more about does it indicate that the woman is breaking the norm. It’s like if she smokes a cigarette (does something most women don’t) she is loose, but if she smokes a bidi? Well many village women do that. No problem.

The belief is so deep seated that girls are told to dress and behave in certain ways to avoid male attention, protection becomes imprisonment very fast. And quite unnecessarily. What about child abuse? Custodial rape? Rapes of dalits by upper castes? I repeat, if clothing protected women from male attention, then Burqua clad women will face no male attention. Right? Read this.

Quite on the contrary, if women dress the way they like and men are made to understand that they will face legal action etc for harassing them, the harassment will stop. There is no other way. It’s not clothing, it’s not how a woman dresses, it’s the way the men think. A decent guy will look away if a woman is dressed in a way that embarrasses him, he will not pass lewd remarks. A creep will pass comment on a woman of any age, dressed in any way. My mother only wears sarees, and when you see her from her back you cannot make out how old she is. Once she heard two young boys , laughing and arguing “Mine, heh heh heh !”, “No Mine!” “She was in her fifties then, and she turned to see the faces of these boys, they took out their tongue to show embarrassment when they realised how old she was. Before she could react, they cycled away giggling shamelessly. And she was neither young, nor wearing revealing/nontraditional clothing.

Quoting Irfan EngineerPower wielding elite exploit helpless victims to satisfy their lust without any respect for dress code of any woman. The argument that ghunghat protected women from sexual lust of power wielding men will logically lead us to the conclusion that victims of rape are themselves responsible for the crime and invited the sexual assault as they were not properly clad. How do you explain rapes in police custody and sexual harassment at workplace in that case? Can one imagine a dalit landless labourer sexually assaulting an upper caste woman from a land owning family in a village however she may be dressed? Not because dalit males respect the individuality of the fairer sex but they know that the consequence of such a misadventure. What matters is, who is vested with power and social sanctions and not how one is dressed.’

Remember some of the reactions to the New Year Eve Mumbai molestation case? Our elite media, repeated many, many times, ‘Girls were skimpily dressed’.

Brothers hear parents tell the girls to dress appropriately to avoid male attention, and they assume it’s the girls who are responsible for any crimes committed against them. Boys are innocent, girls dress provokingly, boys get provoked! They cannot help it. How logical is that?

A city that is safe for everyone else is safe for women also. Compare Mumbai and Delhi. Crime and Law and Order situation overall, and crimes against women go together. So if we don’t want crimes against women we need to ensure our cities are safe. Covering them in full sleeved kurtas and heavy dupattas will not make any difference.

We women, (specially mothers) can make so much difference.
If we just stop telling our daughters not to invite trouble by dressing daringly, do tell her to be careful, the way you’d tell your son to be careful.
Teach her how to handle emergencies. Just like you would teach a son, without frightening or blaming her. And NEVER say, she invited it. No girl invites crimes against herself.
If she tells you someone misbehaved with her, do NOT blame her! She will never have the courage to tell you again, even if she really needs your help.

Edited to add: Do we realise harassment and eve teasing has serious repercussions for girls? They are not allowed to go to school and colleges because parents are afraid they will be harassed. Read about it here.

Added on Oct 14, 2008 – When CM of Delhi thought girls should stay at home after dark, read what Quirky Indian wrote here.

 

Related Posts

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. What do ‘modest’ women have that their ‘immodest’ sisters don’t?

4. Provocatively Dressed.