I am always impressed by the concern the stalwarts of society seem to have for women/girls and the innovative approach they take to prevent eve-teasing and sexual harassment. Never mind if that innovative approach is one that has been playing for centuries like a broken record, ‘Girls! Dress modestly!” which in the present contest means No jeans please we are Indians! Though this approach of taking control of what girls/women wear has not helped any as naturally the problem lies elsewhere, one has to appreciate their thick-skinned efforts which shamelessly falls back again and again on this tried, tested and failed method as the best way to protect their womenfolk. Dress modestly women/girls. Or else thou shall be pawed touched grabbed and worse raped! And we the society shall only be able to watch twiddling our thumbs for blind we are like Dhritharashtra, unable (or unwilling) to see where the real problem lies.
One simply feels like standing up and saying ‘Bravo!’ Take pride in this concern of society (which consists of men and women) for you and your safety, you the fair sex. Of course you will not be the fair sex for much longer, not if the cosmetic companies have their way. Don’t use your girl’s fairness cream they scream at all those un-fair in more ways than one sex, the males. What if the dainty damsel you want to be the Queen of your heart stamps her dainty (or not) foot and cries, “Un-Fair!!” on seeing your dark but handsome face?? So buy your own tube of the magic cream and beat the fair sex at their own game guys, they advise, while we get richer and richer at all your collective dumbness they snigger as an aside. Sigh, so much for the tall, dark and handsome concept. But I have digressed. Let’s get back to the dress code for women.
Recently I was at Bangalore for the admission of my niece to a prestigious college in the city. The college, the prestigious one I mean, we were told, had a strict dress code, no jeans and tees, only long tops or kurtis that reached down to your knees worn over salwars or churidars. It is another matter of course that while waiting in the corridor outside the college office I got the opportunity to correct a long held misconception of mine that the ‘knee’ was that part of the anatomy that connected your thighs to your lower leg and was commonly placed in all humans. Apparently it is not and varies from person to person, (Ha! Didn’t know that did you, ignoramuses?!) and can be anywhere between a few inches below your waist, to just below your derriere or half way down your thighs. Ahhh going to college has its benefits you see, even if it’s only as an accompanying parent or guardian. You learn new things. Sorry to have digressed again. One always likes to do the right thing and share knowledge gained and all that you know.
Relaxing over a cup of lemon tea the next day with that gentle glow of satisfaction brightening my day at an Aunt’s duty well done, I skimmed through the newspaper (The Times, Bangalore edition) when something caught my eye.
“Institutions are implementing strict dress codes for women around the country” Ahh there it was again, jeans bashing. This time it was the turn of four colleges in Kanpur to join the no-jeans bandwagon. Made me wonder what poor jeans had done to deserve such treatment. It wouldn’t surprise me if the whole lot of them shrank to one-fourth their size at the very first wash out of pure misery and shame at this atrocious treatment meted out to them. I mean they, the jeans were doing their duty, just like any other piece of clothing, covering up naked flesh although a wee bit too tightly at times. But then is that any reason to banish the poor things from college campuses?? Aww… Look at the sari blouses. Were they acting any different?? Too damn tight and revealing if you ask me. And what about that all revealing and sexy dress called ‘sari’ worn whichever way you please and exposing acres of naked flesh more in area than the acres of land in which these colleges stand??
While I was waiting in the corridor of the same prestigious college of Bangalore I saw this beautiful vision in sari walking down the corridor mobile in hand (mind you no one is allowed to use a mobile inside the college buildings, even visitors and here was a lecturer of the college flouting all rules blatantly. Sigh! Some people have all the luck!). Now, the vision was wearing a sari blouse whose neckline had taken to bungee jumping. Her midriff could accommodate a few football fields. But was anyone complaining?? Why don’t I hear anyone say, “Four colleges in the city ban wearing of sari in college to lessen the evil of eve-teasing.”?!
Oh no siree, no one would do that, not any of those stalwarts of society. If you wear a short top with your jeans with your midriff showing that is when it becomes obscene. But when you are in that all-Indian dress it is acceptable. Didn’t you even know that?? And then they say there is brain drain. Brain drain?? All the brains are right here making such all important decisions using such logic. I mean, look at how adroitly the real issue is sidestepped (once again, since time immemorial) and the responsibility of avoiding eve-teasing is passed on to the shoulders of girls/women when anyone with half a tea-spoon of intelligence knows that the trouble lies elsewhere. Do you mean to tell me all the Indian males were a paradigm of virtue till jeans and tees made an appearance?? Ahh the Decadent West! What would we do without you?? On whose shoulder could we have lain the blame??
My first experience of eve-teasing/harassment was when I was either eleven or twelve and I was in a long skirt and long blouse that modest all-Indian dress against which not even the worst of the culture vultures can raise a finger. Yet the wisdom of these ‘strict dress code-rs’ seem to suggest that eve-teasing is of recent origin and is tied inseparably to jeans and short tops. Oh puhleeze don’t insult the Indian male or underestimate him. They have always known about eve- teasing and sexual harassment long before the Decadent West made its appearance to corrupt the so called Innocent (my foot) East. Check with Draupadi what happened to her in the King’s court under his very nose. (Click here to read of that Maha Abuse) And then we need the Decadent West to teach us… pray, what new things??
The all important question of why it should be the responsibility of the girl/woman to prevent eve-teasing and sexual harassment and why the society cannot look the real reason in the eye and make it wilt is of course beyond my understanding. There is a saying in Mallu language that says, Mullu ilayil veenalum ila mullil veenaalum ilaykku thanne dosham (Whether the thorn falls on the leaf or the leaf falls on the thorn, the leaf is the one affected) Oh yeah?? Oh really??!!! So what do we do?? Let the thorns flourish among us and live a scared life trying to avoid them?? How about identifying the thorns and clearing them up so we have a thorn-free life?? Humans have cleared land everywhere for their own use. How about taking a little courage and banishing these thorns as well instead of asking the leaves to live in fear of them?? How about teaching these thorns some manners, some respect rather than spending the time teaching the leaves how to and what to wear?? How about letting the thorns and leaves mix with each other so that the sharpness of the thorns gets blunted and leaves are no longer any mystery to them to be poked, touched, grabbed or rubbed against?? Is that asking too much??
I have chosen to take a lighter and irreverent view. But please read this for a better understanding: