The DRESS

I normally never get involved in the usual online debates that revolve around religion or politics. There are so many, more articulate people on women’s issues too that I seldom venture to air my opinions or debate around them.

However, recently, I did get incensed enough to post a couple of messages. This was related to ‘THE DRESS’ and ‘asking for it’ — the popular responses by a certain variety of men to rape/eve-teasing/sexual harassment. You must be all too familiar with this species by now. We were discussing the RoseChasm article which is doing the rounds on the internet these days.

These were my mails, and I was surprised by how riled I was, though I was as restrained as possible. Of course, it did little to change stubborn convictions. Well, one tries. That’s all one can do. But honestly, it’s like beating your head against a brick wall!

(Disclaimer: Most of the men I know are sensible and sensitive. Thank you!)

Post 1: (in response to a message that suggested women dress up only to attract men)

Sorry to burst the bubble, but a large number of women DO dress up because they enjoy it, they feel good about themselves, and not because their sole aim in life is to have hordes of men feeling them up! Just like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so are other things. The beholder is the one who is viewing things with a perverted filter, so that is where the responsibility squarely lies.

I read sometime back that in IXXX (country name), the moral police could throw a woman into jail for biting into an apple “seductively”. She deserves it right? How dare she? Even if she was fully clothed, not drunk, and not dancing shamelessly in a disco!

Oh and yes, ads ARE misleading, in case that wasn’t already known.

I seldom get into these kind of debates, but honestly, I am sick and tired of hearing this argument about women and their asking for it. Most of us are just trying to live our lives. Why so many imposed conditions on which our freedom to live as human beings hinges? And if this ‘dress’ argument is indeed true and valid, what about abuse of children, including boys? Surely they are not dressed provocatively, or drunk? When it comes to women, why does HER DRESS lead the list? We cannot think beyond that?

If we read the article, we see that the author has taken the so-called defensive actions:

“I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets. … I was prepared for my actions to be taken as sex signals; I was not prepared to understand that there were no sex signals, only women’s bodies to be taken, or hidden away.”

I’d like the Indian male to spend a day as a female. The amount of discrimination, rules, and sheer nonsense one has to put up with will come as a rude shock, and they too will experience first-hand “the rage that was coursing through my blood”.

Most of the men I know are sensitised nowadays and appreciate the rights of women, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of Indian males still view themselves as privileged and women as mere objects of possession. No amount of worshipping goddesses is going to change that. It is a damned shame and we need, as a first step, to acknowledge that without clauses attached. The growing intolerance is welcome — it was long overdue.

I said my piece and will stop. Not a peep from me any more, like a good Indian woman, who should neither be seen nor heard (nor read)! 🙂

Post 2: (in response to a different and more sensible person)

I am glad you agree with the notion that ‘Responsibility definitely lies in the perverted eyes.’

I do understand and appreciate the safety angle. In fact, I don’t think I would be wrong if I said a majority of women do understand that, and take suitable precautions. Just like the article writer understood and took suitable precautions as best as she could.

What we are screaming ourselves hoarse about is the fact that the minute an eve-teasing / rape / sexual harassment incident is brought to light, the spotlight zooms in and focuses on ‘THE DRESS’ and how we ask for it. In other crimes, the focus is on bringing the criminal to justice. In these crimes, the focus is almost invariably on the victim first and speculations on how she asked for it.

What we and all other women are saying, nay, shouting, appears to fall on deaf ears. We are saying very clearly that look, ‘dress’ has NOTHING to do with it. We are the living proof! We have dressed modestly (amongst the hundred other things we are ‘expected’ to conform to) and we know hundreds of other girls/women who have dressed modestly — and we have all got molested/been harassed.

I remember in my college days on a BTS bus: a maami in a traditional nine-yard sari got molested before our very eyes by a young professional looking man! We were so horrified, but being the good Indian girls we were, we played ‘safe’ and ignored it. It is so clear to us that it has absolutely nothing to do with our attire. Does our proof, our word mean nothing?

So what we do ask for is the basic decency and courtesy to refrain from perpetuating ‘THE DRESS’ myth, jumping to its conclusion every time, or mentioning it as if that would make the crime all right, and we ask this based on the self-evident Truth (self-evident at least to females) that dress is quite irrelevant in majority of these cases. I’m sure you will agree that this isn’t too much to ask for.

So, what do you think?

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