ByÂ Amisha Bhardwaj:
Has it ever happened to you that while you are watching television with your mom or grandmother and suddenly she exclaims, “Look what has happened to today’s girls, they have lost all the sense of dressing, what is she wearing!” on seeing a girl in hot pants or short skirt onscreen? I am sure that if not all, then most of us must have seen similar expressions, sometimes even with similar wording. I have heard it a zillion times!
Being denizens of a country like India, a multi-cultured land; clothes are seen as identity markers. Clothing, here, varies from region to region depending upon the ethnicity, geography, climate and cultural traditions of the people of that region. And the behind-the-veil aspect, the character of that person. We all have heard the phrase “clothes don’t make a man“. And if I modify this phrase further as per today’s modern times, then it would possibly mean that “clothes make a woman’s character“. The behaviour of the people does change with our clothes and it just murders the self-confidence. A while back, while I was travelling in a Metro feeder, the conductor called me madamji, possibly because I was wearing jeans, and the very next day that madamji changed into sister (thank God he didn’t say behenji!) as the attire had changed into a salwaar-kameez. Perhaps no matter what we wear, we are always the victims to the male gaze, which has been entitled by the gods to be the supreme judge of the character of a woman.
We often hear our dear politicians, the leaders WE chose and the self-proclaimed saviours of the great Indian culture that the women are being influenced negatively by the western culture and are forgetting their customs. I fail to understand why they don’t ever comment over the ‘’gaze’’ that is a negative influence on women? Maybe at that time they were busy watching porn at the Parliament, but wait, is that Indian culture? Anyhow, let alone these patriarchs, let us face it, that we the fairer sex too aren’t that supportive towards our own clan. Don’t we badmouth our fellow women and judge them on the basis of their clothes? We do!
I was asked to give my opinion on whether extremely revealing clothes could be taken as a freedom of expression or is it public indecency. I prefer wearing whatever I feel comfortable in and so was the answer of many others too but what if I feel comfortable in a short skirt but somebody else’s gaze forces me to feel uncomfortable? Just peep into your conscious and then answer yourself that at college or at your office, when one of the girls in your group wore something that could be tagged ‘’revealing’’, while you complimented her at front and called her a slut at her back, what was it that made you say so? Or perhaps you must ask that girl and she would tell you how difficult it could have been for her, getting the unwanted stares, the pseudo calls of sexual provocation that the males may have got. There was a huge fuss once when an actress wore a short skirt at the Ajmer Sharif dargah but there were whistles at the cinema hall when that very actress wore tiny dresses and danced on the 72mm screen. Since my childhood I have heard that God is everywhere but maybe He doesn’t watch movies and perhaps that is why skin show isn’t an offence outside the God’s houses. This is our multi-faced I mean multi-cultured-society.
Being a girl, I do have come under this gaze and I know how it feels – disgusting! (the word is yet inadequate) and if I find a girl carrying a dress (revealing or extremely revealing) with confidence, not giving a heck to what any XYZ around her says, to me she is a very confident and a brave lady! For it isn’t easy to avoid or face the comments or even that gaze. And above all, she is free and gives nobody the right to influence her choices. I respect her! It is her body and it is her choice. If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, then certainly the society needs to get an eye check-up as they find this freedom of expression to be indecent. So girls, be the change you want to see, life is just this once!