This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Dhruv Arora. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Real Problem With Exposed Bra Straps, And Other Insignificant Conversations

More from Dhruv Arora

By Dhruv Arora:

It has taken me some time to collect my thoughts about what I like to affectionately refer to as the Great Bra War of 2014, also known as the discussion that happened day-before yesterday. There are quite a few issues that I am going to be picking on during the course of this article, so let me start off with a fair series of disclaimers. There is a good chance you will disagree with and hate this article, with a possibility of writing me off completely as a radical meaningless armchair activist feminist (or other such gems). There is also going to be a fair amount of analysis and suggestions that I put forward which probably won’t sit well with extremist religious/culturalist (this snazzy new word I’m coining) moralist logic-ists.


I must admit, I have been having an extremely hard time trying to zero down on where I want to begin. Should I start with the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and the fact that someone decided to write about something that they feel is important to them is their business? Should I start with the fact that a majority of the defence that was presented as to why the article was pointless had to do with how it is in the name of protection? Should I start with how the Indian culture has suddenly taken the driver’s seat into so many discussions, in a flawed and incomplete capacity? Where oh where do I start?

I first need to get something out of the way, something that my colleagues probably won’t appreciate me mentioning in an article published in this vein. This article does not reflect the views of YKA, but my own. YKA often publishes conflicting opinions simply because (who would’ve guessed) different people have different opinions.  I suppose this the blogging way of saying “RTs are not endorsements”. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the meat of things, shall we?

Excuse me as I take you through this extremely limited and painfully uninspired summation of the comments the article in question (a community submission) gathered:

  • Why are we discussing such trivial issues when rapes are happening in the world?
  • Who is stopping you? I love watching hanging bra straps. In fact, why don’t you just take it off 😉
  • The Indian culture does not permit this. Learn to respect the culture of the country you were born in.
  • People are dying of poverty and hunger or other such things and you care about your bra strap.
  • WHY ARE WE DISCUSSING SUCH TRIVIAL ISSUES WHEN RAPES ARE HAPPENING IN THE WORLD?!? And other such all-caps gems (repeated to denote the scale of how much this was said).
  • We need to have stricter punishment for rapists and stop talking about irrelevant things / OR / Death penalty for rapists and stop talking about these stupid things.
  • Stop talking and start doing. / OR / Stop discussions and go out and stop rapes.
  • This is elitist nonsense that doesn’t reach the actual people doing these things, who are often uneducated and/or poor.

There were quite a few gems I am sure I am missing out on, but I’m guessing that’s best for my sanity as well.

While we have the “these things are irrelevant” chat, let me go for a stroll in my baniyaan at 1am without a worry in the world, and have a woman cover up and go for a walk in broad daylight. Let’s also see who’s feeling safer. Because freedom is not irrelevant, and you don’t get to pick and choose. We need to reduce crimes, but till the time we limit our scope of thought to how do we make life one step worse for those who are done committing acts of rape et al, instead of also targeting why they are happening in the first place, it will be but a flawed and incomplete discussion. We can go out and target “rapists” and pretend that they are of a specific caste, class, education, religious and economic background, and that such “incidents” aren’t caused by us learned folk (ha), while incidents happen right under our nose. We can talk about how these “small things” are irrelevant and completely ignore the fact that the basic discussion is one around freedom, and because of this, all of these things are connected to the root cause of the problem that is the alarming and ever-rising increase of sexual violence in this country. If you want to cure a disease, you must target the disease and not the symptoms. “Protection” is not the same as safety. Equal access to public spaces is important.

But Dhruv, what are you saying? Have you lost your mind? Do you really think having pointless discussions (sigh) about these stupid things is more important than the fight against rape?

Au contraire, my learned friends; this IS the fight against rape. Why stop there, this is a fight against much more. Rape is not where it ends and begins, there is much more around sexual assault that often goes unspoken and unnoticed. There are smaller conversations around a horrifying lack of public urinals for women, lack of female police officials and/or gender-sensitized police officials, the freedom to wear what you like, go where you like, eat what you like, or even say what you want (HOW DARE YOU HAVE AN OPINION THAT I HAVE CLEARLY DEEMED USELESS, a-la the article in question). Unless we have these smaller conversations about basic freedom and access, about the smallest of things at the largest of scales, what we are talking about is a symptomatic approach towards rectifying the problem, one that can offer us nothing more than short-term quick-fixes and not fix the leak at the source. It is pretty similar to holding a finger to a hole in a water pipe and thinking you’ve fixed something; a mere band-aid solution to a problem that requires surgery at various levels at its very base.

So what are you suggesting? Should we let lose all the rapists? We sit and talk while people are raping each other?

Why, not at all, dearest reader. I would very much like to cut the problem off at the root, something which cannot be done as long as we keep on talking about what can be done at incident as opposed to to prevent an incident; and sadly, stricter punishments etc. aren’t enough. The problem with our “saviour” approach of “protecting” women as opposed to asking the fundamental question of why is it happening at all is what got us in trouble in the first place, and they are what ultimately lead to desperate efforts to curb various kinds of freedom for women, basic things, in an attempt to stop them from getting harassed. The whole idea of locking for protection (and if you dwell deeper, then ideas around covering women up, of “following the Indian culture” to stop rapes) in order to not invite the hungry gaze of skin-hungry monsters that men are painted out to be, are ridiculously misplaced because they rely on the flawed notion that sexual assaults are about sex.

The real problem with exposed bra straps is not the exposed bra straps, it is the idea that men are hormonally charged ravages who will devour the first person who walks by with an inch of skin shown. The problem is that we have been born in and need to fight against the very system that maintains this seemingly undefeatable gender hierarchy that makes the men out to be both the “protectors of the weak women” as well as the people against whom protection is needed against in the first place (ridiculous, isn’t it), and the women to be the treasure that families must protect at all costs from the sex hungry savages that roam the streets. The problem I am talking about is a word that is bound to piss off a big chunk of people reading this, because it is connected to other words that make us uncomfortable such as feminism and gender. It rhymes with matriarchy, starts with a p and is the reason I can donne my baniyaan and boxers and go for a stroll in the middle of the night and only have to worry about possible dog-bites, while women are told to cover up all traces of their exposed bani-err-bra straps to ensure they do not goad the dragon into breathing fire, so to speak.

The problem with exposed bra straps is not the exposed bra straps, but the exposed assertion of freedom that comes with it; and discussions are never irrelevant. In fact, they are the only thing that can work in the long term, while we are busy sipping whiskeys and ranking issues in order of how offended we may be from them.

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  1. Adishi

    “The real problem with exposed bra straps is not the exposed bra straps, it is the idea that men are hormonally charged ravages who will devour the first person who walks by with an inch of skin shown. ”

    Precisely why men need feminism too. An extremely well put article. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Adishi

    “The real problem with exposed bra straps is not the exposed bra straps, it is the idea that men are hormonally charged ravages who will devour the first person who walks by with an inch of skin shown. ”

    Precisely why men need feminism too. An extremely well put arguement presented. Thanks for sharing this!!

  3. Shuchi Gupta

    Very well put together. A much- needed article. Thank you for writing this!

  4. Minakshi Pharswal

    Wooowww! if this is not going to work in indian society, well nothing will. I m happy to know someone is there who shares thoughts similar to mine. Great piece Dhruv!

  5. Somia Sharma

    The issue is not just the exposed bra strap but is deeper than we realize. The minuscule display of the strap gives this patriarchal world goosebumps. They are terrified of the independent, carefree attitude that the woman in question showcases (which she has been denied ever since her birth and hence such a serious issue and all that turbulence.

  6. Man

    //…men are hormonally charged ravages who will devour the first person who walks by with an
    inch of skin shown.//
    And you, sir, are trying to teach those HORMONALLY CHARGED RAVAGES about the real idea of exposed bra straps through your intellectually fucking article? Makes perfect sense!

    1. Dhruv Arora

      // The real problem with exposed bra straps is not the exposed bra straps, it is the idea that men are hormonally charged ravages who will devour the first person who walks by with an inch of skin shown. //

      context. it gives life meaning. re read the sentence, I’m saying the exact opposite of what you think I’m saying.

    2. Oishani

      I read your comment. Then the name under which you posted it. And suddenly it all made sense. 🙂

    3. Man

      Ah, well. I misuderstood the quote, and it was cleared by the author. Now, if it did make perfect sense to you. Why do you still ask men to respect you? Moron, yes you are!

  7. Kaatyaayani

    Hi Dhruv, I normally avoid commenting on articles I read on the net but I am going to make an exception for what is, in my opinion, the most well thought-out and enlightened article I have ever read. Thankyou sir for articulating a number of thoughts that have been bothering me of late so eloquently 🙂
    I wish there were more people with similar ideas in this country.

  8. Aanchal Khulbe

    The much needed article! Dhruv. THANK YOU for summing it up so well. 😀

  9. Neha Jha

    Everything that you have written here is absolutely right! You have gone straight to the point, addressed the core issue and, I must say, its great to see a guy understanding these kind of things that plague women and, as a result, take advantage of the fact that women have to think twice before stepping outta house while guys can have it all, any time! I commend you for your broad-mindedness and I think people like you should see an increase in number. It must not be easy expressing this view since most people tend to make fun of feminism, and, if it is a guy, all hell breaks loose!
    Hoping to see many more such great articles by you. Do keep up your liberal views.

  10. gautam govinda

    bra ko faad do..panty ko jala do..rapists ko maar in sab chizo se badi taakat h..laptop pe do article likh ke bade ban jaao..ladkiyo ki sympathy toh mil hi jayegi..!

    1. Harshvardhan

      murkhta kya kahin thok ke rate me milta hai? aur kahin mandi hai kya iski jo app jaise log jate hai aur kharid-kharid kar stock karte hai aur phir uska use karte hai? ladki ki body aur ladke ki body, app ke language me swyam PARAMPITA PARMESHWAR ne banayi hai…aur kya app kapde pehen is dharti pe kadam rakhe the? tum shirtless ho jayo to style aur macho aur dude aur cool aur ladki ho jaye to slut, desperate, character-less…

    2. Somia Sharma

      Hi Gautam,
      We are talking some serious stuff here. We want to enlighten people about this, trying to figure out where we are going wrong and why is all this happening. If you dont have some constructive substance to talk about then keep out of it.

      And Dhruv,
      Nice article. Dont mind blockheads of the sort. You write good.

    3. gautam govinda

      u mad sis?
      btw its govi…you just hurt my sensibilities by calling me gautam.
      I just said a pointless thing, but less points than this article

    4. Somia Sharma

      Aaawwww !!!!

      You seriously come across as a baby ; a cry baby.
      If you are so ashamed of your name in the first place then why did you put it up here. Go get yourself blown if you cannot keep to the topic. This is a forum for the one’s who are serious about the issues paralyzing our society.



    5. Pallavi

      Retard, are you?

    6. Somia Sharma

      Hi Pallavi !
      Who was the comment for??

  11. Swarnima

    Something tells me that there won’t be too many men baying for your blood through their comments, because the article is written by you, an educated male and not a “hormonaly charged” GIRL displaying “juvenile rebellion to grab attention”

    PS- Thanks for the article. Expect a box of chocolates in office :p

  12. Harshvardhan

    A nice summed up article but the question is how to change it…some of the people even the person who has written this claim that ‘FEMINISM’ is the solution. But what is Feminism…we must ask ourselves…it is just about protesting and fighting against this ‘mentality’ and ‘practice’ or is it about identifying the cause of this problem? I think that none of the commentators believe that ‘ideas’ are just a product in itself…this mentality and the associated practice with it has got a very material reason(For this we must take in to account the examples of tribal societies where ‘rapes’ do not take place INSPITE of women been dressed in ‘LESS’ clothes) the real reason of rape and sexual harassment, according to me has got two interrelated reasons 1- the unequal power relation between man and women and 2- the crisis of masculinity in this highly advanced capitalist age when the traditional notions of man as the earning member and ‘protector of’ women is receding, due to assertion of women….This INDIAN CULTURE people often quote while arguing for ‘modesty’ is a historical product of Indian society in which men had control over all economic resources…What India needs is empowerment of women, not by some other agency like parliament or legislature but as a result of strong women’s movement and secondly this notion of ‘women as property’ has to be challenged by both males and females-Women is private property is very much evident in our law system which does not recognizes marital rape….if a women is married to a man then she is just becomes a sexual object as well as an unpaid worker…she has to ASK money from her husband if she wants to buy something…she is not entitled to any payment….and even she is not conscious of it and accepts it naturally under the burden of ‘family’, duties and emotions…this has to be challenged…women has to be liberated from economic dependence and only then she will be free and all this illogical, misogynist and ‘moral’ arguments will die…and lastly i will say one more thing that women too must be liberated from the clutches of ‘patriarchy’…both male and female operate under this 3000 year old ideology and this goes deep…When ever a mother sacrifices her daughter’s interest for her son…that instance has to be condemned and countered…things start from the family and it has to to countered at the level of family, because it is family which teaches us notions of ‘honor’, ‘sacrifice’ under which women are being crushed….feminism is is just a reaction to male dominance at the ideological level…what needs to be challenged is the root of this problem…1- by abolishing all division of labor between man and women 2- by demolishing all gender roles 3- by redistribution of economic resources and lastly by recognizing the fact that the issue of ‘bra’ strip is a middle class issue(this might seem to be outrageous to some) as millions of women who live in rural areas and those who live below poverty line in urban areas don’t have enough piece of cloth to cover their whole body…which makes the issue of ‘strip’ irrelevant for them -this is necessary because we need to take into account the intensive sexual and gender based harassment which lower class women go through daily but which ‘very naturally’ escapes our(middle class) eyes…

    1. shirish

      it is about making people aware & conscious about the prevailing degenerate insane, obsolete practices in private , public or domestic space.
      Shouting in the streets too have its profound effects..

  13. Aneesha

    A well written article about a female’s plight coming from a man! Highly appreciated. You have messed up with some medical terminologies but the context explains it all. Targeting the root cause of problem is the need of the hour. If the root cause is taken care off, the symptoms will soon recede. Waiting for that moment being an “Indian female.”

    1. Dhruv Arora

      Ah, well. Apologies for messing up the medical stuff, was never very good at it anyway! Glad you enjoyed the read 🙂

  14. randomguy

    While I agree that the patriarchal mentality is a problem I absolutely disagree that it is the primary cause of rapes. Two points-
    1) If you examine rape cases, most rape victims are well covered and well within the limits and conditions set by the patriarchal society. Certainly, it points to the fact that rapists have something more than just patriarchal conditioning in mind.
    2) If you check the rape demographics of countries, India fares far better (many times intact) than the liberal western counterparts (western europe and america). Im in not saying that this implies patriarchy is good, but certainly it can’t be the root cause of rapes, else it doesn’t explain the high amount of rapes in liberal nations like Finland, Norway, US where patriarchy is quite absent (It is okay for women to roam topless in some parts of these countries). The argument of unreported cases is also not sufficient, as, if you add the estimates of unreported cases in all countries,rapes in India are still far behind other nations.
    We see notable cases of rapes in India almost everyday like a 5 yr old being raped, girls being tortured and raped(fully covered in clothes prior to the act). The primary cause is not patriarchal justification of repression, but a feeling of lack of consequences. The primary cause is law and order and many people are instead sensationalising patriarchy as a problem (It is no doubt, but not major as that of proper law enforcement).

    As an off topic point, i too think of myself as a libertarian (semi kind perhaps), but I find one issue disturbing. Many people confuse issue of clothing and that of rape as its stated cause. See, if a woman goes out fully naked, she DOES NOT DESERVE RAPE by any account, no doubt about that. THAT DOES NOT mean that it should be in principle, okay for people to roam around naked in public places. Its a very minor, trivial issue I know, but I am stating this because some feminists argue that women(or men for that matter) should ACTUALLY be allowed to dress as less as they want, including nothing. This is a crap ideal. I would certainly not RAPE a woman showing full naked body in public, but I most certainly would be disgusted (by men too) by it and ask her to cover up. There is no such thing as ultimate freedom of dressing blah blah. We live in a society, and have to follow certain decorum (Please do not give the argument “its my body, i do whatever I want with it, you don’t look if you don’t like it.” Im sure you would more than not like it if I roam around swinging my penis in a family restaurant, or less even roam around shirtless in such a place.)

    1. Liza

      Of course. But the wonderful thing with this world is that everything changes. And society can change too. It has changed and it will change. That’s the beauty (or tragedy depending on context) of life, nothing is permanent. Everyone needs more freedom; men and women.

    2. Tina

      You seem to have entirely missed the point of feminism. The point is, it is not yours or anyone else’s business what I as a woman, chose to wear or not to wear. It is the idea of equality of the genders where if a man can walk about shirtless showing his nipples, a woman should have the option to do the same, without any consequence. If society was EQUAL for men and women, then the whole concept of patriarchy would be null and void. It would mean men and women make decisions together as a team or individually. At the moment, that is not the case. If you don’t like something, turn the other way. I see that you mentioned that in your comment and that you think it’s dumb, what to me is dumber that our broken society (you claim that we live in a society with rules and restrictions) cares more about what people think than what is truly right and wrong. And I think it is wrong to put restrictions on one gender and not the other.

      The issue at hand is that our culture that ties into our society has not evolved. People change, ideals change and new generations bring new ways. We still choose to live in the middle of the 15th century without adapting to the changes. This is what is causing such friction in our communities and society.

      Again, you can chose to look the other way, or you can sit and cry about how there was a girl walking down the street wearing nothing and how it offended you. Simply, your lack of openness and equality offends me.

    3. randomguy

      Hello Tina,
      I have not missed the point of feminism at all nor has my comment reflected so anywhere. I never brought gender discrimination in my comment, and I never said that women need to cover up and men don’t. All I’m saying is, in a society, you have to draw a line for BOTH somewhere. You may accuse me of being regressive but not sexist (yet). Now coming to that, what exactly do you mean by “truly right or truly wrong?” Is it what one as an individual feels without any thought of society? You haven’t talked about some arguments I made. I take it that in your ideal version of society, one of new generations and new ways, you would be okay with what I said in my last line? (me walking completely nude swinging my bare penis in a family restaurant? or any other public place) Should that offend anyone or should people just look away if they feel they are offended? Please answer that and i’ll be happy to continue the discussion forward.

    4. Templetwins

      You made a good point. The people who talk about openness would shun at the public view of male genitalia and consider it as a threat or harassment. In all reality, where do we draw the line? I had an argument with such like minded people who argued that kissing in public should be a freedom of choice and the public should look away. The other argued a couples public sexual intercourse should be their choice, the people of the society should mind their own business. When I brought the idea of public masturbation, their cognitive dissonance kicked in and they were in denial of their own myopic view of the society. Perhaps a man having pleasure without that of a woman would be so offending, I presume? In Ritas feminist utopia where a man walking shirtless is equal to that of women showing her breast but she totally forgot that ‘a friendly taping on mans chest doesn’t warrant a sexual harassment case on you, unlike a friendly grope’.

    5. randomguy

      Thats interesting. Those people were okay with public sexual intercourse? I don’t think they fully considered what it means. I’m sure they would reconsider if we presented them with extreme scenarios of such a society. The bare chest argument is a good one, I agree. Actually when I now consider some of the liberal arguments on why toplessness is considered more uncomfortable for women, when primitive societies in history and many tribes in africa consider it acceptable, I think one point that is missed is, that in these societies, breasts are absolutely not sexualised. The concept of sex is mostly limited to genitals and is simple, but our society has evolved, sex/lust is much more complex desire than just reproduction, and it involves much more than just genitals. In current society, breasts also have a sexual connotation to them, though obviously not as much as genitals. Whether this is a step backwards can be discussed. Simply put, I don’t think kamasutra and natural open nudity can go hand in hand.

    6. Liza

      Oh besides, you can’t be serious when you say something to the effect of “I can’t swing out my penis in public.” Penis and vagina are reproductive organs. Shoulders, arms, breasts (chests), legs etc aren’t.

    7. randomguy

      Oh yes Liza I’m being very serious when I say that line. See the point is, I never denied the fact that we need more freedom in our society for women and their clothes. Certainly we need to stop harassment of women irrespective of their clothes, but I am challenging the argument and ideals of some feminists and liberals who claim that nudity anywhere should be acceptable. (I mean LITERALLY nudity acceptability, not as a symbol of freedom or anything). I think they call themselves nudists or sometimes just liberals. The argument cited is, its my body, I choose what to wear or do with my body, you don’t like it, you don’t see. By that logic what I suggested should be absolutely fine. Why should reproductive organs be left out? They too are a part of my body, I shall do with them as I please, be it cover them or jack them off in public view. (not pointing at anyone or gesturing to anyone, just me in my own world). Is that the free, ideal society you are hoping for?

    8. Somia Sharma

      Hello Randomguy,
      Please know what you are talking about. Dont digress from the topic. It was never said that the root cause of rapes is the patriarchal society that we have. BUT there are definitely issues with a woman exhibiting freedom which should not be there. Rape is not the only dilemma faced by women.
      How about eve teasing, molestation, assault, harassment and violence to name a few.

    9. randomguy

      Hello Somia
      I’m not sure which part of my comment you consider digressing. The latter one about clothing ideals obviously is digressing and I have mentioned that at the start of that para. But you seem to refer to the first part which I think is quite clear and on point. ” It was never said that the root cause of rapes is the patriarchal society that we have. ” Really? I think this article and most others that I have read related to this issue have said exactly this. It is clearly mentioned in this and other articles that ‘we need to cut the problem at the root. Enforcing law and order, and building toilets are just treating the symptoms, not the cause.’ That sounds pretty much like what you said is never said. As for the other problems women face because of patriarchy like harassment, yes for those patriarchy is probably a greater cause and I never said its not. I simply made the point that we might be over emphasising patriarchy as the cause of rape (ONLY RAPE). The criminal mind sure is a mystery but its shaped by more than just that one factor predominantly. What I am saying is, even if we root out patriarchy from our society (which we should obviously), rapes are not going to stop. Reduce, yes but still not as much as if we enforce our laws strictly and swiftly. Anyway, its a trivial matter, I think we both agree to the fact that all these problems, (patriarchy, law enforcement, public facilities) have to be tackled simultaneously to have an effect. 🙂

    10. Somia Sharma

      Hi Ramdomguy,
      For sure we both agree that the crimes against women should be halted and the criminals be punished as hard as they can be. But we both have our own ways of doing it. What we are talking about here is freedom and equality the a women should be treated with. We live in a world that can exist only when the men and women co-exist. And I definitely dont want women to run around naked just because they feel its their right and that brings them at par with men (nor would I want men to do the same). We need not hold a competition on every ground. It should’nt be a bra strap that should lure men (or for that even women) and make us uncomfortable.

      We have to fight together and not against each other.

      So, instead of having heated arguments on this public forum we should come across with some answers and solutions to these problems.

    11. shirish

      why is it necessary to compare India with the western world? Okay they are good with protection for women; but why to compare their demographics with ours. We too can be better than any country; without even putting Europe or North America in the picture whether or not they tyreat their women any better or not.

  15. rs

    I read the article that prompted this one and obviously this article too. I spent some time thinking about the points mentioned in the article and the comments section (ignoring those that weren’t really in polite language). Anyways, this has left me a bit confused. So I thought to write down my points and see what you make of it. Most of it is me thinking out loud so forgive me if it is jumbled or if I tend to go off on tangents. I would also urge you to read the whole comment before judging and replying since while there are many points in both articles that I agree with there are also some that i disagree with.

    To get this out of the way. I am a male and I consider my self fairly sound of head and in line with the times. This article was really good in that it raised some perfectly valid points- that rape isn’t always about sex, that there is a gender bias inherent in our society (fairly rampant and pretty scary in some issues – khap panchayts being one such), that to make big changes we need to make small ones first, etc.

    Getting to the article that prompted this one in the first place and leaving aside the issue of accidental showing of bra straps which seems to skirt the issue, lets talk about dressing in general. It is a fundamental expression of freedom as this article has rightly pointed out.

    However, before even getting to that issue let me make something clear, just in case I am misinterpreted or unable to make myself clear later on. The way a woman dresses no matter what she is wearing doesn’t justify rape, abuse, molestation, leering (distinct from a casual glance btw), etc. It doesn’t make it the women’s fault.

    Having said that lets return to the previous article. The main point was that women should be allowed to wear whatever they want without any kind of morality imposed upon them by the so called culture or by the views of society, that a woman should be allowed the ultimate freedom to wear whatever she wants, that she could go topless not because that’s what she wants for everybody but because that is her choice and she should have the freedom to do so.

    Now, I partially agree. And do try read my views logically without labeling me misogynist or regressive or anti-feminist or patriarchal or whatever other words there may be for it.

    Humans live in societies, not in isolation. As such everyone of our freedoms are bound by some duties, constraints and obligations – for males as well as females. Currently, there is considerable bias in those freedoms in that there are many more things considered acceptable for men that would be considered out of bounds for women and that is the problem and that is what we must fight against. The maxim of unlimited freedom for the individual bounded only by the point where you hurt others sounds really good but is incredibly hard to implement, in that what can be perfectly acceptable to one is mildly indecent to another, unacceptable to a third, unforgivable for a fourth and a death-worthy crime to an extremist. That is where culture comes in- in that it defines what is acceptable for a particular society in line with the history of the society and the prevailing opinion of the majority. Bear in mind, I haven’t gone into the right and wrong of either view. I am just establishing that everyone is bound by some constraints and there is no such thing as unlimited freedom- the problem is where those boundaries should lie and what those constraints are and whether they are fair to both men and women (note that I use the word fair and not equal).

    Now getting to the issue, yes a woman should be allowed to wear whatever she wants. But is showing a bra, going topless, or wearing any of the millions of varieties of dresses the best way to express that freedom. Not to say that dressing is a trivial issue- as I’ve said it is perhaps a part of the fundamental identity of any person- it is how others, see us and how we see ourselves. Let’s say for a moment that I disapprove of a woman showing her bra just as much as I do of a man showing his underwear wearing low waist jeans. What does that make me? I suppose that the word most people would use would be regressive. And just as the author asked on the topic of taboos- what is culture, I ask by what standard? Perhaps by that of the western world, where such things are common (and i still don’t call them wrong because that is their culture- their history and I have no right at all to judge it). It is sad if our only notions of freedom come from mimicking the ideas of a society we consider superior to ours and more free. Lets take a look at that society shall we, without referring to any country in particular. Many of these societies have not had woman leaders or have had only a handful in their years of freedom, where woman in many fields are still judged by their gender roles- as mother and wife, rather than the position they are striving for and holding, where they are routinely called out for issues that have no bearing whatsoever with the position the occupy, etc. Is that what we want to mimic?

    Again I reiterate a woman can wear what she wants. But perhaps that is not the best way to assert freedom. Do you wear a bright pink dress to a funeral or a suit to a fancy dress event, why? Not because its immoral or illegal but because it is inappropriate. Our sense of dress is not totally dependent on us but on the context too. I personally know people who in no way consider a girl child no lesser than a boy, who encourage them to pursue whatever field they want but who simultaneously also teach them about the positives of our way of living (I refrain from using the word culture because that has been used to justify many biases). That is the freedom we should fight for in our society. The right of a woman to go out at any time of day or night without fear of being ogled or attacked, that is what we should fight for and work towards. That starts with recognizing and respecting the rights of women and that fact that they are equal to men. But that also means recognizing that we are in some ways fundamentally different. Yes, that argument has been the source of many biases throughout history, but that doesn’t make it untrue. What we must work to ensure that it isn’t the source of perpetuating the same biases in the future while also seeing to it that the positive aspects of our life and the way we live it are not lost.

    What the article says about showing of bra straps making people uncomfortable? Doesn’t automatically make the person opposed to all kinds of woman freedom as this article implies. I quote ” The problem with exposed bra straps is not the exposed bra straps, but the exposed assertion of freedom that comes with it; and discussions are never irrelevant. In fact, they are the only thing that can work in the long term, while we are busy sipping whiskeys and ranking issues in order of how offended we may be from them.”
    Yes, discussion of boundaries is never irrelevant and as the author says is perhaps that only thing that will work in the long term. But pushing the boundaries farther in all directions is not the only solution nor are all kinds of freedoms the same. The point is that the whatever the solution to draw the line it must be equal for both men and women considering that each are unique. The solution to the fact that men are featured topless while women are not is not that women too go topless. In this matter we should bow to the fact that we are different!! However, the fact that men in a swim suit are perfectly acceptable while woman are not- that is the mindset one has to change. However, that doesn’t mean having a swimsuit parade down a busy street to make a point- that would be inappropriate- unless of course it was on a beach. The fact I am working towards is that within some boundaries all women and men should be allowed to dress as they wish. What those boundaries are- well that is the whole discussion, isn’t it. That would have to be arrived at through respectful and frank discussion. And that can only happen after people are educated as to the fundamental fact that woman and men are equal and should be respected for their own merits. No amount of laws can replace the value of that education.

    What is the fundamental problem in many small villages, is it the fact that a woman wearing jeans would be scandalous or the fact that many village woman are beaten at home. The answer both. Why? That I believe should be obvious to most.

    1. Anu

      You have some valid points but please understand that we women don’t want to go exactly topless when we want freedom to wear clothes of our choice without being gawked at.
      This is the problem with most people, when presented with such an opinion they immediately jump to the other extreme end that freedom would mean us parading naked.
      Please understand that men are not the only ones with a brain. We are not fools. We know what to wear and where to wear it. It is not up to you to define the limits of our freedom. We are very much aware what is appropriate for what occasion and if suddenly all men decide to be sensible, we are not going to lose our heads and start parading topless.
      So, please don’t preach our culture to us, we are very well aware of it.

    2. rs

      It was not my intention to say that woman want to go topless or parade naked. I simply used that as an example because that was the one mentioned in the article. What I wanted to say was that the solution to the problem may not always be pushing the boundaries farther and farther even if it is simply to showcase that you have the freedom to do so.

      Again the example of the funeral and all was just that – an exaggerated example to illustrate a point, it was not meant to call anyone a fool. I apologize if that wasn’t clear from the ridiculousness of the example itself.

      As for the setting of the boundaries of freedom. It isn’t up to me or even you or to any one individual or group of individuals – men or women. It is to be arrived at with educated discussion in the society as a whole (which means individual homes) with respect to our history and culture and of course it will very vary from individual to individual since such a thing can’t have a clear set of rules. But just as the example of the funeral said in an exaggerated manner it will also depend on the context- that is simply tact. Whether you choose to follow it is obviously up to you.

      And that was my reason for mentioning culture – not to preach- you’ll notice I’ve not made any specific comments as to what should be acceptable or not- that is because it isn’t for me to decide- my opinions whether for or against are just that -MY opinions and while they contribute to the end result they aren’t absolute by themselves.

      BTW just to mention a point. I came across an article one day written by a woman saying that men who don’t groom themselves well shouldn’t wear sleeveless or low neck shirts. Should that be counted as an attack on the freedom of men to dress as they want? Of course not! It should be taken in the context it was given. In the same manner, whatever comments are made try not to look at it in a hypersensitive sense always looking for an attack, but in the context they were given in.

  16. Aman

    All your views are absolutely true..but like u said In order to cure a disease the root cause has to be treated…similarly this is not again the root cause… when we say that the visibility of a bra strip is considered as taboo…the only one angel represented by the author was because people out there would be oogling and getting clothes her ripped and so on….but even before that we need to analyse is to why are the people specially women of her own house against that same visibility of the bra strap..why is this teaching of such taboos been bequeathed ….why today most of the women themselves are perperators of orthodox teachings and mindset….it always happens that more then the father it is mother of a daughter who teaches her various aspect of life right from the way she carries herself to her biding with the culture and so on…the root cause is not with the taboo created …the root cause is the false and supertitious beliefs in the so called religious scriptures which are said to be verses of god…the root cause is false belief that all this gender biased rules for woman are to be followed in the name of god…the root cause lies in the fact that non adherence to such rules leads to wrath of GOD in the form of rapes etc….today many of the communal minded people have said the same thing in there comments on rape….similarly because of this religious tinge women to do not go against them but infact keep further expanding them and further impose restrictions …during the same Delhi rape case few women i heard stating that “itnee raat bahar jayegI aise waise kapde daal ke toh aise hi hoga…ajakal ke ladkiyaa apna sankaar aur apni religion ko chod pashchmi nagnata main jyada wishwas karti hain….isiliye aisa hota hain…Now here sanskaar is nothing but the same religious rules written in the post vedic age which became the verses of GOD….The problem is unless we break this stupid false beliefs in religion we may not get people think on such issues there minds would never come out of this religiously orthodox thinking and they would still be playing the same flute of SANSKAAR…..first of all the women themselefs have to defy the fake gender biased religious practices if they have to be free…be it of any religion…only then will the change occur…they have to get over there own minds first as many times we be selective in following religion and fail to challenge the logics..and instead settle down on the once that suit them but still they follow religion…in my view we should defy such religion completely which has a tinge of gender biasedness or any thing that diffrentiate one human from other…Only then the society would see equality and prosper

    1. shirish

      All those of your points are being covered in this Article by dhruv. Read again.Look closely. Dhruv concentrated on the Root cause.

  17. Nitum Jain

    If people still don’t ‘get’ it, let’s call them hopeless subjects, destined to live in their small-minded caves (saffron-clad Fred Flintstone, anyone?). At this rate we will have another mass bra-burning incident on our hands, this time by the bra-fearing purists and champions of all that is cultural and modest.

    Great article, Dhruv! Much needed. 🙂

  18. Liza

    Exactly! It was never about clothing but about freedom. Freedom to do what you like (as long as it doesn’t harm others). Every adult (male or female) needs to fight for this right.
    It is not men vs women. If talking about women’s freedom makes a man feel targeted it’s only because he feels guilty deep down. Because it is not about men vs women. It is about civilised vs scum.
    Finally, “society prepares the crime, the criminal just commits it”. It’s the same with rape. If you think exposed bra straps provoke rapists, you are a part of the problem no matter how many anti rape processions you might have been to.

  19. What’s in the name?

    A woman can’t have an opinion in this country, can she? She writes a couple of paragraphs on how uncomfortable she feels and there it comes! The bashing! The jeering! Freedom of expression, they say! Why can’t a woman exercise it freely?

    Coming to the STRAP! The article that had been written showcases a simple scenario that how a mere strap can effect a woman! It’s a small picture that says a thousand words. Agenda being, Women are unsafe. And the those Bra Straps are powerful enough to jeopardize the safety and sense of security of a woman.

    Mr. Dhruv, a Bra Strap and a Banyan are different things! Women don’t want to run naked on the streets! Even guys wear those low waist jeans showing off their branded ‘chaddi’! Why don’t people ridicule that? Why don’t YOU write an article about that?

    So, we fight the disease not the symptoms. Touche! But how do we do that? The mentality remains the same. Subjugating women in the of culture! Yes, we are so going to win this battle against Rape! -_-

    1. Are you okay?

      “Women don’t want to run naked in the streets.” Just how fucked up are you? It’s not about the action but the freedom TO DO JUST THAT.

      Not to mention that your argument has the same approach as this pretense: IT IS VERY offensive for men to roam and be allowed to exist shirtless.

  20. ajit

    We are jumbling too many things in the search of root cause of a problem …Each of the problems mentioned by you is true but the root cause is still not found …Root cause lies some where else … The root cause is not just the patryarchy or the saviour approach but it is far beyound that …All zeros down to the religious beliefs and practices and the way this pactices define a man and a woman….And the way people are obssesed by religious beliefs and practices without logical reasoning of that practices..

    It is just not a mentality it is the matter of faith, practices and belief….If it would have been a mental change it would have taken place long ago…but its the belief and faith in the practices that make matters even worse..
    For example : Go to a muslim (No specific communcal approach or wanting to add communcal colour to this but quoting this example ) and tell him about the Bra issue …..or right of women to do anything or right to eat and drink anything…He will slam you hard with verses From Quran( the word of God followed by every muslim) and tell you 10 diffrent benifits and reasons for women been in burqa (right from scientific to physocological etc) or a laundry list of what is halaal and haram and its corelation with science…

    Similarly : Go to a Hindu and check on some other issue of relgious practices and there corelation with gender biasedness ….he would not show a saviour approcah but will again give you reasons justfying with verses from Geeta aur the Vedas….

    Point i am trying to make is Patryarchy in our country or any country is not just a mentality it is strong beliefe and faith with strings attached to religious pratices and by that means to GOD….It is this belief that is so badly induced in the blood of Indians (where 98%) that there has to be an anti-religious approach to challenge a logic of once beliefe to cause an elightment… But for these people the approach would be considered as an attack on there religious identity….Like the way RSS or VHP carries out the anti -valentine day approach considering it as an attack on the culture of our country…..

    I am afraid these or any such articles would bring about any change in the minds of people who are so strongly religiously binded and who think patriarchy is by make of God… Solution : Lets first try changing things at our homes and try changing the beliefs of our parents grandparents/relatives or be liberal to our kids/sisters/daughters/women in our relations ….As most of restrictions are not by society but the mindset and beliefe of our own parents and elders …The sucess from this experiment would define the sucess in the outer worls

  21. annony

    reminds me of a scene from raanjhanaa. You know which one

  22. Indian

    Protection or saviour theory reminds me of the famous Rajputh kings who used to ask there Queens/all women to perform a ritual named as Jauhar ( To jump into a fire and commit sucide) and the women too happily accepted it … this was when they felt that defeat was unevitable.. Why ??? because they knew that after defeat the first thing the King who has been the winner would go ahead and make all the woman of his kingdom as slaves by force and make them face the most brutal of the tortures like (rapes, gang rapes and horryfic molestation) and death seemed less torturous acceptable as to protect the women from those atrocities . Why women were brutally treated by the other Kings (Did they not have women at home did they not have mothers or sisters) ….as it was said that an attack on a women of a king or an attack on her dignity/sexual molestation was a matter of humiliation to the king and a sign of superiority of one king on the other …Now why was this a practise because the Kings were so brave enough that for them physical torture or death for that sake did not matter and they were extremly courageous….and that was really upsetting the Winner kings as they wanted to see shame in the eyes of the defeaters

    Secondly most of the Indian kings at there times were famous for a reverse behaviour , Whever they won a Kingdom , they respected woman and Children and they used to spare the woman and children . Stating that “they do not and will not harm the woman and children” stating that they were innocent and in other words weak……Now considering both this matter in context to the women status and equality do you still think the Kings were wrong……Do you still feel in the second case where a King was letting women and children of a kingdom go because there innocent or weak is a mark of showing women as a weaker section ???Do you still feel that in the first case the King should have given the women a chance to fight her own battle without thinking too much about the risk of getting lost and facing the brutalities……Do you still think that in the second case the man of a kingdom should have killed all the woman as well in order to annex and empire

    All this very much is in sync with the saviour theory …While i agree that we need to question the law machinerires or have diffrent approach towards women and respect along with preach for there freedom we cannot completely rule out the saviour theory as inappropriate…Reason its not just they may instigate male hormone is just that they should not be falling prey to a scociety where man of various forms mentalities back ground live where they want them to protect against any brutal attack in the form of rape…..And also because when atatcked not all women are equipped with that physical or mental strength to repress the attack and be the next Jhansi ki Rani to protect herself from those devils……But does that mean we keep on using the same locking or covering concept of protection No again as we want to see a free society where women walk with freedom at anytime in the day or night….But when will that time come : It will take some time due to diverse religious beliefs and mentalities and proper education on sex and proper economic and social conditions to all, to proper law enforcement to tackle the main instigators of crime like drugs , Alcohol
    Similar cases happen in the riots as well where other than butchering men female are been brutaly raped just to cause humiliation for a particular caste….What do you have to say about such behaviors….

    1. Anuva

      There have been many brave princesses and talking about Rajputs I hope you have heard about Rani laxmi bai.All women weren’t given the education and aonly a few women actually received it and to top it all in our ‘GREAT’ Mhabharat it has been stated that not because Bheem considered women weak but out of RESPECT he didn’t fight with Srikhandni so for the so called saviour thing-I know it existed but women never asked for it.And I agree with you over third paragraph that it will take a lot of time to heal these things in life.

  23. KT

    I agree.. Clothing is a matter of Choice,.. the matter here is for freedom of Mind not for freedom to be naked.. The argument here is not for exposed Bra.. The argument is for the mindset our people have.. Its Good to follow traditions and wear ethnic cloths but it doesn’t mean that not wearing them is something which gives others right to Rape.. Getting excited to Rape by seeing the Bra strip/Skin is a mental dis-order.. Which some men think as a Fundamental Right.. The fight here is to change that psychology which says “Men has right to become Animal after seeing the Bra Strip”.. Culture lies in the values we carry not in the dress/skin we cover.. “It’s about making society adaptable to be Human even after seeing the Bra Strip/Naked Body” and one important point “PPl need to stop Justifying Rape, by mentioning exposed bra-strip as the cause of Rape”

  24. sneha

    Well organized thoughts! You did catch the essence and wrote well. I agree with you.

  25. Sarath Chandra

    There are always rules in society, both written and unwritten. You don’t like a particular rule? Well, you have 3 choices.
    1. You abide by it, grudgingly if necessary, so that you can avail the other benefits of belonging to a society.
    2. You stay in the society but protest that particular rule.
    3. You refuse to be a part of that society.
    In both cases 2 and 3, expect a backlash. You won’t have it easy. The consequences will be harsh. All I am trying to say is you can never have the benefits of society without following its rules.

    1. Shubhangi Joshi

      I agree. By rules, you mean ‘respect women and don’t rape’ , right?

    2. Sarath Chandra

      Sure, that is a rule and it is and not even worth debating on. However, that is not what i meant in my comment. I meant that freedom is never absolute and that includes one’s choice of clothes.

      Every society has it’s rules regarding dressing; what is acceptable and what is not. While you can fight these rules, it is naive to suggest that there shouldn’t be rules.

      If you use right to freedom to defend walking around naked, a rapist can use the same right to defend a rape.

      I don’t really have a problem with the content of the article but rather with it’s title. I feel it is unnecessarily provocative and drags the argument to the extremes where nothing can be gained.

      Is inappropriate dressing one of the causes of rape? I think yes, though by no means the biggest cause. Is it a justifiable cause? Of course not. But both the actions are wrong, independent of each other. Needless to say, the magnitude of both the mistakes is not even comparable.

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