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

The Stigma Around Underwear: Why Is My Respect Associated With What I Wear Or Don’t?

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Anonymous:

TRIGGER WARNING: Content contains graphic description.

Every morning when I wake up, I remove the blankets that cover me. I have always been taught that in the morning, we are dirty. My mum says that it is important to take a bath in the morning, not only because one stinks, but also because the body, especially your sexual organs, in my case, my vagina, secretes waste during the night and it is necessary to clean it up.

As a child, I always believed her but still chose to not take a bath for days at a stretch. This was because, first, I loved to spend my bathing time sleeping in the bathroom, using my clothes as a pillow, and second, because I had no intentions of letting the cold water drops jerk me out of my peaceful state of mind.

underwear-627302_1920

Now however, since I am an adult and aware of the importance of cleanliness, I move towards the bathroom to clean my body. I strip, still sleepy, barely aware of the number of layers I am wearing. I get into the shower, but not before I switch on some music, I twist the knob and allow myself to get wet. I rub my body to make sure every part of it is clean. I use soap, the fragrant kind, and allow myself the pleasure of singing and thinking and even dancing.

Have you ever noticed that in the bathroom you feel truly free liberated? I do. There is no one looking, judging or wondering what you are doing. I do what I feel. I talk to myself and say what I want. I day-dream and I also remember the past, I reflect and joke. I humour myself. When the water hits my head and rushes down my body, I feel at peace. In that moment, I am me.

But what does one do after taking a bath? One takes a towel and dries oneself, so as to not catch a cold. One looks in the mirror, so as to make sure that one is clean. Then, get dressed; look in the mirror for the last time and leaves. I do the same. Except I hate it.

When I leave the tub, I am naked in front of a mirror; I do not like what I see. I am not sure if my dislike is because I would wish that I was healthier or because media’s representation of a beautiful woman i.e. thin, curvy, manageable hair, etc is so drilled in me, that the fact that I do not look like the ideal beautiful woman makes me dislike myself. Also, I am not sure if my wish to be healthy is because of medical or visual reasons.

In the world of 36-24-36, I am 44-42-45. What I see in the mirror is sagging boobs, because they are too big, a stomach with bulging tires and stretch marks and broad and big hips with cellulite deposits so big that I can see them.

Time to hide. Bring out the clothes.

I first wear my underwear, high waist panties that would cover and pull in the bulge of my stomach as well as cover the tyres hanging from my back. I then wear my bra which shackles my breasts in one position. My breasts, too big, try to escape and I helplessly adjust them and put them in their place. Now, when I see myself, I see a fat stomach and big breasts being suppressed by fabrics. The view may seem normal to many but is a nudist’s nightmare. Carrying on I cover my legs with a pair of jeans, the loose kind so that the shape of my legs is not very visible and I wear a loose top or kurta that would hide my stomach and arms.

I then examine myself in the mirror and if I notice anything that should not be, for example my cleavage showing, my nipples standing, the bulge of my stomach visible, etc, I hide it. I take a stole and drape it in a way so that my body and its actual shape are completely hidden.

I hide myself. I mask my true self that I was so comfortable with in the shower, with layers and layers of clothes. Covering so that nobody can see the real me and so that I am hidden from the world.

I am sure you are wondering why I hide myself if I don’t want to. The answer is simple, I live with my parents, and they are not like me, I can not disrespect their opinions or the societal norms they follow. So I dress the way they expect me to.

Now I would want to ask you a question. Do you not feel oppressed by these layers of clothing? Your clothing defines you, but does that idea not suffocate you?

Once while watching the Sherlock series, I saw an episode where Sherlock Holmes, a master at reading people, was unable to understand anything about a female because she was naked and there was nothing on her body that would help him deduce anything conclusive about her. When I saw the episode the first time, I just saw it, I did not understand its essence. Years later while I was doing nothing the meaning dawned on me. Clothes are apparatus, like masks. It is not who we are but who we wish we could be.

Sadly, since all one wants is not to be their true self, they neither know who they are nor who they are projecting themselves to be. This ignorance leads to one being confused about their identity; it leads to existential crisis and a lot more. The worst, since people can not figure themselves out, they believe they have the licence to judge others. Not just that, they use every little detail to make an effort to unravel the other.

These judgements are so cruel that they invade a person’s most innermost privacy. For example, I am forced by society to dress in a way that, they claim is appropriate. So I have to wear undergarments.

Regardless of the fact that underwears are sanitary and help protect one’s vagina from germs, there is more to it. Not just more, but a multi-million dollar industry more.

Firstly, the kinds of underwear – If I wear a thong instead of panties, it is the same for me medically. But if a friend of mine was to see a thong in my cupboard, let’s say a lace thong with diamonds on it, then I am sure to get a cheeky grin which would be followed by a cheesy remark about how kinky or dirty I am to have such a piece of clothing. My panty, which I wear only for medical purposes is used to judge my sexuality, my preference, etc.

Secondly, not only does the kind but also the colour -A famous 90’s movie, ’10 Things I Hate About You’ has a dialogue and I quote: “You don’t buy black lingerie unless you want someone to see it!” It might not seem right to be a quoting a movie made for teenagers, but the truth is that we all saw this movie and this dialogue did shape our thought process. However, when I go to buy lingerie, I buy what I like, I pick my favourite colour, and if I like red or black more than orange, people will use it as a psychological tool to understand my nature and personality.

Thirdly, I am respectable only if I wear underwear – if I don’t wear underwear, how does it bother anyone? Both free balling, as well as free buffing are huge taboos. The act is considered socially unacceptable because, to many, the practice seems immodest. Societal views should be respected only as long as they do not strip an individual of his or her personal freedom. If tomorrow I choose to be done with the underwear industry and ‘go commando’, that too is my choice and does not imply anything but that I am sick and tired of elastic marking my skin.

Another example is the bra. The rational explanation why I should wear a bra, according to society, is that so the shape of my boobs does not get spoiled and the weight does not give me a back ache. Also seamless bras and padded bras help hide the nipples from being visible.

First: If nature runs its course in such a way that the shape changes, why are we trying to change nature?

Second: Who decided the correct shape of my boobs?

Third: If I am more comfortable not wearing a bra and if I don’t have back aches, why is the society judging me for not wearing a bra?

Fourth: Nature gave nipples to both man and woman; nipples are erogenous organs for both man and woman; why can a man move around top less in society when a woman can not? To the extent that I have to purchase bras which are heavier and hurt so that nobody, even by mistake sees the seam of my nipples.

Fifth: If I am buying a bra for the reasons above, I should buy one that would satisfy all the reasons which sadly does not cost less that 1500 rupees.

It is literally like being forced to buy a jail cell for your boobs. Expensive and super uncomfortable.

And this is not it, I am again judged on the colour and type of bra and am not respectable if I don’t wear one. If my boobs sway while I exercise I need a bra that would hold them. If I want to wear a shirt, the bra has to hold my boobs apart so there isn’t much cleavage. Also, the amount of cleavage visible is inversely proportional to my respectability or how open I would be with the idea to sleep with my boss or have a one night stand.

The concept of clothes when it started was to protect one from the heat and cold, wind and other natural forces. When did the idea of physical protection evolve into the idea of emotional and mental protection? Why have we started hiding ourselves? And from whom?

Many would disagree with me on this point.

Since birth, we have been clothed. Growing up, we have been taught to cover our body and the idea has been drilled in our head so deep that it is hard to reflect on the idea. One needs to give up all forms of conservatism to understand this but people won’t or they can’t. Because if they give up on the most obvious ideas that they follow, they won’t have any choice but to rethink all that they know and the idea of such a task is scary.

This article has also been published on the author’s personal blog.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ekta

    Being a girl, I agree with you wholeheartedly and i have been facing these problems since a long time. No, the bra never feels like a necessary/healthy piece of clothing and in my view, it should be banned for the problems we suffer.
    i have to wear these skimpy suffocating clothes and moreover HIDE THEM all the time so that people don’t feel uncomfortable and i look presentable!!…
    The idea of presentable is quite distorted, it seems.

    1. Pariah

      Thank you for voicing your opinion to my article. am glad I could share what we feel. You can follow my blog for I will be posting more such articles.
      mindofapariahblog.wordpress.com

      Cheers 🙂

    2. Pariah

      Thank you for voicing your opinion to my article.
      I am glad I could share what we feel.
      You can follow my blog for I will be posting more such articles. mindofapariahblog.wordpress.com

      Cheers 🙂

    3. Mocy

      Very nice article. Mark Mocy Stomach Gas Filtering Underwear in India, Solve all the Bad Smell also you are not required to wash everyday. It will completely stop the smell

  2. Merlin

    I agree with the article to some extent but I don’t think the reason to all of it is our parents. When did we start respecting about our parents so much or bother about them. I think its our state of mind. Frankly even we judge people on the same basis. What this article has is only questions and no solutions. What we really need to do is change our thinking and stop blameshifting once and for all, accept ourselves and actually follow the things we so proudly boast about.

    1. Pariah

      Hi Merlin,
      I am the author of the article. I am glad you agree with me.
      You are right my article does not give a solution because I don’t have one. I believe that I can only provoke a thought and people need to reflect on their actions themselves.

      If you liked my writing, feel free to follow blog as I will be posting more such articles.
      http://mindofapariahblog.wordpress.com

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Mushin No Shin

By Payoja Bhakre

By Sakshi Tyagi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below