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Now, it’s the saree blouse that’s under attack

January 12, 2017

Women must be allowed to make their own choices about what norms they wish to follow rather than be forced to comply with those imposed upon them by men.



By Bhavani Krishna Iyer

It is said that to know how civilised a country is, one need only look at how its women are treated. This quote came to mind after reading the grossly misjudged issue about women and sarees, yet again.

The Thaipusam Spraying Group must have been in desperate need to turn around their otherwise dull lives that they saw it fit to trample on women and how they wore their saree blouses. It is interesting that individuals and various groups came out forcefully in condemnation of such a notion that women should be reprimanded at all for how they wore the saree, what more using high-handed hooliganism and barbarism.

From tailors to fashionistas, we now have a compilation of what a decent saree blouse should look like. Additionally, we also have indiscriminate views from all and sundry that the modesty and morality of a woman rests in how she wears her saree blouse.

I am badly shaken and wilfully abashed that we have shallow-mindedness ruling our lives on one extreme and the bare-it-all brashness of dressing dominating the other. Sensibility seems to have no place in our lives today.

I do not condone the Thaipusam Spraying Group for their mischievous statements and warnings, and it is obvious that while we have come far as a society, we have neither become civilised nor matured.

If each and every one of us were to take responsibility for ourselves and understand the context we are living in, be it in how we dress or anything else that has to do with culture and conformity, we will have loads of time for matters that really would make a difference to the world.

In the midst of this fracas, the silence from MIC Wanita is deafening while it is ironic that Wanita MCA saw it fit to say its piece. This goes a long way in sending out the message that violence in any form against women will not be tolerated.

“Syabas! Wanita MCA” and to Wanita MIC, if you are still in a comatose state, we will wait for you to rise, if you ever do.

The freedom of a woman or girl is not apparent in the way she bares, rather in how she fares. Declarations have been made at various platforms that norms associated with dress codes are often one way in which ideas and stereotypes about gender identity and roles are conveyed in law, policy and practice.

They often impact much more heavily on women because, men especially, believe they are entitled to regulate women’s dress as the symbolic embodiment of a community.

Dress codes are a manifestation of underlying discriminatory attitudes and reflect a desire to control a woman’s sexuality, and in so doing, society objectifies women and denies them their personal autonomy.

The bottom-line is, women who choose to identify in a particular way religiously or culturally should be able to make their own choices about what norms they should follow rather than be forced to comply with a set of rules imposed upon them by others.

In this context, whether it is a male or a female, the upbringing and parents’ influence will play a pivotal role in letting men and women decide for themselves how they wish to lead their lives.

For now, let us celebrate Thaipusam for what it stands for in the truest sense.

Dr Bhavani Krishna Iyer is an FMT reader.

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