It’s Republic Day today. A day to think about what the nation stands for, and the inherent values that Indians all around the world embody. The recent Delhi rape case has brought up some very interesting debates about the objectivity of women, about the power differences between different genders, and an over-aching question of whether women continue to be subjugated in the country. Do we have answers? No, we don’t. But are we asking the right questions? Yes, and that’s the best possible start there can be. One of the big arguments that kept surfacing in the reports that I read about the case was centered around the way ‘women these days dress’. I have lost count of the number of times where the victim’s attire was used as a reason/excuse/callwhatyouwill about why she was raped. This was coupled with further ludicrous allegations of how certain types of dressing ‘invite’ inappropriate behaviour from men. Some individuals even went as far as alluding that the occurrence of rape was a natural consequence of ‘inappropriate dressing’.
There are so many false premises in this slippery slope of an argument that I wouldn’t know where to start. First, there’s an assumption that rape (in general, and in this specific case) appears to be a consequence of a particular action. How this can be a coherent thought, is beyond my understanding. Rape is NOT a natural consequence. No one goes around looking to be raped, nor does a woman actively behave in a manner that ‘calls out to rapists’.
Rape is the result of animalistic behaviour by individuals who have no concept of a woman’s honor and integrity, who do not understand the importance of respecting women, and who are driven by a need for dominance and an inflated sense of superiority. It’s very interesting to note that rape is thus seen as a result of how a woman dresses.
And a community that I am part of, namely, the fashion blogging community, is brought to limelight here. Many a times, fashion bloggers have been subjected to criticism by the plebeian masses for being narcissistic individuals who go above and beyond the basic call of personal aesthetics in the name of fashion. Fashion bloggers face unpleasant comments on blogs regarding their outfits, their attitudes, their music tastes and their favourite food (how this can be made into an issue, I don’t quite understand), but one understands that this is part of the trade. If you are a fashion blogger, be prepared to put up with a lot of people being unhappy with what you’re doing. Virtual cynicism and unpleasantness aside, bloggers also get dirty looks (some dirtier and more perverted than others) when posing for outdoor shoots for blog posts. Again, one tends to brush this aside, because it’s ‘part of the trade’. But really, is it? Is it okay to put up with such behaviour? Might be a bit of a rolling argument here, but what if dirty looks and lewd comments then lead up to more harmful actions? Is that something that should be tolerated as part of the trade? One wonders. The arguments that have been brought up because of the rape case that center around fashion and the way women dress has made me wonder how this affects the average fashion blogger.
Does this mean that wearing shorts and a tighter-than-usual top makes a woman a prime ‘rape’ candidate? Is her value as a human determined by the length of hemlines and the visibility of her cleavage? I don’t pose these questions because I have it all figured out. I don’t. But I can see that there is something very wrong about women being judged and vilified in this manner. What’s the solution? Every problem does have a solution, right? Right. My personal belief is that society needs a paradigm shift in how women are viewed, valued, and treated. Gone are the days when women were seen as the weaker race. (No, I’m not going to go into a feminist spiel, fear not). India, as a society, is slowly shedding its conservative layers. Some might argue this to be a corrosion of culture, but that is a debate to be left for another day. Women hold top corporate positions. Women juggle their wifely duties and their careers. Women wear pants and skirts and shorts, and ethnic wear on days that they want to. This shows that there has been a paradigm shift in society enough to allow women to be emancipated (because really, that’s what we’re talking about here, isn’t it) from their ‘supposed’ places by the kitchen stove. And yet, why does there continue to be a valuation of women that seems to decrease as the lengths of their skirts grow shorter? This shows that there still needs to be further education and development of how women are viewed. Both by men, and by women themselves. An individual’s character isn’t based on the type of garments that he/she wears. An individual’s character is determined by morals and values that has nothing to do with how he/she dresses, but by how one acts.
The false, synonymous relationship that exists between dressing and character has to be broken down. It will take time. Big changes usually do. But as I said at the beginning of this article, asking the right questions is the best possible start. This article was not written to portray one gender to be better than the other. It was merely a collection of opinions about a social issue that might give you some food for thought today.
Happy Republic Day, everyone.
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