Answer by Raakhee Venugopal
Thank you for the A2A.
As the question is directed towards men, I don’t know if I ought to be answering this. But…I’ll try.
The perception of scantily clad women differs from society to society. Some crowds tend to be overly judgmental and jump into conclusions that if a woman is seen sporting a skirt that shows her legs, ‘she’s asking for it’…whatever ‘it’ means (pun intended). And there are others where people don’t care if a woman practically prances about in a bikini top and a tutu.
In my country, India, the sense of fashion has evolved like no other over the centuries. The statuettes of women at the major archaeological sites of India are testimony to this. A woman was not seen merely as a sexual object back then. Here I am talking of warrior queens and other extremely powerful women who even led men into war. It was a common sight to see women dressed like this in regular society…
In my home state Kerala, a lot of women didn’t even cover their breasts. It was no big deal. Nobody even cared. It was as normal to see a woman with a bare chest on the street as it was to see a bare-chested man. Slowly, and with the entry of foreign settlers from far more conservative societies into the country, modesty issues started to creep in. Women began to cover up subtly for the sake of protection from greedy prying eyes of strange men…something that they were clearly not accustomed to.
Over the years, more and more people from foreign lands came and made India their home and for the sake of their own safety, the women were forced to literally wrap themselves up like burritos by the turn of the century! And thus evolved the saree.
And this trend stuck. It became a ‘universal truth’ that a ‘fully covered’ woman is morally perfect and that a woman who dares to even show her midriff is a fallen one. Any amount of skin-show was severely looked down upon and a woman who showed some skin verily brought ‘bad name’ to her family. And thus, walking ‘burritos’ became a common sight and slender waistlines became hidden forever. So much so that men started to yearn to see at least some skin and went to great lengths to do so. Hello there all you peeping toms. Yes, I was talking about how y’all originated.
So this yearning gradually became a part of our genetic make-up. It was basically a thirst for something that was denied to us by society…something that was there all along and was suddenly eradicated overnight. Even today, men feast their eyes on some skin-show. Yes, they may be the same men who judge a woman for what she is wearing, but not before they’ve had a good look themselves. Once I saw a classmate of mine staring with a dazed look at the impressively low neckline of the dress of a girl walking in front of us. It looked something like this…
He seemed to be in a trance and I asked him what the heck he found so ‘hot’ in a simple back? ‘It’s like a beige colored wall‘ I told him. He said it gives him a weird tingling feeling. And then he said that girls shouldn’t really be wearing such ‘revealing’ clothes. Eh?
Once I got ragged by boys from the senior batch for wearing a dupatta like this to college.
I was asked point blank why I’m even wearing the dupatta and if I think that it serves the ‘purpose’. I curtly replied that I’m not wearing it to serve any ‘purpose’ and that I’m wearing it just because it goes well with the dress. I never allowed anyone to dictate what I should wear and what I shouldn’t.
So people basically judge you anyway. And it’s not just men, mind you. Women themselves are the biggest and most ruthless critics of other women. I strongly believe that many of the notions that men have today about how an ‘ideal woman’ should be have actually been masterminded by other women. I don’t blame men entirely for judging a woman for what she wears. Such societal standards have been laid down by some very regressive women.
It’s too late to bring about major changes now. People may demand and cry for men to ‘change their perspective’ and all that mumbo-jumbo. But you and I know that that is not happening any time soon. Women will continue to be objectified in mass media and men will continue to have notions of excessive (who defines the limits here?) skin show to be equivalent to a ‘loose woman’. And trust me, there is really not much we could do about it. Because sleaze sells. Yup!
I do admit that I don’t dress ‘provocatively’ at all. I’m rather ashamed to use that word, but I have no choice. I groom myself well and refrain from showing too much skin. Part of that is because I live in a middle-eastern country and I respect the traditions of this land. And part of it is because of how uncomfortable I feel when men appear to have lost their ability to think when they lay their eyes on some curves. Add some bare skin to that and there you go…‘Are you married?’…’What are you doing this evening?’…’Why don’t we go out for a coffee/dinner?’ -_-
This is the kind of provocation I dread. I find it rather demeaning to my individuality and self-respect when a man chooses to give more importance to my body than to my intelligence. And I would do anything to keep his attention on what I say than on my neckline. I honestly don’t think that I need to show my skin to get somebody’s attention. That’s one cheat code I wouldn’t use at all. No, thank you.
A lot of women tend to misuse this weakness of men to their advantage. We have all seen such cases, haven’t we?
Of course they get their way…uh, ‘charm’ their way to the top, rather. And it really shouldn’t surprise them if the ones they are trying to ‘charm’ ask for return ‘favors’. Because, ‘she’s showing her skin means that she’s indirectly declaring her readiness for anything’. But the fact of the matter is that such women do not realize how quickly they may be replaced. A sound brain always lasts longer…mentally and physically…than a sound booty. Ahem! All this is in a professional environment.
In India, on the streets, women who wear scanty clothes are still stared at rather shamelessly by both men (who are in all probability imagining them gyrating to the latest ‘item’ song from a Bollywood movie) and women (who are basically collecting mental data for shaming them later on).
If a woman gets molested, people are quick to declare ‘Humph! This was bound to happen sooner or later. Haven’t you seen the kind of dresses she wears? It looks like she’s walking around in her underwear! Tsk! Tsk! The girls today, I tell you. Why should you blame the men? Men will always be men. It’s the girls who are bringing this on themselves.‘
People talk shit. And Indians are extremely concerned about what society thinks of them and theirs. The phrase ‘log kya kahengey?‘ (what will people say?) is one of the most commonly used ones in every Indian household. Yes, morality is deeply related to what a woman wears where I come from. A girl who chooses to dress in a skin-tight T-shirt and a pair of mini shorts is likely to never land herself a ‘decent proposal’ for marriage from a ‘suitable boy’. This is pretty common. But like I said earlier, more than the men, it’s the women who are even more ruthless judges. Men’s ideologies on this subject are basically a mirror of what some women have expressed. People are a little bit more liberal in their fashion sense in the big cities.
The more you go into the rural side, the more intense the intolerance gets.
Phew! That was long. Got a bit carried away 😀