Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Slut Walk and Being Trendy

Reading Annie Zaidi on Slut Walk made me change my view on it. Some what. Do not know how much.

For the first time I went into the mind of a pretty/beautiful/modern woman and thought of the dilemma she faces each day: will they criticise/deride this, will men be provoked to extremes, what will other women think, etc., because a woman is very vulnerable in our society. She wants to be a part of the mainstream, but she can't work after 9.30 because of some stupid rule, cannot freely walk because the roads are full of prurient men with their overgrown libidos. She is straining at the leash of being independent, successful and is somewhat cheesed off (-:humbly beg pardon for the term:-) at having to justify even what she wears everyday when a man can wear a track suit pant or shorts to office and still be considered a trendy dresser. (I have seen men dressed even worse. How about a trouser ironed at the sides with a shoes so pointed he has to step around gingerly in the cramped office. He dashed his toes against my chair and when another guy came wearing pointed shoes I had difficulty navigating the very short space which was left after we accommodated the sticky and muddy pieces sticking out like a dirty cow's hoof. Hm. More on this unsavoury subject in another post.)

Clothes is a sign of a woman's emancipation. While I understand a woman's need to express herself through her clothes, there are women in India who are comfortable wearing traditional dress. With great difficulty I persuaded my wife to wear a salvaar-kameez. The reason is though she is from Kerala I want her to be a little more in tune with Bombay and the way women dress here. (All men want women to be trendy. Amitabh once mentioned he likes women to be trendy. Jaya is a very conservative dresser as is my wife.) The reason wifey gave me is that all her friends at school and in church wear saris so she would prefer to wear it than anything more trendy. A majority of Indian women are conservative dressers. So the subject under discussion is "what is trendy?" and what exceeds the limits of being trendy. How do we define this? How do we get across to men that women who want to be trendy should dress thusly and should be allowed to do so without cat calls and wolf whistles.

There are women who would like to dress trendily and those who do not. Wifey is of the latter category. It's her choice. Today I saw a girl covered entirely in a wrap leaving only a small aperture for the eyes. This is a trend I have noticed increasingly in Bombay. In a free country nobody has forced her to do so, but she prefers this to being teased on the streets and stations. There is no dilemma she has faced as Orhan Pamuk mentioned in his novel Snow. Yet she covers herself to make herself unrecognisable for some reason only known to her.

So assuming the way she dresses is a personal thing and nobody's business, a woman would discover what she is comfortable in after a few trials and stick to that kind of dressing. I have seen women who only wear suits, I have seen women who only wear trousers and tops, I have also seen women who only wear skirts. I am a great watcher of women's fashions and my life would be drab if all women wore saris and salwar-kameezes. I like to notice the trend, the variety, the ultimate self-expression that is women's fashion.

Fashion! Why didn't anybody mention that much-maligned word.

For a woman what she wears is what is trendy and accepted by her friends as in fashion. She thinks being left out of the fashion race would be amounting to accepting defeat. Being fashionable is akin to losing her identity and hard-won freedom to be be what she is. So what is fashionable and what is not. What is trendy and what is not.

So the Canadian policemen chum who mentioned "Women should stop dressing like sluts," or something to that effect needs a round of strong condemnation. "How would you like to be punched and kicked in the solar plexus with stilettos dear sir?" You have denuded Amazon forests with the sheer verbiage you have unleashed on the poor suffering world. How could you do this to us sir?

But what I wouldn't condone is women wearing revealing dresses in the workplace. It defeat the purpose of business if a woman wear something provocative in the office and the whole office in some sexual frenzy instead of working. I have noticed that some Indian women - don't crucify me for that, I said "some" - do not understand the concept of formal dressing for business occasions. So classes for formal dressing would be in order. Right? Who wants me as tutor?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Complex Post. This transmit helped me in my college assignment. Thnaks Alot

John P Matthew said...

What no comments? Ye ol' friends and fellow conspirators, do comment :)

Vaani Manoja said...

in my  opinion, i do not think that this article really does justice to the title for it captures very little essence of the concept slutwalk. the fact that the problem is not what a woman wears but what the  voyeur misinterprets it to be has not really come up.  i am reminded irresistibly of something i read a while back "it is not necessary to be female to be a feminist, but to know what a woman goes through, one has to be a woman."

John P Matthew said...

Hi Vaani,

Understand perfectly that you need to be a woman to experience what she goes
through. I, being a man, was trying take a peek into her world. I perfectly
understand your sentiment.

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