‘Look at her wearing shorts. What an attention seeker!’
‘The way she is dressing, don’t blame boys for passing comments.’
‘Will you wear this to the office? It’s not appropriate.’
‘See her clothes. She want it.’
It might sound awful but we do live in a country where almost every other person around us seems to possess an inherited right to judge a woman’s dressing. Her clothes decide whether she is decent, vulgar, desperate or just ready to fall for you. We are in 21stcentury and women are contributing their best in every field, but still a lot of us live in a delusion that a woman dresses up to get attention. It’s a widespread belief. Based on what and how she wears, her character, personality and lifestyle is often decided. From the length of her skirt to the length of her shirt, the tightness of her jeans to the depth of her cleavage, from the height of her heels to the color of her lipstick: we are all guilty of judging women by their exterior. There can be any number of reasons why a woman might dress the way she does. Usually, it’s because she’s comfortable in it, she likes it or what she’s wearing fits with her mood that day. She might be following a trend or just trying to come out of her comfort zone. It can be any damn reason but almost never is it, “I’m wearing this because I want attention.”
Our society is extremely judgmental and people often think that they can divulge a person´s life story by analyzing someone’s appearance- the shallowest of all analysis. This outlook hasn’t ceased till date and it continues affecting women in every possible way. Almost majority of women in our country are taken in by the illusion that if they wore short (the definition of short is open to elucidation) skirts, tank tops or backless blouses, then all those unwanted stares and whistles coming their way are “anticipated and established.” They almost came in terms with this abusive behavior and as a result either they don’t wear such clothes or if they do, they know what’s coming their way. Women get catcalled walking down the street every day while they’re trying to live their lives just like everyone else. This behavior is definitely troublesome, uncomfortable and not wanted. They’re not wearing that outfit for you, so you shouldn’t assume that they are. Out of all the things in life you could be worried about, it should not be about what a woman wears.
Being a woman, I vouch for the fact that a woman likes dressing up for herself. It’s a part of our personality, our idea of expression and we have full right to decide. We choose our clothes based on how comfortable we are in them and how they make us feel. We choose them according to our panache and its no one’s business to interfere, until they are asked. But the basic problem lies in the fact that there isn’t any outfit that a woman can wear without being judged. You call us ‘slutty’ for wearing too little clothing and at the same time we’re entitled ‘behenji’ for wearing too much. A saree can bring us the same amount of censure and scorn that a skirt or noodle straps does. There doesn’t seem to be a way to win. The fact that people judge us because what we wear doesn’t approve their definition of being “acceptable” seems to be a pervasive problem. If you’re a woman, you’ve probably had this happen to you at some point in your life. You are asked to dress according to your size, age, skin and so on. It starts young, with school dress codes specifying lengths of skirt and socks and it just continues from there. From very beginning we are taught not to arise any undesirable situation because of our clothes, but never that our attires aren’t responsible for someone’s lewd and filthy mind.
The most wretched behavior emanates when we accuse a woman’s dressing for atrocious crimes such as sexual assault and rape. People will say a woman was “asking for it” because of the way she was dressed when the assault happened. They suggest that her clothes made the assaulter lose control or that her clothes meant she consented. How disgraceful and disgusting this mentality of ours is? It’s petrifying, immoral and truly inhuman. In no way, shape or form does what a woman wears have anything to do with her consent or readiness to have sex and extending this message to society is absolutely ridiculous. If we impart to our people and youth that a woman’s clothing make others lose control, we’re fostering nothing but a perception that is totally erroneous, unethical and precarious. We are contributing towards building a highly unsafe environment for women, which will never bring an end to the problem. Adjudicating women for their clothing choices is a downright harmful practice and it’s high time for our society to undergo a serious shift. We should emphasize on instilling right beliefs, behavior and ethics inside our boys rather than telling them that their right to harass a woman originates from her clothes.
It’s an ill-fated truth that our dressing choices are judged so early that we take it as an inevitable fact of our lives, even when it is not. Women are shamed and hurt and left shattered. Infact, sometimes I feel women are guiltier and more culpable in this issue. Not only most of us spend a nonsensical amount of time worrying about what other woman is wearing and her looks, but also make nasty comments. We act rutted against each other and often build walls instead of bridges. We are always combating with this unannounced competition inside us where we feel every woman is trying to take our place as a wife, boss or friend. Where we knowingly or unknowingly compare and try to prove ourselves as the best. Where we cultivate the feeling of jealousy and leave no stone unturned to make another woman feel lesser. Why can’t we just uplift one other and be each other´s “wingman”?? I am sure if women bonded together like men do, we could make a huge difference. There will positively be a solution when we all stop believing that appearances are all that matter. When we begin to concentrate on what’s inside our heads and hearts! When we stand united against every individual who is more interested in our clothes.
The change in thoughts and conduct is much needed for the overall safety and welfare of women in our country. If society continues to find this practice perfectly tolerable, it’s never going to stop. It’s strengthening the assumption that it’s okay, but it’s not and it needs to end. Next time you see a woman wearing something that you are not loving, just look away and don’t bother. You may not like it, but she does and you have no right to criticize, judge, pass comments or hurt her. Next time you find a woman taking negative plunge on another woman, stop her. Next time you hear any of your male friends analyzing a woman for her clothes, stop them. Next time you come across any such situation, don’t tolerate. Speak up rather than accepting it as usual. It’s time when people should stop focusing on what we wear and focus on our abilities and potentials. It’s time to realise that our clothes don’t convey our consent of being raped or harassed. Someone has said: ‘Never judge a book by its cover, until you’ve read the pages that are in between the book.’ Yes, it is so true, there is so much more to a woman than what she wears and how she looks. The road is long, difficult and will take time but it’s not impossible to reach our destination. It’s not impossible to change people’s opinion of what’s right and wrong. It’s not impossible to make them learn that they possess no right to judge us and intervene with our choices.
Let’s pledge on bringing change as a woman and stand up for one another. Let’s hold people and their mindsets responsible for criminalities instead of clothing. Let’s celebrate the uniqueness, let’s honour individual choices, let’s embolden one another to take risks and bravely be our best selves! Let’s build one another instead of tearing down. It’ll make this world a better place.