Sunday, June 22, 2008

She does NOT invite it.

This post is in response to Chandni's post on how girls are judged by the way they dress.
I have seen most people believe that if a girl is dressed decently she will not be harassed, molested or raped. So a burqua/chador/abaya should be the safest? It isn't. Read what happens when you treat girls as objects, not as humans with their own minds, feelings and lives.

Pressure to wear appropriate clothing is a different issue, what's appropriate for office may look too stiff on a dance floor. But pressure to wear clothing that shows they respect tradition and culture of the place in all kinds of weather is only for women. Tradition and Culture are the easiest ways to control women, or even a whole population. We need to use common sense instead walking on the trodden path.

Indian men gave up traditional clothing and switched to western clothing, warm blazers, trousers and shoes and socks, women continue to wear the saree even in shivering winters and dripping monsoons. Tabu struggling with her saree in the snow, in Namesake sums up the inconvenience/impracticality of following outdated traditional/inappropriate clothing. Churidaar and kurta which came to India with the Mughals was fine for their weather (Central Asia), Indian saree made more sense for Indian summers. Today, the saree is totally accepted, in fact respected in India, but in Pakistan the same saree is considered revealing! It's less about how much is showing, more about does it indicate that the woman is breaking the norm. It's like if she smokes a cigarette (does something most women don't) she is loose, but if she smokes a bidi? Well many village women do that. No problem.

The belief is so deep seated that girls are told to dress and behave in certain ways to avoid male attention, protection becomes imprisonment very fast. And quite unnecessarily. What about child abuse? Custodial rape? Rapes of dalits by upper castes? I repeat, if clothing protected women from male attention, then Burqua clad women will face no male attention. Right? Read this.

Quite on the contrary, if women dress the way they like and men are made to understand that they will face legal action etc for harassing them, the harassment will stop. There is no other way. It's not clothing, it's not how a woman dresses, it's the way the men think. A decent guy will look away if a woman is dressed in a way that embarrasses him, he will not pass lewd remarks. A creep will pass comment on a woman of any age, dressed in any way. My mother only wears sarees, and when you see her from her back you cannot make out how old she is. Once she heard two young boys , laughing and arguing "Mine, heh heh heh !", "No Mine!" "She was in her fifties then, and she turned to see the faces of these boys, they took out their tongue to show embarrassment when they realised how old she was. Before she could react, they cycled away giggling shamelessly. And she was neither young, nor wearing revealing/nontraditional clothing.

Quoting Irfan Engineer 'Power wielding elite exploit helpless victims to satisfy their lust without any respect for dress code of any woman. The argument that ghunghat protected women from sexual lust of power wielding men will logically lead us to the conclusion that victims of rape are themselves responsible for the crime and invited the sexual assault as they were not properly clad. How do you explain rapes in police custody and sexual harassment at workplace in that case? Can one imagine a dalit landless labourer sexually assaulting an upper caste woman from a land owning family in a village however she may be dressed? Not because dalit males respect the individuality of the fairer sex but they know that the consequence of such a misadventure. What matters is, who is vested with power and social sanctions and not how one is dressed.'

Remember some of the reactions to the New Year Eve Mumbai molestation case? Our elite media, repeated many, many times, 'Girls were skimpily dressed'.

Brothers hear parents tell the girls to dress appropriately to avoid male attention, and they assume it's the girls who are responsible for any crimes committed against them. Boys are innocent, girls dress provokingly, boys get provoked! They cannot help it. How logical is that?

A city that is safe for everyone else is safe for women also. Compare Mumbai and Delhi. Crime and Law and Order situation overall, and crimes against women go together. So if we don't want crimes against women we need to ensure our cities are safe. Covering them in full sleeved kurtas and heavy dupattas will not make any difference.

We women, (specially mothers) can make so much difference.
If we just stop telling our daughters not to invite trouble by dressing daringly, do tell her to be careful, the way you'd tell your son to be careful.
Teach her how to handle emergencies. Just like you would teach a son, without frightening or blaming her. And NEVER say, she invited it. No girl invites crimes against herself.
If she tells you someone misbehaved with her, do NOT blame her! She will never have the courage to tell you again, even if she really needs your help.

Edited to add: Do we realise harassment and eve teasing has serious repercussions for girls? They are not allowed to go to school and colleges because parents are afraid they will be harassed. Read about it here.

Added on Oct 14, 2008 - When CM of Delhi thought girls should stay at home after dark, read what Quirky Indian wrote here.

24 comments:

S.M.A.R.T said...

Oh my god! This is superb... seriously! I wish I could say more... but you have left nothing else to be said... I COMPLETELY agree with you.

S.M.A.R.T said...

I've linked you on my blog :)

chandni said...

fantastic!

U say it so much better than me!!!

I guess I wanted to say exactly this...especially about culture being the easiest tool to subjugate women!

Devaki said...

You have summed up the situation perfectly IHM!

My friends and I have been molested many times in trains and on train stations (crossing the overbridge is the worst part) while going to college - and this when my college was one of those traditional ones that insist on a salwar kameez (with full or half sleeves) attire for girls! So yes, clothes have NOTHING to do with it.

It got so bad that we took to carrying large umbrellas and poking every male around us (good, bad, innocent or otherwise, we had stopped caring!) with it till we got out of the crowd! :-)

I was shocked by the incident with your mother. But yes, I can easily imagine those guys foolishly grinning and walking away - with no shame whatsoever.

Aaarti said...

Now, that was very apt and you sure hit the nail on the head about clothing and parents influence...

I've always felt girls/women are not responsible for what happens to them just cos of their clothes....
some men are wierd n think not with their brains... ;)
some are just crooked n messed up in their head...

Manpreet said...

While tradition, culture, honor, family name - all remain controlling factors only for women, there is another psyche that works behind this kind of pervert behavior. That is the 'Blame the Victim' tendency - as they put it up, as you said "she does not invite it."
Sadly, women, as mothers, as participating individuals in the society tend to view the happenings with tinted glasses. Especially the women one generation senior to us. Very well written, well linked, informative and relevant.

snigdha said...

very well written.

Sachin said...

100 % TRUE.........

"We women, (specially mothers) can make so much difference....... This is very important"....... bang on target........most of the time its mother who force here daughter on what to wear and what not to......

Pinku said...

lovely piece!!

I wish I could ask all the men i have argued with over the same topic read your views.

What I love to ask the men who give the excuse of 'the girl was dressed to provoke so we got carried away' is are u morons? dont u have a brain of ur own? Incase the same woman asked u to jump into a well would u do it? Then why be led by her only in the matter of molestation? Even if we are to believe that 'she was asking for it'.

Thought Room said...

While I agree with you IHM, I would also like to add, that a mother tells and forces her daughter to wear a certain dress code, because of what she fears will happen to her daughter. Fear is the clink, while she might know that it will not help much, she at least hopes it might. While a mother advices her daughter, she should also go about advising her son on how to treat women. While our education is fantastic if we want to be zombie engineers and doctors, there is hardly any education from either parents or other educational institution on civility and how to treat others. A boy usually grows up in our society believing the world revolves around him, and he has the right to have as much ‘fun’ as possible, even at the cost of some one else. What he learns at the cradle he takes to the grave. We could do better teaching our sons how to behave as humans rather than tell our daughters that it is ok to fight back

@lankr1ta said...

IHM, this is a good post. A really good one. I will just add one thing to it. it is a mechanism that I feel has helped me learn to cope in the best possible way. I just stopped bothering about people a long while ago. It was difficult, very. But it let me live as I wanted to. What helped my attitude was how I had been brought up- my parents had not made "what will people say" their mantra of control- indeed my mother still says "Society, what society, we make society". but apart from that oasis of liberalism there was a dark ages mired world. And like any other young person , when I tried to "fit in" I found I felt more and more stupid.
So after a while, the defense developed. I dropped "friends", snubbed relatives and in general gave a damn- for a while. And now, no-one's opinion matters. I freed myself from it.
But it is not for everyone, and for young people the damage usually is done very early. I wish there were more people like you.

Unmana said...

Great post, IHM. Good for you!

I completely agree with Alankrita's comment, too. Give a damn to what others say or think and decide what you want to do.

Kislay said...

A woman's dressing sense, has nothing to with her being molested or raped is what I believe . In fact I think physical appearance has less to do with it than the sickness of the perpratator's mind . I remeber reading about a dalit women who was raped by some upper caste men in Rajasthan , and the panchayat let them go , because , how in the world can upper caste men be attracted to a dalit woman ? Atrocious !

La vida Loca said...

Looovveeeeeee it!
well said!

churningthewordmill said...

hmmm.. i am wondering if legal actions will get the men to stop what they do.. it may act as a deterrant... but i dont think it will bring a complete stop to harassment of women... its nt just the laws we make ...its also how well they get imokimented...the domestic violence act hasnt stopped domestic violence all together..but yes, legal provisions are a step forward...

Indian Home Maker said...

Smart Linked yours too:)

Chandni Love all your 'causes' posts...each one always strikes a chord with me. I have argued about this so many times...

Devaki Umbrellas and safety pins were our weapons too! Hats off to Indian girls, they face all this and still are doing so well:)

Aaarti Girls are only as much to be blamed for being molested, as Senior Citizens for being assaulted while living alone.

Manpreet I completely agree with you. We find it easy to blame the victim. It starts with 'if only they had been careful' and ends with more open, full fledged accusations.

Snigdha Thanks, Welcome and hope to see you hear again:)

Sachin Also women need to be very clear and very firm with their sons that this is not acceptable behaviour, and there should be no excuses like 'Boys will be Boys'.

Pinku Exactly the kind of questions I would like to ask. The fact is the more we suppress women, the bolder will the offenders become. A society that values women will not face day to day, brazen harassment.

Thought Room Love how you have put it,'what he learns at the cradle he takes to the grave'! We do make our boys feel they can get away with murder and girls are made to feel they are lucky they are being allowed education...or (in the past decade) even allowed to be born! So obviously they feel like spoiled nawabs!

@lamkrita Please convey my regards to your mom. The more I hear about her the more I am in awe of her. You are a lucky daughter:)

Unmana True and I wish more and more people feel this way!

Kislay Absolutely atrocious and what warped mentality these panchayats have! Reminds me of 'God of small things'.

La vida Loca Thanks:)And am really glad nobody disagreed, or am I saying it too soon?

Mandira Yes, you said it, favourable law is the first, crucial step. With legal action at least the victim knows the offender can be punished.

Blogbharti said...

Pingback from Blogbharti: [...]Chandni posted about how clothes make not just the woman, but her image as well[...]

Manasa said...

Well written.

Completely agree with you. Just like "Bad toolsman always blames his tools", women are always blamed if men are provoked. I really don't get the proper stand for this.

It is better to ignore people's advices and lead the life as wish. Only then we will be pleased with ourselves :)

Indian Home Maker said...

Sudipta Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!

Manasa Yeah, only if we are pleased with ourselves will be able to take care of ourselves...and of such attitudes:)

Freya said...

Perverts have the ability to picture a woman naked even she's dressed up like one of the nuns in The Sound Of Music.

so, it's evident that women invite nothing. Rape is not a compliment and neither is it pleasurable.

nimis540 said...

....sigh...u kow y stand on this...


hell i hate people teling me 'don't complian if you get raed,boz u not wearing pardha'.holy crap...

more aftr getting new keybrd

Indian Home Maker said...

@Freya Absolutely! It's good to meet women who can see the hypocrisy of this blaming the victim excuses we come up with :)

@Nimmy We should know we are not to be blamed. Remember the recent horrific incident of a Nun being raped in Orissa? And she was embarrassed and ashamed, if someone had hurt her or wounded her or stolen her money she would have been furious. This is what I hate about our culture. She was a victim of a crime, just another heinous crime. Rape and honor should NEVER be connected.

VISHISHTA SAM said...

i totally agree with you on this one....

infact i had done research on how people perceive instances of sexual harassment in my own university in kerala...and a majority of the respondents felt that women tend attract trouble by their dressing...even a few members on board of the gender justice committees, which looks into such complaints

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