Women’s choice of clothing has always been a subject of hot-discussion. The veil, in particular, is widely debated. There are variegated perspectives to the concept of veil–some view it as a symbol of oppression and some perceive it as a sign of modesty and pride and the rest as a personal choice. The veil becomes taxing when women clad it rather as an obligation than as a matter of individual choice. How would it feel to clad yourself in an imposed clothing? Jean Sasson describes how it exactly feels like to be inside a forced veil in one of her memoirs: “When I walked out…into the blazing hot sun, I gasped for breath and sucked furiously through the sheer black fabric. The air tasted stale and dry as it filtered through the thin gauzy cloth….The sky was no longer blue, the glow of the sun has dimmed; my heart plunged to my stomach when I realized that, from that moment, outside my home I would not experience life as it really is in all its color. The world…seemed a dull place….I groped and stumbled…fearful of breaking an ankle or leg”. Put yourself into her shoes and read it again! Didn’t you feel claustrophobic? Is it right to restrict women from exploring the world through her senses without barriers? Does she not have the right to feel the weather, to see the world, to listen to the sound, to smell the earth, and to speak directly in the natural way God intended? This is God’s own glorious Kingdom and every human being deserves the right to perceive this world with the God-gifted senses of perception. Why should a woman conceal herself from all the glory of the world? No offense, as long as a veil is a woman’s willful choice.
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It is not just about the specific system of veiling. Women across the globe irrespective of their race, religion, and culture are taught to dress “appropriately”. But the point is “What is ‘appropriate’?” The scale and definition of “appropriateness” differ from person to person. What is modest to one needn’t necessarily be so to another. So, it’s incorrect to gauge someone’s modesty using one’s own definition of it. Moreover, every woman dons what she feels is modest and convenient to her. In most discussions of women’s style of cladding, it is men who set standards. Why is the dress code for women dictated by men? A dress is something that must be cozy to the one who dons it. But unfortunately, into this women’s arena men pierce their opinions and standards. Women definitely don’t dress up to titillate men. Then why do men barge into her style of dressing up? What if women frame dress codes for men? What if women ask the men race to cover themselves? But men are never asked to do so. The most cited reason to this is that men are not tantalizing like women.
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A woman’s top to toe seems quiet inviting and enticing to men. If that be the case, there are two divisions of the society involved in the issue—the men (the so called “the tempted”) and the women (the so called “the tempter”). Firstly as far as the women are concerned she is just a human being bestowed with the natural feminine physique. There is nothing weird about a woman’s physique that man has to go hullaballo over it. It really was a daring blow to the male-chauvinists when Deepika Padukone retorted in her tweet: “YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??” She has represented every woman’s voice—every woman, who had been leered at and catcalled no matter how well-clad and covered she had been. So now, secondly, coming to the other half of the human community, the men or the tempted, if women’s natural god bestowed physique is alluring to them, then the problem is in the men’s perspective. Why do men blow women’s anatomy out of proportion? Why do men set their moral ethos so low that just by a sight of a woman they lose self-control? A woman is never there to entice men. But if a man feels to be enchanted by her, it is his fault. He is lacking the right attitude towards women—the attitude which women hold towards men even if men aren’t veiled. It is better to work on men’s psychological attitude rather than accusing women’s physical appearance. No garb can be safe for women as long as men scan them like “that”. Rather, in the present day scenario where fully clad women to innocent toddlers become preys of sexual assault, a perspective refinement in men would really make a difference.A Delhi auto-rickshaw driver’s perspective shift after attending a recent gender sensitization program testifies it: “We used to think ‘I only had a little look at what she was wearing’ or ‘I only made that comment for her own good’ but now we realise that it’s really none of our business and we should not judge women, but respect them.” (Reuters)
All these asunder, if men still can’t change their perspective (God forbid!) and if men can’t control their desires, why should women conceal themselves? Why should women pay the price for men’s infirmities? If the problem is with the men, the medication should be given to the men. So why not a blindfold for men? Does it sound rude? Indeed it is! How can one half of humanity restrict the other half’s basic rights? That is exactly how a woman feels when men set standards for her clothes. Neither a blindfold nor a veil! Let’s walk shoulder-to-shoulder! With a right perspective! Towards a glorious future! P.S. : 1. No offence to any religion intended. It is just about the practice of imposed garbs on women that exists throughout the globe. 2. Ethnic or Western robe, veiled or not, it’s all individual’s choice. Respect a woman despite whatever she wears.
About the Author: This article is contributed by Gayathri Devi. Gayathri has completed her M.Phil. in English Literature from Tamilnadu. Literature instilled her in the thoughts of feminism. And gradually, she was attracted towards this concept and she says it has changed many of her perspectives towards our community & that is how she landed to Respect Women.