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Can I Wear The Pants In The House?!

Posted: April 5, 2019

Chafing against the dress codes that insist girls and women dress a certain “appropriate” way, Richa Mukherjee writes what can only be a tongue-in-cheek rant! 

‘Mamma, this is boy clothing’
‘No it is not. You dress according to the weather, occasion or environment, there is nothing boy girl about clothes.
‘Then mamma, why do I have to wear a skirt to school if there are no boy girl clothes?’

Admittedly, I was stumped after this exchange with my 5 year old daughter. And just then I read another article that spoke of some young girls in the US who had started a petition a few years ago, protesting the ‘skirts-only’ rule for girls in their school. A few years later now, a federal judge has ruled in their favour, striking down the rule as discriminatory and unconstitutional. Really, what is with codes of dressing for girls and women. Isn’t the daily school and work and home grind exacting enough that we must have to look and dress a certain way as well?

Of course, what girl or women doesn’t like to play dress up? But just like there is free and fair choice in how one chooses between a brinjal or potato sabzi, or between prawn curry and chicken without wondering if the chicken was attired appropriately in its previous life, the same courtesy should be extended in wardrobe matters as well.

I grew up watching my mother do everything in a sari. With the pallu on her head that never moved in the presence of her in-laws (I used to think she had stuck it on with glue) Sweating, exercising, running after us, cooking, entertaining, everything in a sari. It took her many years to break out of the mould created for her and at 60 years of age she finally wore a salwar kameez and I still remember how she smiled. I don’t think I have that kind of patience.

What my daughter said really made me think. She often complains that because of the exposed legs, she is always being bitten by mosquitoes. Girls also have to sit a certain way because there are curious eyes around, waiting for the gateways to open. It is distracting to say the least. My mom-in-law who is a former teacher had to constantly make hand signals for some carefree girls in class who couldn’t be bothered about ‘sitting properly’ in class.

I personally appreciated skirts in school during summer months and was grateful for the ‘extra havaa’ that we were treated to down there, but this attire came to bite me in the bum when I hit puberty. Let’s just say I was a tad hairy and I was forced to think about what should be non-issues when one is in school. Waxing! My parents couldn’t care less but some friends made me feel like I was a female Anil Kapoor! Despite the goading and shoving, I refused to wax my legs and I’m sure my school sweetheart at the time had a few nightmares about them. See? He could have been spared had I been given an option of wearing pants.

Why just school? Look at the workplace. Look at educational institutes. During my MBA days, guess what our daily wear was supposed to be? Salwar Kameez. Don’t get me wrong, I love wearing them. But not on a daily basis. So instead of celebrating the last few days before leaving for B-school with my parents over dinners and movies, my mother was absconding the entire time, since she was sitting at the tailor with mountains of kapda pieces, and the dizzy tailor churning out sets by the dozen.

Why should I have to spend a mini fortune buying an entire wardrobe to adhere to an institute’s sense of looking ‘Indian’ or their standards of acceptable clothing for women. Worse still, my uniform was a sari. Now imagine, for so many of us who had never wrapped saris ourselves, during interviews and placements and some external exams, when we could have focused on our minds, we had to fidget with what was on our bodies. Does that make any sense? During those early morning hours, struggling with sari folds, boy was I envious of some of the local Maharashtrian ladies who were wearing their traditional (pant- like) drapes (nauvari).

In Japan, women have started a movement against being forced to wear heels at the workplace. Even in the UK. In many colleges across India, girls are protesting about rigid and archaic dressing codes. The protests are building because practices that do not make sense anymore, need to be questioned and changed.

To the powers that be (including women who often sit on these cult like decision making panels): What is it that you’re afraid of? That if women don’t apply enough make up, dress demurely, don’t potter around in skirts then they will start looking like men? Slim chance of that happening. Clothes maketh a man for sure, but there is so much substance beneath, that what women wear doesn’t matter beyond a point.

Image source: Pixabay

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Richa started her writing journey as a child, scribbling away poems and stories for her

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