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Were you also asked not to wear shorts at home because there were men around? Did you wonder why you had to do so? I may have answers!
It was heartbreaking for me to find out that most of my girlfriends had been asked not to wear shorts or anything similar at a young age even at home. Why? Because there were men in the house!
Patriarchy has such deep roots in the society that more than men, sometimes women are the ones enabling and helping cement its authority over us. Instead of questioning the norms, we end up accepting them as default rules of society and comply with them all our lives.
On that note, I wonder how many of us were told as children, teens or even as 20 somethings not to wear shorts or anything that went above the knee? All because thee were men in the house! It won’t surprise me if most of you do say ‘yes!’
As a teenager, I was asked by my mother not to wear that short skirt as uncles and aunties would be visiting. But I did not have the guts or the sensibility to question the logic behind it. So, I succumbed to the ‘order’ and not just once, but many times, whenever I was asked to not wear ‘shorts’ outside of my room.
But recently, when someone on social media asked, ‘what kind of men are these?’ I felt a lump in my throat. I went back to those days and started questioning everything I was told growing up in the 90s as a girl who carried the burden of family honour in the way she dressed.
Now, as a mother of a daughter (who’s still a toddler), I had to know the reason behind my mother enabling patriarchy. I had to understand where she was coming from. And I know for a fact that I won’t be doing this to my daughter and will keep fighting it till mindsets change for the better.
Anyway, to my surprise, on asking my mother, first of all, she didn’t know she was enabling patriarchy through that act of hers. Her reason for giving me that ‘order’ was simple: “I didn’t want anyone to question me or you on your clothing choices.”
This led me to ask my friends and even those younger than me the same question and they all answered in the affirmative. These are women from middle-class/upper-middle-class educated families in the big cities who had almost ‘all’ the freedom while growing up.
A friend told me that she never wore shorts at home while growing up in the late 80s and 90s as it was never a part of their culture.
Another friend told me that the reason her parents gave her for avoiding shorts was that ‘not all people in our society have the capacity to think as we do. So, why give them another chance to utter nonsense about you?’
She also told me how her father was physically attacked for calling out a young man who was eve-teasing school girls, including his daughter. The incident, fortunately, ended with the man never being seen again after the father filed an FIR against him and the police took action.
But how many people are killed/beaten up for calling out the wrongdoers in our country? And is that why most parents prefer asking their girls to act ‘decent’ and wear clothes that don’t attract too much attention? Is that the reason why the onus always falls on the female to make sure that nothing untoward happens to her because of her choice of clothes?
Yet, we see men raping infants and older women. What’s this sickness then? A man’s body is just that but for a woman, it carries the ‘honour’ of the family?
It’s time to question the hollowness of our culture and the norms that make a girl unsafe in her own home. In 2020, we need to understand that unless we look at the root cause of the problem, things will remain the same for girls. They’ll be told to dress accordingly and be forced to feel as if they’re responsible for the heinous crimes against them.
It is time we inform the men (uncles and father’s included) that if they’re uncomfortable with what a girl wears, they better self-reflect. And they better find out the reasons for their discomfort before telling the girls to change their clothes! Or maybe they can shut themselves up in their homes and ensure there are no women around them!
To the mothers, let’s question the society first and then our own girls before we give them “orders” or request them to stick to certain dress codes.
Let’s not participate in patriarchy unaware of the power a mother has in smashing it for her daughter and for so many others!
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Aitraaz
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A former journalist, a freelance content creator and a mom blogger who can be found
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