This is something I have been meaning to write about for a long time now, but maybe because I relate so closely to this topic and maybe because of how much it angers me to even think about it, I kept putting it off. Not anymore though. Can we please talk about how clothes cause harassment?
It’s simple. They don’t.
Harassers cause harassment. Molesters cause molestation. Rapists cause rape. Your shorts don’t cause harassment, molestation or rape.
Every now and then we come across stupid politicians (I’m sorry, I have no other adjective that conveys how I feel about them) talking about how western dresses are the leading cause of rape. How salwar kameez and saris will magically pevent harassment. How covering a woman from head to toe will ensure her safety on the streets. Can I just point out to them that there is Nothing to indicate that a woman wearing a sari is any less likely to be teased than a woman in a skirt. Every woman in India, whether she wears a duaptta with her full sleeved salwar or tiny shorts, looks over her shoulders repeatedly while walking on the street, bows her head and resolutely ignores the whistles and the stares. Also, while I am at it, can I also just point out that clothes do not cause rape, that a man raping is the cause of rape. It’s really not rocket science, I don’t know why people fail to understand this simple concept.
What I’m trying to say is that a woman has the right to wear whatever she wants and that she should be able to walk in her own country without earning disapproving glances for her bare legs or exposed cleavage. The sad reality, however, is that a woman wearing a short skirt is apparently ‘asking for it’. Yeah right. You really think a woman walked into a store and asked for a skirt that made her look like she wanted to be raped? I think not. Short clothes are not an invitation for unwanted advances, clothes do not make sluts of women (and incidentally, I am not attaching value judgements on the word slut. But I’ll write another article on that later)
The logic that says that women in short clothes are the problem and that burqas are the solution to rape is the same one which says that to prevent people on peeing on walls, one must remove the walls. Let’s be clear on one thing, if we are still not on the same page- If the problem is rape, the cause of the problem is rapists, okay? Now when we have a problem, we try to eradicate the cause of the problem, right? Only, that is not how it is working here. Instead of trying to educate our boys better, we tell our girls to be safe. How can any problem be solved if we are not trying to reform the basic cause of the problem? It won’t. Covering girls up is not a solution.
And where will it stop, this bid to cover the girls up so that guys don’t jizz in their pants? It begins with a ban on shorts in educational institutes. The reason given is that exposed legs distract the boys and take away their attention from education. Really? If a boy is getting distracted, isn’t that his problem? Where will it stop? Will you ask pretty girls to cover their faces because they distract boys too? And who is to decide who is pretty? Will it end only when your classrooms are filled by women in burqas, merely their eyes exposed to look at society’s double standards? Because by your logic, that is the only solution.
Don’t stand there in your pants and shirts and talk about how westernization of apparel is bringing about rape. If my skirt is western, so is your shirt. You should ideally be walking around in a dhoti if you are saying that girls should don a saree at all times. Double standards at work. We live in a world that is moving with the time, a globalized world. Sadly, I can’t say the same for your mentality.
Educate your boys instead to keeping your girls at home. Tell them that rape is wrong, irrespective of whether the girl is in a micro mini or in a burqa. A short skirt is not a synonym of ‘asking for it.’ Teach them that exposed legs are not an invitation for him to leer and pass comments. That mentally undressing a woman is wrong. That his stares make her uncomfortable.
Maybe if we all did that, there will come a day when girls won’t have to carry scarves every time they step out of the house. What can I say? I live in hope.