That day, the silence of the class was broken by Nalini entering the room, out of breath.
Our math professor turned around to look at her. One glance, and she was dismissed. Not because she was late, no. But because she wasn’t wearing clothes “appropriate” for class. It was a round-neck T-shirt that did not have sleeves. She didn’t look indecent in it, but again, the definition of decency is different for all of us.
A woman showing “too much skin” has always been a problem, not just in my college, but everywhere. She is labelled “too bold”, looked down upon. Her intelligence is questioned, and her talents are not given a chance.
What I fail to understand is, who decides the extent of the amount of skin we women are allowed to reveal? Who gave men the authority to tell us what “too much” is?
The fact that men notice a woman’s cleavage means they were staring at her breasts. Are women to be blamed for all the perverted thoughts of men?
If I wear a short skirt and a crop top to go out with my friends today, I’ll be attracting a lot of attention. I will be on the receiving end of a lot of reprimanding stares from the elderly. I will be subject to cat calling and verbal abuse. You can’t tell me that this sort of conservation in clothes is in our culture because the temples that we visit, built hundreds of years ago, proudly hold statues of naked gods and goddesses.
Nalini was sent out of class because my professor thought she was showing too much skin. Why was he noticing what she was wearing? When he turned to look at her, what was he looking at if not see her face covered with a layer of sweat?
My friend studying in the States does not face this problem. Her attire doesn’t bring her into the limelight like this. I believe this is because of the stereotype we have allowed to be built in our country over the years. Instead of curbing the freedom we give to our girls, we must teach our boys that the clothes worn by someone do not define who they are and what they want. They need to understand that wearing what women is a personal choice, just like it is a choice for men.
It isn’t an indication that a girl is looking for male attention. Many tourists visiting the beaches in India face this problem. I blame the stereotype that men have developed in our country about women’s attire.
This stereotype can only be broken by us. We can’t blame the previous generations or the men that have been brought up to believe this. What we can do is to direct those reprimanding stares at the source of the catcalling voices instead of the subject of cat calling. That, I believe, will be a start to achieve the seemingly Utopian dream of true equality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article is written by Pranati Yellapantula, our intern.