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The dress code debate

(From left) Sindhura S., Kavitha Manohar, Rehana R., Anikha S. Kumar, and Amrutha M. A. Photo: Athira M.   | Photo Credit: Athira M.

Do women invite unwanted attention with what they wear? Should others tell them what to wear and how? How can they stand up to this sort of moral policing?

I was at the Mahatma Gandhi College with these questions and seeing a seminar hall almost full with students, with girls forming a majority, I was prepared for a cracker of a debate. And I was not disappointed.

While Kavya Mohan, a first year postgraduate student of English literature, says “It’s my choice,” Gayathri Sankar, a first year postgraduate student of Chemistry, adds that it is also about making the right choice. “I studied in a convent school where we had a dress code and so when I joined Government Women’s College for my undergraduate degree I felt like a free bird. I dressed pretty much the way I wanted to. It was only much later I learnt that it didn’t suit me at all! Now I have come to understand that you don’t wear a dress, but a dress wears you. But that doesn’t mean you should go by what others say. Wear something that goes with your personality,” Gayathri says. Anikha S. Kumar, a second year undergraduate student of Economics, tells the group that some of her seniors insist that first year students wear a dupatta with their salwar kameez. “It is a kind of infringement on our freedom. However, most of us obey fearing repercussions...,” she says.

The men, though few in number, too join in the discussion. Renjith Babu, a first year postgraduate student of English, has a word of advice. “If somebody makes a comment on what you wear, just ignore. They will give up after sometime. Do we want to live in such a narrow-minded society where women are not given the freedom to wear what they want?” he asks. However, when he made a suggestion about how in the West, especially the United States, wearing “short and bold dresses are fine,” Meenu C. Nayar, a first year postgraduate student of Chemistry, was quick to point that it is an image projected by the media.

The discussion picked up steam when Kavitha Manohar, a second year undergraduate student of Sociology, put forth her opinions. “It is unfortunate that we have a society that thinks that the way a woman dress can lead to rape! I have always worn what I liked. I am appalled to learn that certain school/college managements insist that teachers wear only saris. Today, I am proud to say that I have been part of a successful legal battle fought by my sister against a private management on this issue,” says Kavitha. Aswathy Krishna, a post graduate student of Economics, got unanimous support when she came down heavily upon those who are against women wearing tops and jeans. “We are a free nation and nobody can dictate what the other should wear,” she says.

Meanwhile Ananthu M. B. Nair, a first year undergraduate student of Sociology, had a point to make about how young women should dress in public. “I have been taught by my family to respect women. But when I find that one of the girls in my friends’ group is wearing a dress that doesn’t suit her, I immediately tell her that in person,” he says.

Meanwhile, Amrutha M. A., a second year undergraduate student of English, feels that throughout the discussion all of her college mates forgot about the fact that there was a time in Kerala when a section of women weren’t allowed to cover the upper part of the body. “And here we are discussing about what one should wear!” she says. But her comment that wearing jeans is not suitable for women created quite a pandemonium. Sindhura S., a first year undergraduate student of sociology, Amrutha Pradeep, a first year postgraduate student of English and her classmate Malavika Viswanath were among those who vehemently protested, saying it is one of the most comfortable clothes to wear.

As more points were raised and argued, there was a consensus on one point: that nobody needs to dictate to a woman what she should wear. Before the discussion ended, Gautham Srikumar, a second year undergraduate student of Economics, made a point worth pondering. “We all say that India is a developing country. But are we really? I believe that development also involves breaking free from the so-called restrictions and concepts about dressing. After all, it is one’s choice,” he says.

(A monthly column on views from campus)

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 4:42:33 AM |

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