Yesudas strikes a sour note with comments on women’s attire

October 03, 2014 12:28 pm | Updated May 23, 2016 04:46 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Singer K.J Yesudas. File Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Singer K.J Yesudas. File Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

“What should be covered must be covered. Women should not trouble others by wearing jeans,” K.J. Yesudas, musician, said here on Friday, inviting protests from political leaders, women’s groups and the public.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the Gandhi Jayanthi cleanliness drive at the Sri Swathi Thirunal College of Music here.

When women wear jeans, people are tempted to pay attention to what is beyond it, thus forcing them to do undesirable things, the well-known singer said. “They [women] should not try to become like men but must behave modestly,” he continued. The attire, he said, is unbecoming of Indian culture and what lends beauty to a woman is her demureness.

While the programme went ahead without protests, women’s groups took out marches later in the city. “Utterly tasteless and unworthy of such a great cultural artist,” was how CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat reacted when The Hindu spoke to her on Friday. “A person of his stature should be standing on the side of women in their fight against violence instead of putting his weight behind those justifying the violence and blaming them for the dress they wear,” she said while asking Mr. Yesudas to withdraw his statements immediately. Activist K. Ajitha said the acclaimed singer had acted like a typical male chauvinist. “It is now well accepted that the sexist attitude of male was behind rape and not the dress code of women,” she said while observing that the comment only betrayed the sexist streak in the singer.

Noted writer Sara Joseph said there was something wrong with the mindset of people who found fault with the way women dressed. “Jeans are a globally accepted outfit and there is nothing wrong in wearing it,” she said. Shooting holes in Mr. Yesudas’s argument against jeans by linking it to morality and culture, Ms. Joseph noted that the dress was widely used by women in the United States, where the singer spent much of his time. .

Film-maker Geetu Mohandas, whose debut feature film Liar’s Dice is the country’s official entry for the 87th Academy Awards, was cautious in her reaction while staying clear of “mindless blaming of a well-respected and gifted individual”. “But I would like to say that every citizen in our democratic country has the freedom and right to wear a dress of their choice,” she said.

The singer’s comments found an echo on social networking websites with sentiments ranging from deep disappointment and outrage to support for his freedom of expression

An unfortunate fallout of the social media outrage saw his daughters-in-law being dragged into the controversy, with users uploading photographs of them in jeans captioned with a question on the singer’s “hypocrisy”.

( With additional reporting by G. Krishnakumar and M.P. Praveen)

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