[VoxSpace Selects] How Indian Women Are Constantly Criticized For Wearing Their Minds

Is Women Liberation To Wear Their Mind A Myth?

Since times immemorial, the reign on women’s body has been vested in the hands of the male. Even a layman can understand – if one tries to, that is – how patriarchy has categorized women on the basis of the kind of dresses they “choose” to wear. And in India, the pressure on women to dress “appropriately” is even worse. Of course, we are considering “democratic” and “modern” countries here, which have “allowed” its women to harbor dreams of their own.

Coming back to India, the politicization of dresses is kind of tricky here. Women nowadays are “allowed” to wear literally anything they wish – from miniskirts to dresses. However, if you choose to wear the same, mind you, there is 60% chance of you being ogled at (if you are in a big city – wearing your mind does not really apply to smaller towns). Of course, there will be uneducated few who had not ever seen women in short clothes – but then there are some hypocrite few, who will themselves tend to wear “modern” clothes but will not be able to stand even an inch shorter than their idea of the “right” length. This has been quite a common debate for quite some time, which was once again sparked in the Gurgaon slut shaming controversy, where a mid-aged woman declared a woman worthy of being raped for wearing a relatively shorter dress in public. Mind you, this lady was herself pictured on Facebook wearing a dress. Although she did delete the picture later on, in this age of social media, it is a game to retrieve images back.

Gurugram Residents Respond to Viral Moral Policing Video | The Quint

Now many of you might say or think that shorter dress or a bit of skin show is better relegated to the “celebrities” – actresses or the social media influencers – and not the “common” girl, who has to run errands out about in the public or has to go to a regular 9 to 6 job. But are these so-called “celebrities” – who are, after, all Indian women – safe from being criticized and slut-shamed? I am afraid, not! Simply go through the gallery of any of these women celebrities on any of the social media platforms, and you will know how much they are slut-shamed and called names for wearing their minds. No matter how much “my body, my rules” campaigns get established, at the end of the day, there are very few people who acknowledge the art behind dressing up or the simple matter of “choice” that goes behind picking a piece of garment.

Priyanka Chopra And Her Met Gala Choices

When talking about the choice of garments, women fashion and women, one can’t really NOT discuss Priyanka Chopra here. The erstwhile Miss World has not only carved a niche for herself in Bollywood as an actor but also in Hollywood, which essentially revolutionized her wardrobe to a different level altogether. The desi girl has excelled in carrying haute couture with as much charisma and élan as carries any Indian wear. Yet, there are moments when she is shamelessly trolled and transformed into memes.

A great case in point is her choice of outfit at Met Gala events, of which she has been a part of since the last three years. Now, before getting ahead on this one, let’s have a look at what Met Gala is – it’s neither a fashion show nor an award ceremony, so let’s care to know the reason about it being hosted over the years. Formerly known as the Costume Institute, the Met Gala is the annual fundraiser hosted for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute located in New York.

MET GALA Throwback | Priyanka Chopra GORGEOUS Outfits In Met Gala 2017 - 2019

Often referred to as the Met Ball, the Met Gala marks the inauguration of Costume Institute’s fashion exhibition every year, and celebrities are required to follow a dress code pertaining to the theme of the exhibit each year. For the uninitiated, it is a theme party, where the guests are required to artistically (and boldly) interpret the theme. While many celebrities do take a commonly-treaded path by playing safe, Priyanka Chopra has won accolades for not only being creative but also passionately adhering to the theme with confidence and boldness. And here we are, imagining 100s of different ways to pull her down, wasting our time and energy in creating innovating memes that are derogatory to a different level altogether. But, I must say, we are pretty innovative when it comes to making memes!

Between Bold Women And Women Adhering To Normalcy, We Prefer The Latter

The theme for this year’s Met Gala was “Camp: Notes On Fashion”, which was essentially inspired by Susan Sontag’s Essay “Notes on Camp”. In the essay, Sontag describes as an unmistakable “spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress of three million feathers.” Well, don’t take the second line to your heart – it just means that camp is a fashion statement that is OTT but underlined with a characteristic sense of humor. It is all about ostentatious display and uber theatricality.

Going by this definition, Priyanka Chopra’s choice of dress – and also Lady Gaga’s or Ezra Miller’s – really deserves a standing applause. And, it deserves so not only because of the dress’ artistry but also because of the boldness and confidence with which she(and the others) carried off this unimaginable theme to perfection. On the contrary, if you go by the definition of Camp and also by Susan Sontag’s essay, Deepika Padukone’s impersonation of the “Camp Barbie” kind of fell flat. I admit it was cute and she looked like a princess, perhaps better than any of the celebrities who attended the ball in 2019, but there is no denying that she chose to play absolutely safe and walked in at the Met Gala just as she would perhaps walk in any other award ceremony in India! Correct us if we are wrong anywhere!

Deepika Padukone on Her Pink Underwater-Inspired Dress | Met Gala 2019 With Liza Koshy | Vogue

Now, ask any person if s/he loved Priyanka or Deepika’s dress better, the unanimous answer would be Deepika’s. The reason is a no brainer – we as a product of patriarchy find ourselves more at ease in seeing a woman dolled up in a quintessential manner rather than taking the stead in her own hands and walking the public road boldly wearing her mind. The same mentality applies when we see a “healthy girl” walking the streets confidently in her miniskirt or hot shorts side by side with a quintessentially “perfect” figured girl walking the streets in the same dress. Thinking it in another way, we all have attended costume parties at some point of time or another – even kids do so – but we always shower accolades on the person who dresses up the best and not the one who dresses up the simplest. So, why not here; is it just because these are celebrities we are dealing with and they need to look a particular way and have a particular gait?

True, the scenario is pretty bad, but unless we take a step towards ushering a change ourselves, the society cannot be blamed for being so harsh and ruthless. Let’s take a step towards progression and understanding fashion the way it is and not the way we want it to be. Not just fashion, in the broader perspective, let’s admire women for making their own choices and decisions, and not pull each other down for having unique stances. Every human on this planet is different, let’s cherish the differences.