A professor in college who taught us one of my favourite subjects, often talked about the importance of ‘Regressive Thinking’- the art of thinking backwards to figure out the cause-effect relationship that leads to a particular situation/ concept being the way it currently is. Regressive thinking involves questioning what is perceived as the ‘truth’- and going on questioning the answers that result your first question. It involves questioning the ‘answer’. It was a method employed by Socrates, I’m told.
I was today posed with a statement that forced me to employ this method, that forced me to think backwards. The statement reflected the common sentiment/ opinion held dear by a particular section of the Indian society. Some voice this sentiment, some don’t, but it is shared by many. I don’t share it, needless to say, which is the reason why I am penning down the following thoughts in the first place. Like I said, the sentiment when expressed, gave rise to a lot of questions in my mind and I’ve jotted down the ones that I could grab hold of. The statement went like this: “We’ve reached a time where the girls don’t feel shame for what they’re wearing- it’s the guy who feels embarrassed by a girl’s clothes.”
The more liberal people of our society would immediately retaliate to this statement with accusations and attacks on the maker’s character- perhaps, calling the person a male chauvinist. They might be correct to a certain extent- the person making the statement is, perhaps, a male chauvinist, but my concern here is not that one individual who made this statement. My concern is the cause of his statement. A normal human being doesn’t act without reason- he had a reason for saying what he did, and my concern is to try and trace, firstly, his reason, and secondly, the reason of his reason, i.e., the source of his statement. Some questions immediately arose in my mind when I heard his statement and the ones that I could grab hold of have been jotted down here alongwith my own attempt at regressive thinking.
What’s with girls and clothes in India? Why are short/ skimpy/ revealing clothes so overrated? What’s so ‘westernized’ about them, when our own ‘traditional’ saree cannot make a fair claim of being a ‘non-revealing, chaste’ piece of clothing? Why should/does a girl feel ‘shame’ for wearing short clothes/ why should a guy feel ’embarrassment’ if a girl is wearing less clothes? Why is the female body so over-hyped..everywhere? Is this over-hype, in general, good or bad for any society? Can the hype over a girl’s clothes in India be traced back to patriarchal instincts that associated elements of chastity and shame with the body of a female? Why was this association made in the first place? Why was this association not made with a male body? Why does a male not feel shame about his body, and why is this same element imposed on/ expected out of a woman? Why has our social conditioning been such that this element has now become an unquestionable part of our society? How did this conditioning grow over the ages?
1. A guy whistled when he saw a girl, clad in skimpy, revealing clothes, walk down the street. Why did he whistle?
– Because he got excited when he saw her.
2. Why did he get excited, in the first place?
– Because he gives a damn about what she’s wearing.
3. Why does he give a damn?
– Because ‘such’ clothing is not a common sight on Indian streets, and his susceptible, easily- excitable male hormones got excited on seeing the girl.
3. Why is ‘such’ clothing not a common sight on Indian streets?
– Because a stigma is imposed on the same.
4. Why is a stigma imposed on the same?
– Because in the minds of people, it is widely considered ‘immoral’ on the part of a female to be revealing her body.
5. Why is it ‘immoral’ for a girl to be revealing her body?
– Because a female’s body ‘needs’ to be covered- say the ones who consider skimpy clothes immoral.
6. Why does a female’s body ‘need’ to be covered? Are female babies born with clothes as opposed to male babies who are deprived of this privilege? 😛 Is their something undesirable about their bodies? Or do they ‘need’ to be covered because a male cannot/will not be able to control his hormones if he sees her with less clothes- in this case, is it the female’s problem if his ‘sexual moral standards’ are so easily shake-able that all it requires for him to let his uncontrolled hormones loose, is a skimpily-clad female?
Are the females of the other animal species- remind yourself that human beings are also, infact, nothing but ‘civilized’ animals- also getting raped by the males of their species all the time because they’re not covered with clothes and the males get ‘excited’ when they see their female counterparts this way? Imagine a lion forcing himself on a lioness with that excuse. Pardon my impudence, but this outrageous example deserved a place in this write up because without it, not a lot of people would understand the point I’m trying to make here. So. Imagine the lion and the lioness. Imagine any goddamned animal, for that matter. They don’t care what their female counterpart’s wearing/ not wearing. They don’t force themselves on the female just because she’s not wearing something. As such, can the other male animals be said to be more civilized than the human males? I think they can- because they understand and appreciate the most basic element that any relationship, human or otherwise, is based on. That element is mutual consent- not the female’s clothes. It does not matter what the female is clad in- infact, it does not matter even if she’s wearing nothing at all- what matters is mutual consent.
I haven’t reached a conclusion yet about why he made the statement he made- reaching a conclusion is going to take much more effort than the amount I’ve put in. And it’s important to add that I’m not for/ against ‘skimpy clothing’ either. I just had questions in my own mind, to which the hungry mind demanded answers and in my attempt to get my mind answers, I happened to jot all this down. But I do think, that the whole stigma in our country associated with a girl wearing skimpy clothes, can be traced back to the element of ‘shame’ that is attached to a woman’s body- whether this association is good or bad and to what extent, and why this association is made, are different questions altogether.