Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Sunday, 10 April 2016

On Bras and Azaadi

Clothes maketh the man, said somebody certainly affluent. Surely the poor can't afford to be well dressed. I've been thinking of clothes and women's attire, specially. In particular, of bras. As the burning of these notorious piece of underclothing has special significance for feminists. 'Bra burner' -along with man hater is one of the most reviled epithets hurled at women showing the slightest inkling towards feminism.

Bras are a largely nineteenth century contraption built to keep women's "modesty" policed in place. I can see no reason for these other than to keep nipples covered? And the stories belted out of retaining the shape of the breasts, what is it but a piece of propaganda floated by advertising firms in collusion with large manufacturing conglomerates. As with most consumer products sold to us, this too is one whose need has been artificially created?

In the Indian context, women have, for ages, been wearing the bosom hugging choli or, its modern version, the blouse- in large parts of India. In the largely hot and humid climate of this nation of ours, it acts as women's single piece upper garment, usually worn with an accompanying dupatta or chunni, a sort of veil covering not just the upper body but also the face.

So tell me, why do we need perfectly rounded breasts, if not as a function of the images produced industrial capitalist media which men desire and women desperately try to achieve?

An inane body part which probably has the most mundane of all jobs- nursing an infant- has now been sexualised beyond recognition by the male gaze. Ironically, notions of modesty and honour have thus come to be tied to it.

The woman's body has been the receptacle of the honour of the men in her family- be it the breasts subjected to the male gaze or the hymen that has to be defended for virtue and thus continuity and purity of the male lineage. In each case, a woman is denied control over her own her body. Any wonder that men don't see women deserving of respect?

Sadly, women too see themselves the same way. True liberation for women will only come once we break off the shackles of this gaze which has been set upon us. We must reclaim our existence as complete humans. Only then will we have complete azaadi.

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