The Fabindia Jashn-e-Riwaaz ad, which the brand has now taken down, has prompted much outrage and many questions on social media. For one section, the controversy has taken on an out-and-out communal tone. While a lot is being said on that front – about whether the clothing brand’s use of an Urdu phrase for promoting a festive collection was in good faith or not – what comes forth as the foremost concern for me, as a woman, is the ugly misogynistic dialogue that the dispute has dragged along.
The seeming incongruence between the campaign label for what was understood to be Fabindia’s Diwali collection and the attire that women on the promo poster donned is a major point of contention for concerned audiences online. How can women celebrating a Hindu festival not be depicted in “true” traditional attire, ie, complete with bindi and sindoor? Does the lack of these details carry communal messaging? Is this meant to attack the piousness of the festival and the dignity of Hindu women?
Such questions are being fronted, heatedly (and seriously), on Twitter and other spaces. It appears, for a certain section, the idea of women sans these wardrobe items brings into question the credit of a whole religion.
Because a woman and the pureness of her femininity are only worth as much as the bindis and ornaments that decorate her body, right?
Fabindia Jashn-e-Riwaaz Ad Shows How Women Are Objectified Everyday
I don’t recall a single year that I paired my Diwali outfit with a bindi. On the contrary, in what may be unfathomable to many, I have often muted down the “traditional” quotient with jeans to go with a casual kurta, an attire far more to my liking than elaborate dressing. My “look” is complete. And believe it or not, what I wear makes no difference to how festive I feel.
Does that make me any less of a woman? Or does it raise questions of modesty, the ultimate gehna of Indian women? Not wearing a bindi makes me a Mysore pak without ghee or sambar without drumsticks? Okay. Good. I’m content not being a dish to the liking of misogyny to which the objectification of women comes as naturally as its urge to mansplain.
Patriarchy much? Who is he to decide whether a woman’s look is complete without a bindi or not? pic.twitter.com/ABqlHTLIMr
— shunali khullar shroff (@shunalishroff) October 19, 2021
“Mughal Style of Fashion , No Bindi, Dressing Style is not Hindu,” a tweet from a user read. Dressing style is not Hindu, they say. Who or what decides? The lack of a bindi?
It is ironic that what is perhaps the smallest detail of a woman’s attire plays the biggest factor here to adjudge her whole character.
Diwali Collection by @FabindiaNews 🙏
Mughal Style of Fashion , No Bindi, Dressing Style is not Hindu.
I was right Diwali got nothing to do with Hindus. pic.twitter.com/Vo14frYNmc
— Superstar Raj 🇮🇳 (@NagpurKaRajini) October 18, 2021
Women have risen in opposition to this sexism on social media. Here are some reactions:
No one’s got the effing right to tell me or any woman why and when and where and how and if we need to sport a bindi or not ! pic.twitter.com/uUbyEJbvaL
— Viji Venkatesh 🇮🇳 (@vijivenkatesh) October 19, 2021
Stop telling women what to wear.
— Natasha (She/ her) 🌈 نتاشا (@nuts2406) October 19, 2021
Most of the time I don't wear a bindi, and when I do, I wear it because I like it so all those preaching on Twitter that there should be bindi on a woman's forehead as it's mandatory in our religion can go to hell.
Not wearing bindi won't make me any less hindu or Indian!
— Pooja Kopargaonkar (@thekopargaonkar) October 19, 2021
What we are seeing happen here is a narrative that plays out for women in every sphere of existence, with their bodies used as battle sites for patriarchal grandstanding and morality. Why must the burden of the relevance of traditions be dropped on women’s shoulders? Who permitted hate speech mongers to go to war with the ornaments that do or don’t decorate women’s foreheads? Till when must our choices serve to legitimise male egos?
Views expressed by the author are their own.