Why Do Women’s Clothes Get To Define Them, But Not Their Talent Or Achievements?

Neena Gupta on marriage
Veteran actor Neena Gupta recently posted a video on Instagram in which she is seen confronting the trolls for policing women over their dressing. Gupta says that she is sharing the video to let trolls know to not judge a book by its cover. Talking about her achievements briefly, she adds, “A woman should not be judged by her outfit. Trolls should understand this.”

The instances of women being trolled for the dress they choose to wear are not rare occurrences like the appearance of a comet. Women are often admonished by people around them for not dressing to society’s taste. Be it the hemline of our skirt or our decision to wear a pair of ripped jeans instead of salwar kurta- dress policing finds its way to no matter what we wear and when.

Neena Gupta isn’t the only one, haven’t we all been judged for what we wear? Don’t our clothes get to define us more than our talents and achievements? But why does this even happen? Actor Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s strong-worded statement earlier this year points at how society’s gaze needs to shift from what we wear to why they find certain clothes problematic. “Now that we’re in the year 2022 – can we finally stop judging a woman based on the hemlines and necklines she adorns and focus instead on bettering ourselves,” she wrote in her Instagram story.

Suggested Reading: Ripped Jeans Twitter Is Proof That Women Are Done With Dress Policing

Dress policing Indian women face knows no bounds

When the instances of celebrities being trolled for their clothes crop up, many women openly talk about their experiences, and while debates briefly take over social media platforms, does anything change? The very next celebrity to put up a picture in a “revealing” outfit will be trolled and scrutinised again, and the cycle continues. Offline, most Indian women do not even have to luxury to wear what they like. Their dresses are policed even before they are bought and worn out in the streets.

Have we ever mulled over what makes us attempt to censor women so much? Is it because we have sexualised a woman’s body so much that we have stopped seeing her as a person? Is it because of our skewed sense of modesty that we subject women to mean comments in the name of humour? Didn’t an influencer pull this act off with Deepika Padukone? He did not only troll her by commenting on her clothes getting “tinier” during Gehraiyaan promotions but tried to pass it off as a joke.

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If you thought power protects women from policing, you are wrong. Politician and UP Congress Candidate Archana Gautam was also trolled earlier this year when her photos went viral after her candidacy was announced. The reason? She was wearing a bikini in those pictures. Unaffected by the trolling, she had asked people to not merge her career as an actor-model and her political career.

The issue as such is only aggravated when political representatives make irresponsible statements, like Karnataka MLA Renukacharya, while countering Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s comment over Hijab Row, opined that women’s clothing provokes men resulting in an increase in incidents of rape.

What is this moral compass based on which women’s clothing are categorised? Why does society focus more on policing what we wear, than teaching men to respect women and value consent?

While irresponsible statements as such stem from the thought of equating the length of women’s clothing as an indicator of their character; the underlying issue here stems from a regressive patriarchal mindset that perceives a woman as a subservient being with no agency over their body, thoughts or freedom of choice.

For how many more years do women have to keep fending off the trolls? We all know the answer to that question- till the day society unlearns to reduce women to being objects of desire.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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