#Opinion

The Duty Of Dupatta: Conditioning Behind Society’s Need To Cover Up Women’s Bodies

Kolkata Professor Sacked
Recently there has been a war on social media over a piece of news that pretty much shook us all and made us question all the seemingly progressive lectures we get to hear from people. The incident has been pretty infamous and has been covered extensively by news channels- both local and national. It involves an English professor of an esteemed Kolkata college who had to resign after her pictures on her private social media account were used to file a complaint against her by a student’s father.

Scores of people have come out in support of her via Facebook posts and forwards and the College has faced immense backlash over the issue. I was not really surprised, to be honest. Although people were recognising the true fault and news channels extending help to present it to a larger reach, not one article spoke about why the father had the need to file the complaint. What exactly was it that made him believe that he had the right to moral police this professor that he probably never even has seen in real life?

Kolkata Professor Sacked: Why is society conditioned to cover up women’s bodies

Among all these reports going into the details of the case and the unofficial ‘trial’ that the professor had at her college, what my heart really wanted to read was the ‘why’ behind the father’s action.

The ‘why’ lies in our social conditioning. It lies in the fact that we, as a society, were socialised to perceive the woman’s body as something which is separate from the woman. We speak of the woman as a mother, a daughter, a sister and hide her body away in our delusional minds clouded with misogyny and hypocrisy. The woman-body has always belonged to big burly men, little hunched men and the various flag bearers of patriarchy who censor and edit the bits and parts they like and dislike. We have never provided women with the autonomy and agency of her very own being. We have grown up with a bias against their bodies. We have victim-blamed for every assault occurrence around us and covered their bodies with the shroud of failure of providing bodily liberty.

Bodies of women have been battlegrounds for society. Battlegrounds with the questions of decency, purity and respect on one side and independence and authority on the other.

We belong to a region where the practice of covering up bodies with blouses was not heard of. Our ancestors would wear only a saree in the tropical heat. We can say that the blouse was a gift of the Britishers. The notions of indecency were linked to partly bare bodies by our colonisers. Today, covering up from one’s head to toe has become the epitome of being considered a part of civil society. Does it ever bother you that we have placed our honour and social prestige on the bodies of women?

The professor who was pressured to resign was thoroughly slut shamed before she was compelled to remove herself from the institution. Why do we justify men with #notallmen as soon as he is alleged to be a sexual predator? Why does he remain a part and parcel of prestigious universities even after years of allegations and a woman has to resign because she decided to upload a picture? How gaping does our double standards have to be before we finally realise the patterns?

For everyone who says that we do not need feminism today, that feminism is about proving that women are superior- this is a plea to open their eyes and look around and really say, from their hearts, that there is really no inequality and bias that plagues us and the world we live in. How long do we resort to victim blaming to justify our ingrained problematic traits? How long before we stop believing in the dupatta as a saviour of a woman’s dignity? How long before we finally realise that our bodies belong to us and no one else’s?

Views expressed by author are their own.


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