Freshly elected MPs Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan got trolled on social media for wearing “inappropriate clothes” to the Parliament of India. The criticism came their way despite them being clad in full sleeved shirts and trousers and jeans, which covered almost all of their body. Not that short skirts or minis are inappropriate clothes, but this displays the level of intolerance and policing women have to endure. Is there a dress code which forbids women from wearing jeans and shirts to the Parliament? Are these women there with the intention to “distract” others? No and No. Then why the outrage? Gone are the days when women wore suits and sarees to their workplace. Most women wear western outfits to work. Then why should it be any different for elected women leaders at the Parliament?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan were trolled for wearing western outfits to Parliament.
  • Is there a dress code which forbids women from wearing jeans and shirts to the Parliament?
  • Gone are the days when women wore suits and sarees to their workplace. Most women wear western outfits to work.
  • Women have the right to wear what they want to and when and where they want to.

Gone are the days when women wore suits and sarees to their workplace. Most women wear western outfits to work. Then why should it be any different for elected women leaders at the Parliament?

People in this country are in dire need of another hobby, apart from outraging over everything and anything. We are okay with nearly 50% of elected politicians having a criminal record, but how dare two women defile the sanctity of the Parliament by wearing western outfits on its premise! While men do not have it easier, it is women who are at the receiving end of sexist jibes and misogynist outrage on social media. They incur rape and assault threats for merely speaking their mind, they are shamed for wearing their sexuality on their sleeves and they face moral and dress policing in the name of cultural preservation. Even when they fight it out to climb the ladder of success and power, there are those who will try to belittle them on the grounds which have nothing to do with their capabilities and achievements. This is exactly what is happening with Chakraborty and Jahan.

These women have been elected to work as representatives of the public. So the standards on which we must judge them is their performance as elected leaders and not what they wore to work. Women have the right to wear what they want to, when and where they want to. Just as they are free to wear a saree or salwar kameez to parliament, there is nothing wrong with them wearing jeans and trousers. Do we discriminate between male leaders on the basis of their clothes? Do we assert their effectiveness as leaders differently if they wear safari suit or kurta pajama or shirt and jeans? Then why should it be any different for Chakraborty, Jahan or Malini and Irani for that matter?

Who we vote for depends more for how they dress than whether or not they can bring in good governance. This  mind-set needs to change because it keeps us from assessing the true potential of our leaders and unmasking the handicaps they hide behind khadi jackets and cotton sarees.

The reason for lack of solutions for many of our social and national problems is that we prioritise bias and customs over efficiency. We identify with leaders better if they dress a certain way. This is quite evident during the election season, when politicians trade trousers and shirts for khadi and traditional wear. The minute any leader digresses from this set dress code, we shut them out. No matter if they are good leaders or better policy-makers. So in a way who we vote for depends more for how they dress than whether or not they can bring in good governance. This mind-set needs to change because it keeps us from assessing the true potential of our leaders and unmasking the handicaps they hide behind khadi jackets and cotton sarees. There is more to being a good leader than what kind of clothes you wear, but are we ready to see that?

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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