Musings on Sarees

A couple of days back, we had an “Ethinic Day” in college, and the girls never miss a chance to dress up. Almost everyone wore sarees- because of course we all loved and respected our culture, and hey, it’s also sexy as hell. A saree is the most classic and traditional piece of clothing for all Indian women – although the way it is draped differs from state to state. The gujaratis drape it differently from the coorgis who drape it differently from the malayalees. Basically, pretty much everyone has their own style of draping the saree and making it their own.

Personally, I feel that sarees make any woman look beautiful, if worn correctly. I love wearing sarees (although I’ve worn it only thrice in my life till now) – although for short periods of time only, and I think all girls look beautiful in them. Of course, there are a few who totally detest wearing the saree, and I can understand why – it can be quite a task to manage it if you don’t know how to. Although I do enjoy wearing one occasionally, I can’t stand to be in it for a very long time, because it’s really difficult to handle, and well, my midriff gets cold? I look at all these women who wear sarees every single day, who wear it with so much effortless grace and I think, well, maybe they’re so used to it, it’s easy for them.

For me, a saree will always be a symbol of Indian-ness, of being a woman, of grace and elegance. It will remind me of Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit in Devdas, it will remind me of old saree advertisements that used to come on television when I was a kid, it will remind me of my Ajji (grandmother), and it will remind me of weddings. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the maturity it lends to a woman’s face and figure – it doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny or just in-between.

As for me, I would still prefer my pajamas over pretty much anything, but I do enjoy wearing a saree once in a while – up until I’m done taking a million photos with my friends and the saree is just about going to fall off, and I’m longing for my pjs again.

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Am I a Feminist?

After twelve years in a co-education school, attending an all-girls’ college was a bit unusual for me initially. Having said that, there were so many things that I learned from being in an environment surrounded by women of all ages, and learning from each other. The thoughts of women as a collective voice, I found, was more distinctly felt here (obviously). Our syllabus is pumped with feminism (among other things) and works of feminist writers. Our discussions in class are quite free and open, and get quite personal sometimes,especially when it comes to speaking about the situation (both the good side and the bad) of women in the past and present.

It is a fact, that since ancient times, in almost all cultures, women were not treated as equals to men. They were always considered inferior and expected to be submissive and passive. Many centuries and women’s rights movements later, I find that although quite a lot of change has been brought about, there is still a long way to go. Women can vote, women can get an education, women can get jobs – and yet, in a country like mine, the problem has a much deeper root. It all lies in the mind. In many parts of India, women are still blamed for mothering daughters and not sons. Women are still expected to stop working after they get married. Women are still told that being groped or receiving cat calls in public is because of what they were wearing. And this is why I strongly feel that we have more to do to bring about true “equality” between men and women. Those firm, orthodox and ancient mindsets have to be changed. Society must be willing to be open minded, it must be willing to accept the fact that it is not women who have to condition themselves to the society by carefully monitoring the way they walk and talk and what they say and don’t say and what they wear and don’t wear – but the society which has to condition itself to accept women as individuals too, with individual thought and expression. 

I am a girl, and I have experienced situations wherein I was discriminated against just because I was a girl. I have personally felt the bite of sexist comments, roving eyes and hands and a hundred other things I could go on about – as have a billion other girls in this country, I’m sure. And this is primarily why I feel and fight for an equal society.

Am I a feminist then? I don’t know.

Feminism is still a concept I am a bit unsure of. According to me, feminism is a concept of furthering equality of women, fighting against cultural and societal and sexual injustices that women face in their day to day life. Feminism, according to me (and also, I hope, according to the rest of the world), is most certainly not anti-men, it is not a “hate movement” against all men. Feminism, in my mind, does not – and should not – generalize all men and blame them for crimes committed by some of them.

 

But where do we draw the line? The line between dislike and hate? The line between anger and violence? The line between what should be considered appropriate behavior and what should be considered sexist and hurtful behavior? In a world full of different cultures, societies and mind sets, it is difficult, almost impossible to draw a clear line. And that is why I’m going to just put it out there and say – I’m not too clear on the idea of feminism, and so I cannot call myself a feminist, BUT I will voice my opinion and fight against injustices to women, for I am a woman, and I face these injustices, and it is something that should not be borne.  

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