28/08/2016 10:48 PM IST | Updated 31/08/2016 8:23 AM IST

Wrapped Or Unwrapped, Women Can Never Get It Right

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Up until a few days ago, I was madly applauding the ban on the burkini imposed by France on its beaches in the Riviera. Since I fancy myself as more of a doer than a talker, I quickly started compiling a rather long list of unwearables that our junta insists on turning into beachwear that should be banned. For too long I have been traumatized by the sight of portly men flaunting their hairy selves in striped kachhas, snug boxers, and demure women taking a dip in the ocean in their saris that promptly turn into parachutes. In fact, on my last visit to Hardwar, which was a few decades back, I saw so many ladies bathing in just their petticoats tied over their ample bosoms that I exclaimed "Hey Ram" and nearly died. Haunted, I never went back for another pilgrimage.

If we wear too little, we are begging for attention and if we are wearing too much, we are slaves to patriarchy.

Unfortunately my burkini ban euphoria did not last long. The ban was suspended by France's highest administrative court that'll rather uphold fundamental freedoms than let the government go by its whims. Tcchh... had it been India, these men in wigs would have been charged with sedition and declared anti-nationals. Don't they know it's the State that gets to decide what should offend us? It's pretty simple -- what offends them should offend us and if that offends you, go to hell, you scumbags! Oh, and the State also gets to decide what and where hell is.

After I was done with outraging, I changed sides since I prefer remaining on the right side of political correctness. The world is a stage and of what use are my acting skills if I can't flip my emotions like an omelette on a pan. So, right now I am busy yay-ing for the French courts for acting in favour of liberty and equality. Why should only men get to decide whether we are better off covered up or not? Also, if women feel they should be free to expose without inviting judgement, they should also be free to slip into a garment that the world had no idea about till a ban was imposed on it. So, if certain femmes want to wear bikinis at hill stations, I will support their right even it means they freeze to death. Don't Delhi women dress in tiny summery dresses in biting winters and live to tell the tale? Or prefer death by sweating in black tights under a black dress in searing summers to save themselves from the ogle-fest every time they step out?

Needless to say, this landmark judgement has come as a huge relief to a certain section of men who have always believed that an ideal woman should dress in a shroud to live a long, uneventful life. Women who dress in flimsy, fashionable clothing deliberately provoke men into harassing them; men who sometimes insert rods inside vaginas and butcher their bodies for fun. So it is only natural that men protect themselves by banning women from their sight. Look what happened at Haji Ali. Women with breasts were deliberately bending over while praying, forcing men into having unholy thoughts and distracting them from their destined path of greatness. What I don't get is, if men are so fascinated by breasts, why don't they try growing a pair of their own?

Our bodies are in a constant tug of war between the custodians of morality and the champions of modernity.

Had Dipa Karmakar attempted the death-defying Produnova vault in a demure salwar-kameez and not that shameful one piece garment, she would have felt more comfortable being in the limelight. Had PV Sindhu smashed her way to the badminton finals in a sari, and not that tiny skirt, she would have done our rich Indian culture proud. Does Sakshi know that by flaunting those amazing biceps, she has closed doors on lucrative matrimonial offers! Who will marry her now? Worse still, who will risk arguing with her? Tell tell!

So please instead of shooing off devout Muslim women in their burkinis from beaches, let them feel comfortable covered from head to toe!

The question we need to ask ourselves is, why do women feel so comfortable being covered up even at a beach where dressing down to your basics facilitates ease of movement? Or why do certain Muslim women find the hijab liberating and not a tool of oppression?

I think they are seeking emancipation from the prying gaze that's always judging... for showing too little or too much of skin. So what's a little discomfort if it means freedom to do what you want without inviting censure? Sadly our choice of attire continues to define us as a person, regardless of our achievements and triumphs. If we dress for comfort, we are frumpy. If we dress fashionably, we must be frivolous and vain. If we wear too little, we are begging for attention and if we are wearing too much, we are slaves to patriarchy.

Dressing up or dressing down is never really our choice to make.

The sad truth is, whether it's a bikini or a burkini, we continue to be reduced to mere objects that carry the burden of expectations on their shoulders. We don't dress for ourselves but for others and the reactions our clothing may evoke in them. We have to worry about what the cabbie might think if he sees us in shorts or that tiny dress. Women at workplaces often choose androgynous attire to be taken seriously and avoid unwanted attention.

Our bodies are in a constant tug of war between the custodians of morality and the champions of modernity.

So let's not be too hasty in celebrating the lifting of burkini ban as a triumph for womankind. Because dressing up or dressing down is never really our choice to make.

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