I was debating whether to wear a LBD or a backless maxi dress for a club launch event this evening when I chanced upon a news item tucked away in one of the inside pages of today’s newspaper:in Deoria district, UP, , a girl had been murdered by her grandfather and uncle for defying their diktat against wearing jeans. This girl was just 17, perhaps a victim of the spirit of rebellion that’s the religion of teenagers worldwide. In her case this rebellion had manifested itself in a fancy for Western style clothes after a brief stay in Ludhiana ,a city in Punjab. So then was she really a victim of this urban myth of freedom of choice that we city women perpetuate through the clothes we wear, the things we say, the lifestyles we choose ? We go about our lives, arguing with male classmates about which team played the best at the European Cup soccer matches, sharing cups of tea with our male colleagues in the office cafeteria, making presentations in power suits or lounging around in shorts and yoga pants. Yes, we have a vague idea about the international feminist movement , the suffragettes who got the Constitutional Amendment to ensure American women’s voting rights in 1920, the Women’s Movements of the 60’s and 70’s for equal pay and personal freedom with the onset of the pill .
Yes, we cheer the first woman Vice President of USA and are proud of the increasing number of women achievers in every field across the world . We do all this sitting in the comfort of our canteens and cafes, our lounges and restaurants, our living rooms and bedrooms, where we sip ginger tea or cappuccino, single malt or vodka cocktails as we hold forth on women’s issues spouting statistics and theories to debate, critique or share thoughts on the ramifications and nuances of feminism as we know it from our books and films and seminars. But then we do not live in Deoria district where a young girl was killed not by an anonymous misogynist murderer but by her own family for wanting to wear a pair of jeans . Some of you might turn around and say that atrocities against women happen in cities as well. Yes misogyny is not the preserve of a few misguided individuals, it is a collective perversion that covers castes, classes and communities and not just in our own country . But then if a crime like what happened in Deori took place in any of our big cities , it would have created a media furore ,a response in civil society to make our political parties take notice , to make our judiciary take notice and push for drastic changes in our system to prevent such horror stories from repeating themselves . But then would it really have changed things on the ground ? Am I being a cynic or a realist when I say that feminism in India continues to be a myth nurtured by the ‘Woke’ generation of movers and shakers, doers and thinkers. As for that girl in Deori , she did not die for the cause of feminism , perhaps she does not even know of this movement which had captured the global imagination since the beginning of the twentieth century . She died simply because she was naïve enough to believe that she could choose to wear jeans like the young people who wore them in the movies and TV serials she must have enjoyed watching with her family- before they killed her for wanting a pair for herself.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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