Of ripped jeans and women’s knees!

It’s sad that an elected representative commented on a woman’s clothing in 2021 and women once again have to stand up for their right to choice. This shows nothing but misogyny of society at large

NH photo by Vipin
NH photo by Vipin

Smita Singh

Why is the ripped jeans controversy not dying down yet? It’s been a week and at least I am yet to digest it. In fact I am wondering why politicians target women at all? First, the newly elected CM of Uttarakhand Tirath Singh Rawat was engaged in a Twitter storm over his statement on ripped jeans and women. Secondly, the head of a political party in a state going to polls targets the sitting woman CM saying why she is showing one bandaged leg wearing a saree that she should wear Bermuda shorts instead. Thirdly, a politician of a southern state which is to go to polls gives out a statement that women no longer have hips like ‘8’ as they drink foreign cows’ milk!

Why do male politicians feel entitled to comment on women and their attire? Have you heard anyone of them commenting on a fellow male politician or any man for that matter?

The Uttarakhand chief minister had described the attire of a woman, who once sat next to him on a flight at an event on March 16. He said the woman was wearing boots, denims which were ripped at the knees and several bangles in her hands with two children travelling with her. “She runs an NGO, goes out in the society and has two children, but she wears jeans ripped at the knees. What values will she impart?” he asked.

Well, the question that immediately rises in my ‘woman’ mind is- why should one mention woman’ or woman’s attire while talking about falling societal values? ‘Values’ or a more proper word so fashionable in the rightist circles ‘sanskar’ can’t be judged by dress alone. And if a society or a political leader of a society judges values by dresses, then he is inherently wrong, and there’s something very seriously wrong with that society. It seems very convenient for everyone in a regressive patriarchal society to put the burden of carrying forward ‘sanskaar’ on women. Let’s admit, we have been doing it, we are doing it and we have shown no signs of cultural development or growth as a society. Unfortunately, Tirath Singh Rawat’s statement once again reaffirms that.

Truth be told if it were a not Covid times that has restricted my movement I would have gone and bought a pair of ripped jeans myself. I accept that I am of that generation that did not believe in buying torn jeans for that price but I have no issue with anyone wearing one. In fact I remember my seven-year-old daughter taking a pair of scissors and her denim to her grandmother asking her to rip them at the knees. The shocked elder of course did not oblige but she did bring back a pair for her from the US when she had gone a couple of years back. The curiosity of the kid was fulfilled and she outgrew those denims.

This is what is true about fashion – they come and go like bell-bottoms, but now due to this statement by the minister they are back in fashion and brands must have benefitted from increased sales I am sure. I also read that women ripped their perfectly normal jeans just to stand in solidarity with those who wore the ripped version.

What do ripped jeans stand for?

So, why are ripped or torn jeans popular? Ripped jeans are a youthful statement of rebellion against established norms that dictate that a woman should cover up from head to toe. If a woman whether a mother or belonging to a certain working sector is wearing one she is trying to make a statement – I am here to break the rules. Is there anything wrong in that? And they are worn by men too, who want to look rebellious. So basically, be it man or woman--ripped jeans is kind of a symbol of an offbeat personality, besides being just a fashion statement.

Why not speak up on real issues

When a Hathras happens, a Badaun gang-rape happens or a when a woman is raped when she goes to a temple alone, and hundred other such cases around the country, where are these politicians? Why don’t our leaders speak up then? Because that’s when women need support. Let alone lending support to women, such political figures don’t even shame the men involved. Instead there’s a deafening silence.

Besides the brutal crimes against women, there are other pressing issues that women are fighting for on a daily basis; workplace discrimination, equal wages, #MeToo cases, and maternity benefits and many others. I am sure, policing a woman’s attire should be the last priority.

It’s extremely unfortunate for our society that an elected representative has commented on a piece of clothing of a woman in 2021 and women once again have to stand up for their right to choice. This shows nothing but the misogyny of the person concerned and of the society at large.

Views expressed are personal

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