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Pallavi Pareek

Pallavi is Managing Partner at and Managing Trustee at Initiatives for Inclusion Foundation. She has worked on critical issues like access to justice and legal literacy in India through her startup, iPleaders and has also been a key change maker in the field of building safe workplaces with her product “CloudTrain”.

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Why Does it Matter What a Woman Wears?

I am a woman. I look like a woman, walk like a woman and most of the times, even dress like a woman.

I cry when I am faced with extreme emotional situations. I cry even when the situation does not call for it. I laugh unnecessarily, and then there are moments when I am extremely polite and just smile. I have my random bursts of anger and I am also the most caring and sweetest soul around.

In a nutshell, I am a certified woman. By birth and by the standards of this society.

There is a reason why I needed to first declare this to you, before you read this any further.

I stood in front of my wardrobe this morning and asked myself – what should I wear today?

I looked outside the window, the weather is becoming more aggressive and I am becoming more convinced that this summer I am stuck in Delhi unless I plan a few business trips as an excuse to get away from here. I make a mental note of that to do it today. AC does not work as effectively as it did last season. I can hear its struggle in the increasing sound it makes. Maybe it is time to get a new one and get rid of the rented stuff. But I have already paid for it this year. Then I see my cats. Even they seem perturbed by the heat. As one goes and starts manicuring his paws using my bag, I ask myself the same question, what should I wear today?

Answer came from my wardrobe - Nothing…

For a second I check whether this answer is more of a response to me being a little obsessed about my looks and having a flirtatious conversation with myself (c’mon now don’t judge me, we all have had our moments of self-love). Then I dig deeper and I realise that it actually doesn’t matter what clothes I am wearing today – be it a saari, suit or one of those standard harems and lose top that I usually put on lazy days like today. That is for world to see in our first few moments of interaction and the ones who already know me have stopped looking at my appearance anyway. Our conversations and interactions have taken the focus of attention. The color of my clothes and my hair, whether the bag that I am carrying is torn or intact, or if I am repeating my clothes way too frequently – none of these things matter.

So what does then? I kept looking at my wardrobe. When I could not get an answer from this one, I went to the other room and opened that as well waiting for a response from my clothes (or anything in there).

After few seconds, I decided to rephrase the question and asked – what is that one thing that I would always want in my wardrobe to wear and to wear it as many times and wear it on any occasion (like a LBD) ?

And then “humanity” showed its face and said – “me”. It does not matter if you wore me yesterday. You can wear me again today and trust me – the world will not complain. I will be your accessory, your clothing, your jewellery, and in fact I am capable of compensating for you wearing any other damn thing on your body. As long as you have me on you, you will love the way you look. You can never go wrong with me. If you still need accessories, you may always get humility and compassion at a very discounted price. Just get that ego out of your wardrobe and there will be room for all three here.

I am convinced, but then what about the world? The world is too bothered about how a man dresses up, what a woman wears, why a man decides to wear sari and act like a woman, why a woman wants to sleep with another woman, why a man is holding another man’s hands. So many objections. If wearing humanity was enough then why is the world focused on the physical aspects so much?

This world cringes if my bra strap shows. I am told to wear certain kind of clothes in the area that I live in. I must shave my legs and underarms because that’s what a woman should do. A man should be strong and must not cry. He should not wear certain colors and he may choose to shave his chest hair but not his arms and legs. Well at least their existence is being acknowledged, it’s just their appearance that is being judged. For anyone who does not fall in either of the gender category, their very existence is judged and questioned. Must I, as a woman, still be complaining?

No. Answer again came from my wardrobe. Damn, I said to myself. This one is getting smarter each minute. Next time it won’t harm to offer it a chilled beer and some pizza.

I cannot complain. At least, not anymore as the weakest gender in the society.

I cannot criticize. Not when I myself has faced criticism for generations for my each and every action and decision.

I cannot choose to ignore other genders especially when I know how it feels to be left unnoticed and not acknowledged.

I dare not call others a murderer when I myself have contributed in killing others’ individuality.

Today, I am not the weakest gender in the society. I am not the most suppressed one. If you ask around, I have in fact now become the suppressor. No wonder, men have started their own men’s rights movements.

Every gender is now fighting. I am fighting because I have tasted freedom and only want more. Men are fighting because they don’t want to lose the power they had for ages. Third gender is fighting to merely be acknowledged, not get criminalized and be accepted for who they are.

Can we stop fighting? Can we understand what we all are giving up in this fight club? Can we understand the cost we are all paying individually and collectively?

I do. And every day I will reach out to more and more to get them out of this club.

This is my journey. This is my life. This is what I choose to do every day. I wear humanity, wear humility on one wrist and wrap compassion around my head. I pick up my bag of shamelessness and walk out of my house.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

Tags assigned to this article:
gender equality cultural attire

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