But She Asked For It


Skirts should be prohibited keeping in view the rise of social crimes against women. The school should have pant-shirts or salwar suits as uniforms for girl students.

One of the reasons behind the increase in incidents of eve-teasing is short dresses and short skirts worn by women. This in turn instigates young men.

Blame it on her short skirt, her bright lipstick or her sari. Blame it on Westernization or blame it on education. Label her ‘dented-painted’. Believe that she provokes the rapist. Feel better by claiming she needs to be protected. Be a man.

Until three women (Anjali Amma, Usha and Nirmala) told us: But what about when a five-year old girl gets raped? What about a nurse in uniform who got raped and then went into coma? Did they provoke the act of rape?

Our first Art Box in 2013 addressed these apparent dilemmas and sought to break the myth of provocation. Planned by Nika Feldman and Susie Vickery, the Art Box was called ‘Provoke/Protect’ and brought to light the insensitive and sexist comments made by many a powerful person after the gruesome rape and murder of Nirbhaya in December 2012. The participants of the workshop were trained to make saris that carried symbols of protection and slogans against rape. These saris are armour against the belief that rape is the consequence of provocation.

The first few days of the workshop saw 35 women and nine year old Jhanvi discuss the falsehood of provocation. Many were aware of the moral policing and the judgmental attitudes that are enforced upon women in the name of rape. One of them even said, “I don’t think that the way a woman dresses has anything to do with rape. Women in traditional attire such as saris get raped as well.”

Most said that the perspective and perversity of certain men leads to rape. Furthermore, rape is an outcome of power struggles as well. The conversation took an interesting turn when one participant concluded that a major reason why some men have become perverse is because of the endorsement of such acts by the media. She said, “Women expose a lot on television shows and films. It leads to men desiring the same thing in their day to day lives. Women must not expose so much on television.”

But what if a woman wanted to reveal? Wear a bikini and come onscreen?

“Well, such women must be sent where they belong. To the red light area,” she affirmed.

We were journeying old paths and it is not easy to break through. Peer pressure and social conformity to so-called modern thought might lead a woman to claim that her kind does not provoke but dig deeper and you will find that she is still patriarchy’s daughter.

Opinions on clothing change across times and geographies and morph the nature of sexualities as well. Nika Feldman pointed out that in the West it is casual for women to reveal their legs but not their midriffs. The opposite is true for Indian women. Rajasthani women wear backless blouses which could be considered sexy in these parts of Mumbai. In certain tribal cultures, it is normal for women to be bare-chested, even while in the company of men. So, when is a woman’s body truly provocative?

Anjali Amma echoed Nika’s words when she said, “If you see a woman being sexually harassed on the road, make sure you go to her rescue. Don’t ignore what is happening in front of your eyes.”

Will you accuse or will you watch out for her?