Today is Women's Equality Day and I'm calling bullshit on anyone who thinks fashion is frivolous. I'm also calling bullshit on anyone who thinks feminists are man-hating, bra-burning, angry girls. Sure, this day signifies the legal recognition of women's right to vote (yes, we've had to fight for something so fundamental) but day in and day out we still have to deal with stupid statements like "why does it have to be *women's* equality and not gender equality?" Then there is the added drama around how "Beyoncé feminism" is not feminism and Lipstick Feminists are self-contradictory because they believe in dressing up (implying that women wear make-up for the male gaze). So, this feels like the perfect day to clear the air of all the misconceptions around feminism and fashion. Yes, they can co-exist; no, these are not mutually exclusive; and you'd be wrong to think otherwise. Here are instances to prove that fashion and the power of clothes have been fighting the good fight for us in this country all along.
Pink Chaddi Campaign
Let's jog our memories back to 6th February 2009. In Mangalore, members of a local political organisation called Sri Ram Sene took up moral policing and attacked women in a pub in Mangalore. As if this weren't enough, Pramod Muthalik, the chief of the Sene, threatened to marry off any couples spotted in public on Valentine's Day. To counter this in the politest way possible, a group of women started a protest called the Pink Chaddi Campaign. The idea was to collect pink underwear from all over Bangalore (which would later spread across the country) and send it to the Sena. Needless to say, this unique concept was a hit and the Sena backed down (out of embarrassment, perhaps), proving that clothes (or undergarments, in this case) can make a bold statement.
The Blank Noise Project
Brainchild of Jasmeen Patheja, a student of Srishti School of Art Design and Technology, the Blank Noise Project started off to create awareness about physical and verbal abuse women face while walking down the streets or in public places everyday. Among their many undertakings is the "I Never Ask For It" campaign where women send pictures of the clothes they wore when the were harassed bearing the caption. This silent yet powerful form of protest has been recognised on a global scale and we can only hope the message has hit the target.
The Indian chapter of the SlutWalk movement had to be called "Besharmi Morcha" for the sole reason that the only equivalent of the word slut is prostitute and that can be easily misconstrued. Nevertheless, the Besharmi Morcha retaliated against the understanding that women are "inviting trouble" if they are dressed in a certain manner. The protest stated in Bhopal but quickly spread on to Lucknow and Delhi. The Bangalore chapter, unfortunately, was curbed because groups opposing it had threatened to take to violence.
Still don't call yourself a feminist? Here's why you should. *mic drop*
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