Last & Least
Jeans means a
lot for women
Dr Binoy Barman
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise….
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.”
--Maya Angelou, 'Still I Rise'
One of my friends of late argued that women in our society should not wear jeans. He showed several reasons for this. The reasons ranged from social to psychological, religious to cultural. Women should not wear jeans because, according to him, firstly, the dress is not conforming to our conservative social code; secondly, it conflicts with our pristine cultural norms; thirdly, it hurts benign religious feelings; fourthly, it is provocative as an attire while in public display; and fifthly, wearing jeans women tend to be immoral. I gave a patient hearing to my friend's diatribe but humbly disagreed with his anti-jeans philosophy. Unlike my friend, I think women in our society shall and should wear jeans as they please.
Jeans is a thick fabric which is usually used to make pants, worn with a rough and tough outlook. It is mainly the discovery of the West where hard texture provides suitability for certain working situations. Boys in our society usually wear these dresses. Jeans is durable and comfortable. It is an ideal choice for the young generation. However, for many, it is an attire dress that is more suitable for informal settings. The usual colour of jeans is blue in its various shades. It also comes in black and ash. The cuts and designs come and go with the change in trends.
There is no harm in women's wearing jeans in our society. Women should not be prevented if they want to wear it. I may justify my view with several arguments.
Firstly, it is the wearer who should decide what kind of dress they are going to wear. If any female member of society chooses to put on jeans, nobody can tell her not to. It is their right to wear according to their own choice. If any dress in imposed on them or if they are hindered from wearing what they like, it will be injustice and contrary to women's right. In fact, any type of imposition will go against the spirit of women's liberation movement. Freedom of dress is the norm of a civilised society. The choice of dress is an essential part of individual freedom. Any kind of restriction will curtail this freedom, which will be tantamount to suppression.
Secondly, jeans is a modern attire and a symbol of smart fashion. With jeans, in accompaniment with a shirt or T-shirt, women look smart. It is the women's choice to be so. If they feel more comfortable with this, they must choose it. With this, they come in the swim of the world fashion trend. They slip out of the narrow nationalistic feeling and get integrated with the wide international culture. Jeans is felt more consistent with the modern outlook. It may create a conflict with indigenous social and religious values, but it is the challenge for the women to confront it. Modern feminist movement is trying to protect women from all kinds of injustice based on gender discrimination. Disapproval of jeans for women would be the manifestation of male chauvinism and it is women's duty to fight it.
Thirdly, women may find jeans more fitting than traditional sari or salwar kamiz, which is rather too feminine. Jeans gives them a gentlemanly look which they may like. In fact, jeans minimises the dress distinction between men and women. They sit and work together with the same dress. They may walk and move with the same feeling of covering. Jeans makes the two sexes close, close to humanity. They do not look at each other with surprise and unfamiliarity. They come in the same box on the same plane. There is no harm for men and women to share the same dress as long as they can eat the same and read the same. Both of them may wear coats when they are in formal setting and they can wear T-shirt when in informal setting. Jeans demands the attention of men as well as women.
Fourthly, it is alleged that jeans-wearing women are immoral. But this allegation is baseless. Morality is the sense of good and evil, which has no essential connection with dress. Morality is not such a light thing. Wearing jeans does not necessarily imply any sort of moral aberration. One may wear jeans and remain totally moral in her action. Wear has no role in making someone immoral. As a human frailty, even those who do not wear jeans, as the jeans wearers, may indulge in immoral activities. Morality comes from ethical practice, socialisation and institutional education. If these factors enlighten mind with an ideal of good life, one attains morality. Jeans has no power to get in the way of being morally strong.
Fifthly, it is also said that jeans makes women look sexy and it may provoke men to be attracted to them, resulting in indecent behaviour. This is in fact the problem of men and not of women. There is nothing provocative in jeans. Problem lies in the eyes of a man. Only when a man's mind is mean and corrupt, he will feel an indecent urge with the dress of a woman. It is not the woman's immorality but the moral delinquency of the men. These men have not got moral spirit to respect women. Their character is too loose to feel provoked by a woman's dress. A provoked man should feel ashamed before he advises any woman to exercise restraint in dress-up. Gentlemen must understand that jeans is a decent dress which is not as open as mini skirt and bikini.
Sixthly, wearing jeans put women on a collision course with the conservatism of society. This conservatism is mostly nourished by religions. A conservative society suggests a particular dress for women and does not approve of any new fashion. Women always struggle against the deep-rooted backward force and try to neutralise it. This makes them unpopular and they have to suffer harassments of various sorts. The conservative will try to dissuade them in the plea of maintaining social harmony. The timid women get docile but the brave ones violate the age-old social rules even though they are ridiculed and threatened. The conflict between progressive and regressive mounts with silent bloodshed. In most of the cases, the conflict ends with the collapse of conservatism and victory of liberalism.
So it is my firm conviction that there is nothing objectionable in women's wearing jeans in our society. It is in fact necessary to do so. It is a symbol of protest against male repression on women. It is a mark of progress and measure of civilisation. Men should not put women forcibly under veil or to prescribe any kind of robe for them. Women themselves will determine their own dress code. No state or religious authority should dictate it. If it does so, it will be the infringement on the rights of women, the rights of human.
(The writer is Assistant Professor and Head, Department of English, Daffodil International University.)