The fact that my name was misspelled was of very little significance compared to how my quote was inserted in the entire article. I’m talking about an article entitled "We will not skirt the issue" that was published on Page 3 in the June 29 (Thursday) issue of Hyderabad Times.
Though I wasn’t able to locate the exact article online, here it is:
‘We will not skirt the issue’
Moral policing, by attempting to curb how girls dress, is not acceptable to the students
by Aakanksha Naval-Shetye
Clothes have nothing to do with crime against women, as Hyderabad Times proved yesterday. [I still have to get a hold of that article; pity I don’t subscribe to the Times, the reasons for which will soon be clear.] Today, we bring you the perspective of college students who term Madhya Pradesh Women’s Commision’s proposal to ban skirts in schools as ‘unwanted moral policing.’
While many students accept that they are aware of a decent dress conduct in colleges, and yet girls do fall victims to the prying male eye. Says Srijana "If a guy doesn’t have self-control then whatever a woman wears makes no difference. And, the dress code, which is being prescribed for girls at the school level, will make a wrong impact on children; they will start noticing things they shouldn’t at their age."
[Here’s where you pay attention.]
Takdir, a student of Architecture, says, "I don’t agree with the complete ban. They should allow the girls to wear longer skirts."
This view is supported by sociologists and social activists who agree that it’s wrong to say that sexual rimes are on the rise because women dress indecently. "By blaming a girl’s attire for the rise in crime against women, the authorities are trying to wash their hands off their responsibility of making the city a safer place," says sociologist Nandini Sardesai.
"When 18-year-olds can elect the government, should they be told what to wear and what not to?" uestions social activist Flavia Agnes. "Students should be encouraged to make their own choices and decisions, not dictated to."
Playing moral police
Delhi, September 2002: Ex-police commisioner RS Gupta said crimes against women would drop by 50% if they were careful about how they dress.
Mumbai, July 2005: Mumbai Archbishop Ivan Dias asked people not to wear jeans, T-shirts and mini-skirts for Sunday service in the church.
Mumbai, June 2005: Bombay University attempted to ban women from wearing mini-skirts, tight tops and shorts. Vice-chancellor Vijay Khole said that a dress code would reduce sexual harassment.
Chennai, October 2005: Anna University imposed a dress code with vice-chancellor D Viswanathan arguing that certain forms of attire detracted from the seriousness of pursuits.
Bangalore, May 2006: Bangalore University Syndicate is considering segregated seating for male and female students.
Hyderabad, September 2006: Certain Muslim clerics had protested against tennis player Sani Mirza’s short skirts and playwear.
Orissa, September 2005: The Orissa government said students shouldn’t wear jeans to college and girls must not be dressed in skirts or sleeveless tops.
Delhi, February 2006: Farah Aziz Khanum, a studen at Aligarh University, reported that she was receiving threats from other students because she wears T-shirts and jeans.
(This article also appeared in other cities’ editions, with slight variations.)
From this article, I guess one thing is clear. They do not believe that wearing provocative clothing has anything to do with sexual harassment, and they are trying to prove that students agree with their point of view through the article. But I don’t! Anyone who reads the article is bound to think that all the quotes have been used to support the opinion of the writer. However, my opinion is quite the contrary.
A few days before this was published, I received a phone call from a Times of India reporter, and she asked me a few questions about my opinion on the Madhya Pradesh Government’s proposal to ban skirts for women. In my personal opinion, I felt that this ban wouldn’t affect me, as (apart from not living in MP) I wear only longer, ankle-length skirts. As for others, I think indecent exposure can certainly send a message to the authorities that something needs to be done. Although sexual harassment is a crime which needs to be dealt with by itself and the perpetrator must be befittingly punished, the way a woman dresses, as well as her body language and behavior, do contribute to some extent. If a woman dresses provocatively and expects not to be harassed, then I think she is either too naive or blind or dumb, or simply in denial to the fact that she is providing a motive to the crime. Whether that motive is valid or not is another issue, but it is certainly a start.
The reporter then asked me if I agree to the ban on skirts in school uniform. I said that schools themselves have rules that prevent a girl from wearing a skirt that goes below the knee. The only reason they can offer for this is that longer skirts hinder movement during sports and other activities. To that, I say if you have to change the dress-code, make them wear pants! Why not? Pants are the best attire for sports, and are decent as well as formal, and they do away with gender differences to a great extent. There is already a dress-code, making alterations to it shouldn’t make a big difference. But for the record, whatever the government does won’t make much of an impact; girls who want to dress provocatively will find a way and guys who want to harass women will continue to do so, no matter how they are dressed.
After making the above statements, I didn’t expect for a second that my views would be projected in quite the opposite flavor! The point here is not whether I agree to the skirt ban or not; it is not what I think about Sania Mirza’s sports attire; it is not whether I consider a dress-code fair or unfair. All these are issues for another day, another blog entry, perhaps. The point is, I was quoted out of context. My views were portrayed in a way that makes them appear to be the complete opposite of what I believe.
That is what irks me.
Yes, it is a well-known fact that the media distorts words to suit its purpose, but I made my opinion very clear. It was in no way even in slight agreement to what the article said. Is the writer so insecure about her opinion that she is afraid to present an opposing argument; not just that, she has to make it look like everyone agrees with her? If she didn’t want to present a contradicting opinion, why did she use my quote at all? Do the media think that they will never be held accountable for what they write? Do they think they can get away with anything?
By the way, "prying male eye"? What’s there to pry when everything is in full view? How can you wear a bikini and expect to be treated like Mother Teresa just based on appearance? Alright, like I said, this is a topic for a whole nother blog entry. I won’t be doing justice to it if I write about it as a post-script to another issue. So far, I have refrained from offering my views about such matters, but I guess I can skirt the issue no longer!