Thursday, August 9, 2012

Representation of Women : What She Chose For Herself

From the outset, let me assure you, this is no rant about the patriarchal representation of women throughout history. Not that I think women were treated equally or fairly by our fore-"fathers," at the same time, nor do I think that all our fore-"mothers" suffered high degrees of patriarchal abuse.

Basically, women always possessed the power to break their shackles. Kali existed (in Indian thought) since the Vedic period. There is a reason why a human being who had the shakti to be destruction itself, chose to be otherwise...

Perhaps it was her motherly intuition, or the unimaginable sexual attraction she felt toward the opposite sex, sometimes even towards her own. Whatever it may be, she bore the masochistic suffering for centuries (of course, rebels abound) and let it be.

Now, to come to our theme:

I realize that growing up, one of the most recurring ideas in one's life is what to be. Modern (which has come to mean adopting a consumerist lifestyle, disregarding all historical culture merely on the basis that it doesn't aid in one's money making path), or traditional (following customs because they are so, stubbornly sticking to old lifestyles even when it gets redundant)... And most often than not, one chooses a path between, where the past meets the present, the east meets the west, and co-exist.

Such co-existence has been in practice for a while. We only need to see what we see everyday with a more non-judging eye. What have women kept all this while, not letting go even during revolutionary times?

Much of what women want to represent, I believe, reflects in how they present themselves to the world, as even those who claim 'not to care about the world,' choosing to dress in ways to rebel, are still presenting that to everyone else, thus making a statement.

So, to all those who say that 'judging' a woman by how she dresses is a shallow, chauvinistic attitude, I beg to differ. And 'judgmental' is such a subjective word. Who on earth can proclaim not to be judgmental?

Now, having said that, to look at women from historical times to the present, I am amazed by the abundance of beauty in the way they chose to look.  

The 'Dancing Girl' from the Harappan times, there she stands, hand stretched, suggestive even, with nothing on her but jewellery...  

I see her 'modern' stance.

And then there are those women of Mughal times, clad in long tunics of fine silk and muslin.


And those of early British times, playing the veena...

Classic. Notice her shoes.

Then, someone would say that all this is how men represented women. Then, we look at photos.

All the jewellery she wears, her obstinate need to show off her Indian finery during colonial times. Resisting westernization.

Why do we always think that the way a woman dresses is because of patriarchal pressure? True, women do care about what the opposite sex thinks about their 'looks.' That is not a crime. It's only natural, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about it. And it's not 'pressure' from outside, but from inside.

So, I see how women paint women.

There is something feminine about her work. Isn't there? And, it is beautiful.

The transitional 80's and 90's see women adopt western culture with love,

Shedding all ornamentation of lore.

Don't forget the tomboys.

There's truth in what they want everyone to know about them. They are bold, and alluring. And have broken away from shackles of sexuality. Respect them.

We live in extraordinary times, where people like Rose Venkatesan, tell us that one can choose how one wants to be seen...

How pretty!

Once all that's apparently old is pushed away, and all that is 'modern' is adopted, the old finds its way back to us.

Reminding us of how we can move on with life, without shedding what's ours.

Taking pride in our inheritances.

Asking us to experiment.

And be what we want to be.

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