Thursday, November 03, 2005

Of Dress Codes, Duties and Role Models

Quite frequently the issue of dress code props up and debated endlessly with repetition of same old set of arguments. A rape case in Mumbai, implementation of dressing code for college students in Mumbai, Pune or in Chennai alights many brains. Activists of all kinds wake up and shout for a while to indicate that they are still alive. One group shouts that ‘part of the crime lies with the victim girls who dress provocatively’ while an opposite group shouts, ‘if, at the age of 18, students can be given the right to elect their Prime Minister, can they not choose how they dress? A lot of arguments are exchanged by both bands. But unfortunately, issues are mixed so much so that the actual problem is lost.

Moral policing: People who become agitated by looking at the revealing clothes of women often support the implementation of a dress code. Argue with them, they give ‘sound’ reasons as to why a young woman should dress properly. One popular reason is that unless dressed ‘properly’ she is vulnerable to sexual attacks such as rape. This is non-sense. Is a young boy dressing ‘improperly’ vulnerable to rape? A rape is a manifestation of power, control and aggression. Rapists plan their crime in an organized way and rape is often a pre-determined act. Psychologists say the patterns of rapes are similar in ‘closed’ and ‘open’ societies alike. Another major problem with moral policemen is that they focus solely on girls. Such lop-sided focus gives enormous scope for many obscure ‘fashionable feminists’ groups to shout, who otherwise keep a low profile on genuine women’s issues. If you police, why not police the boys too who exhibit their muscles in every other street corner?

Exhibitionism: An issue not connected to the above is of dressing in revealing clothes. This is a wide spread perversion thanks due to the overwhelming influence of ramp models and actors/actress beamed every day to our homes by the media. People wear revealing outfits to draw the attention of others and they derive pleasure in doing so. Needless to mention, there are equal number of men and women doing this, but often guns of moral policemen are focused on women alone.

Primary duties and priorities: What is the duty of a teacher? It’s simple, it is to teach. A doctor cures, a businessman does business and an entertainer entertains. So we can say there are primary/basic duties for each one of us. It is considered ideal, if people adhere to their duties closely to an extent that their identity is determined by their successes in their respective duties. A teacher should be identified as a good, better or the best teacher and certainly not as an entertainer or businessman. He could probably entertain or play in his leisure, but not at the cost of his/her primary duty that is, teaching. Whatever may be his/her non-teaching interests, a teacher is expected to give first priority to teaching.

Likewise, college students should study and keep studies as their top priority. Following ramp/cinema models to dress in everyday life has the potential of distracting the student (not the onlookers) from concentrating on studies. Distractions of any kind should be minimized by the students in order to excel in their studies. Ramp models and cinema actors/actress are paid for dressing or undressing. Fashion designers who design the clothes for models are also paid for their work. It is their duty, not everyone’s.

One might ask, ‘should not a teacher/doctor/student dress well’? They should. Aesthetics has a role to play in everyone’s life. But aesthetics should not take over a person’s primary duties and responsibilities. Know your priorities well and strive to get recognized by your talents and achievements in your duties. Are you successful in your job and got some time to develop an interest in fashionable outfits? Then, use your own imagination and creativity to design an outfit for yourself. And that’s truly YOU in your original best.

Role Models: Today, many people try to find their role models in a movie ‘star’ and in a model (not the role model, please note) walking on a ramp. They die to identify themselves with a popular actor/actress and try to mimic them. They learn the tastes of a ‘star’ through media and try to adapt in their lives too. Unfortunately, most often a good teacher is not considered a role model to either his students or to his junior colleagues. Best student in a college is not the role model to his classmates or juniors. If an aspiring actor/actress considers famous actor/actress as his/her role model, it is appropriate. But if the same person chooses an engineer or businessman or say, a politician as a role model, would he/she make a career in acting? So, you must decide first what you want to be. Want to be an actor/actress? Then choose your role model in your favorite actor/actress. Want to make business as your career? Then choose a successful businessman as your role model. Want to be a leader? Then choose the right leader as your role model.

Role of Media: Due to shock and awe kind of bombardment of cinema and ramp ‘stars’ through all kinds of media, ‘style’ has become the self identity and often the only identity for many people. Self worth is taking a new definition on the basis of ‘looks’ or on the kind of dressing. Often media presents women as objects of sex thereby creating an impression in the minds of the gullible public that all women must be viewed through the same lens. Same holds good for the other gender too but unfortunately, this happens more in the case of women. Women without beauty are not considered worthy by people despite their talents and achievements in the fields of their interest. Dressing has been made to appear as a symbol of women ‘empowerment’ and ‘freedom’. Such stereotypes on one hand will fail to recognize talented women and on the other hand will mask genuine problems of women in a society with superficial ones.

A society needs lots of professions, not just entertainers. But how many reports/interviews have you seen in the media which talks of or talks with a good teacher, an honest technician, or a well caring nurse? Weigh them against reports/interviews of/with an actor/actress, the ratio is depressing.


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