Monday, December 05, 2005

dress (lack of) sense

since we briefly touched on the subject of the body quite recently, i remembered this other thing.

i suggest you walk into a really crowded shop (yes i hate shopping too, but chin up: its for a people study!). look carefully at the little girls around. look at what they wear. specifically, the fabrics, the kind of clothes, the colours, the kind of clothes, whether its indian or firang, the kind of clothes, branded or unbranded, and the kind of clothes. being highly perceptive souls you may have caught my drift already.

so how are we clothing our little bundles of dreams these days? lets see. if youre pro ethnic its the hippest chick outfit that bollywood has to offer. if youre for the western look, its the latest in hollywood. "same difference" as a friend of mine puts it. whichever movie just became the rage in town, the entire wardrobe of the heroine is on the shelves (erm, figure that out will you!) for all from wee girls to women to flaunt.

a closer look at the outfits if you please. that outfit was carefully crafted for an actress to look appealing - mostly sexually appealing - to a huge adult audience. that bodice was to emphasise a womans breasts. that waist, bunched just so to show off her graceful waist, was to cascade onto her womanly hips. that neckline to reveal the swell of the bosom. the clinging pants, slightly flaring at the base to bring out the slim thighs and long legs.

.......what the heck is that stuff doing on a kid?

what were the parents thinking? "look, my kid is now the epitome of sexual desirability"? or "my daughter can measure up to adult sexual attractiveness standards as well as any b(/h)ollywood star so hah to you"? i mean, what?

we've made children sex objects. sex toys if you will. even if adult men werent already thinking about the young girls immature hips promising the shape of womanliness, or the small buds to show the start of a bust, theyre being asked to - pretty please! - do it now. and mighty sensually at that. how healthy. how well we protect, guard and respect our childrens innocence and childhood.

thats from this end of the age spectrum. on the other end, pop stars and ad models wear little girl school uniforms transforming the once "safe" childrens armour into a marginally sophisticated version of an item number costume. women who look obviously physically mature are cast in movies and serials as teenage girls. like hell a kid still growing up has a body like that! you must have heard about the fetish in japan for prostitutes to dress in school girl uniforms.

just how much more callously can we set up our children to be sexually abused? please - at least within your family - start parents thinking about what signboards theyre putting on their children.

child sexual abuse isnt a joke or a myth. its bloody traumatising.


ok. i see i have not made my point clearly enough after a couple of you spoke up.

right. see, im not talking about a childs imitative behaviour or decisions. my focus is on the guardians' decision. my focus is also not about the clothes being indian or western - whichever it is, the underlying message is the same.

this is what i am driving at:

when i make my child wear clothes that i would wear to look sexy, i am trying to make my child look sexy, right? THAT is what im questioning. is it right to put a child under that particular spotlight?

adult women themselves find it difficult to cope with the sort of violent and abusive behaviour they end up facing... are we not making the child more vulnerable and unnecessarily exposing it to a huge threat by such an action?

next, is it appropriate to view a child sexually? are we not taking unfair advantage of the child's ignorance of sex, sexual relationships and sexual rights?

its like society is pretending that the child is not a child by dressing him/her like an adult. we are just trying to blur the sharp distinction there is between coercing a child into sexual relations, and having a healthy sexual relationship with a consenting fellow adult. the more we justify a child being an acceptable target of sexual intent and attention, the greater the child's risk of being sexually abused.

this is the very real threat of sexualising children.



Blogger FM said...

Well...children take lessons from their role models and if their role models will be actors,actresses or those sexy models or those fashionable type women/men than obviously they will try to portray them. In india, i think people are not ready to accept this change. The culture is entirely different from the West, the way of speaking,clothing, food, arts e.t.c are different and these days what i see is that India is in middle of road of Western and Eastern cultural values...there half nation still following there old but pure tradition and half of other nation might be following the Western short cosmopolitan nation.

Well obviously in West you wont feel a thing if the children wear such clothes because thats their India you felt it because thats not part of your culture or you are yet to accept it as a part of your culture.

Betrand Russell rightly quoted:

"No cosmopolitan nation has ever been great since its loses its uniqueness".

Hope to see a boombastic reply from you

with regards

10:35 am  
Anonymous John Sebastian said...

Do u mean to say that those idiotic psychos are incited seeing the dress of those little innocent souls???????

Well i guess, u r lost somewhere??? ur PESSIMISTIC attitude has eventually led u to write this blog... As a feminist u can write abt the other sides of women rather than whinning (in a tone similar to an 'sos cry'), JUST coz u were outa privileges (i presume)

Well if u r really bold enuf... u shd ve put ur name on the blog or atleast ur pic..... but u r apprehensive, (for various reasons)
Wait ... one sec..... take at hard look at ur logics.... then make a reply
am not writing this comment to change u or to criticise u...... just wrote wat struck my mind after reading ur blog to a certain extent

12:16 pm  
Blogger jake said...

i am waiting one secs, i am waiting many secs, i still dont see logics in logics. and what struck in my mind was that you didnt leave your pic here either. u r apprenesive (for various reasons). where the logics in that ?

8:41 pm  
Blogger KoPoS said...

How well said; quite agree with the parents dressing up the kids mindlessly; its just the 'in thing' that matters i guess. Sadly,Ive given up expecting any hint of rationality from the people and this dressing up is just one of them.

As for the fetish for school uniforms, I remember seeing a music video of an album doing exactly just that; only its Indian.

How ever telling that the dresses might conjure up sexual fantasies in pathetic losers, i dont think the dress has anything to play in that.

And still dont get it, how trying to be someone else means 'being yourself'?

1:27 am  
Blogger iyer education said...

i thought this was pushing a bit too far... if you apply the same funda to lets say rape, it means the prime accused for a rape would be the woman to have tempted the guy to commit such an act in the first place... is that acceptable to you as a staunch supporter of feminism ?

3:36 am  
Blogger m. said...

FM and iyer education - please consider the update i have written. i guess i was not adequately clear when i wrote the main post. i hope this helps.

5:14 am  
Blogger Mike said...

Way to many girls are wearing clothes that reveal too much...can only wonder where the parents are when they leave the house.

5:16 am  
Blogger FM said...

Update on my comment: i started saying their..children portray their role models. If you are a role model of some child and if you wear those sexy clothes, child will obviously follow you. So its your responsibility to correct them. However the society has evil elements too and they might think of that child as their victim of lust. Children are innocent, so and their innocency and ignorance should be protected by their parents/guardian.

I hope i am with the point too this time.

with regards

9:28 am  
Anonymous hisRoyalpainIntheReartheGuardianofHighFashion said...

How dare thee criticize these parent's attempt to ensure their kids fit in? Do you know how tough it is to grow up with absolutely no fashion sense? Not knowing what best goes with your beige colored Banana Republic trousers!! Oh! The horror!!!

I say spread the fashion. Get boys fashion in. I say what is with the neglect. Why isn't Tinku dressed in the in the best SRK attire and pray where is the cigarette carelessly dangling off his lower lip!!! I say this is a crime!! Uff the neglect. When will parents give little boys a chance??

3:55 pm  
Blogger Rajesh J Advani said...

You make a good point. I had a conversation on similar lines with a female friend recently. I found it a little odd, how parties I'd visited had six and seven year old girls in backless gowns, teeny-tiny-tight skirts, short tops, and wearing an assortment of accessories that even their mothers would find difficult to handle. Most of these kids seem extremely uncomfortable in what they're wearing, and require repeated attention to either tuck their hair back under the seven hair-clips, or adjust that dress for the umpteenth time. Made me feel like their parents were treating them like the dolls they can no longer play with.

I never thought about the abuse angle, though.

Question. Dressing a child like a grown-up, may attract the wrong kind of attention, even though the child has no understanding of such matters. But such attention may come no matter what the child is wearing. Then, is the solution to dress the child up like Darth Vader, or rather, to educate the child about what kind of physical contact is not okay?

Going back in time, have children ever been dressed up very differently from their parents, or from current fashion trends?

Whatever the answer, you've made me think. My rusting brain cells thank you :)

2:12 am  
Blogger Senthil said...

I remember being amazed at a couple of kids wearing off-the-shoulder dresses a few years ago at a multiplpex. I really did not think of the possible repercussions as thoroughly as are worded in your post, but I distinctly remember feeling a little disturbed that parents choose to dress up their kids in clothes that may be termed as provocative on an adult.

Adults may choose to dress provocatively, and though I am not saying that they invite trouble in doing so, they definitely are better equipped to deal with potential eve-teasers and the like. However, a parent making a kid wear such clothes and thus exposing him/her to potential abuse is definitely being unfair to the child. Though the thoughts you have penned down may seem paranoid, it is a sad truth that they are not. We indeed live in disturbing times.

2:20 am  
Blogger Sea and Sky said...

here's my two pice bit:

* there used to be this dance show on sony tv (i dunno if it still is on air) called Boogie Woogie... these children, whose age got progressively younger as the show got older and as the TRP ratings soared, would be "made to" wear these really tit-bits of clothing and made to dance just like adults on stage, while the rest of the junta on the sets literally leched at them...

* guess there are two issues that are at the foundation of the discussion here (by m and others who have commented): 1) is it about children's choice to wear such clothes? if it is, then what's wrong with it... they may wear what they want... what's anybody else's problem?!; and 2) does it objectify children?

* as far as the question of choice is concerned, i guess the question (or the point of contention) is not about the clothes per se, but about who is choosing it for them... who is dressing them up... and why. i agree with m when she says that it is the adults who are behind it... for reasons which could be a complete topic of debate in itself.

*in terms of whether such behavior objectifies children, i would say YES!! making children look like adults ("adultifying" them) through clothes that seek to highlight their sexual maturity beyond their actual age certainly results in their commodification and presents them as sexual objects. there was this hoarding with this jeans ad, with this adult man wearing only jeans in a locker-room, surrounded by these adult women dressed up as children (in school uniforms), saying in bold - "NO ESCAPE". Making adult women look like school-girls is also about objectifying children (young girls as the "ideal" sexual fantasy/fetish objects). Boogie Woogie is another example. Our very own bollywood songs are obsessed with the age of 14/15/16/17 for girls... in feminist theory, the concept of "male gaze" is an interesting one within the cotext of this discussion. are children not being processed to be at the receiving end of this male gaze? ("The gaze is used in feminist theory as a means to demonstrate power asymmetries by what is termed male gaze, whereby a man gazes at a woman. Such feminist theorists posit that since it is almost always the females who are being gazed upon by the male, the male exhibits power over the woman.
This form of gaze can be the sexual gaze by a man towards a woman (so called "taking a pass"), or the gazing of an image of a woman in some text or in the media." -

* i also think it will be a naive / simplistic view to say that such a phenomenon has no sexual conotation to it. yes, the parents (or other adults concerned here) might not conscious of it, but then gender is so much a part of the social fabric and sexuality is such a taboo that we are often not aware of norms, values and practices that are mere manifestations of these two very important socio-cultural concepts. so if this is about sexuality (of course, not about sexuality alone)... then it brings us to the question on whether children can "choose" to make this "choice"? when we talk about choices, especially choices concerning sexuality, we talk about the right to say "no". inextricably linked to this is the right to say "yes" as well, in terms of sexual rights and decisions. so, if a child is being dressed up in a sexualized and adultified manner, then does this child have the information/knowledge/experience to excercise her right to say "yes" in an informed way? and if not, then are the people who are dressing the child up in ways the child cannot comprehend or give informed consent to, not violating the child's rights?

* do such clothes attract harrassment and abuse? a very interesting and valid point that has come up is that if those who oppose sexual harrassment keep insisting that it is not about women's clothes but offender's minds/attitudes that leads to violence, then why problem with children's clothes? i just want to say here that i agree that it is not about clothes alone. it is about the context in which the children are dressed up in those clothes... which is that of a patriarchal society where these children are being objectified and adultified (with sexual undercurrents being an important part of the context). so, clothes is not where the problem lies... clothes are only vehicles... and children are not in a position to make an informed choice regarding this, and that's why it is not okay.

* and finally, john sebastian, feminists are not women alone, and feminists don't speak about gender isuues just bcoz they've been "outta privileges"... on the other hand, to be a man in the gender stereotypical manner, and grow up isolated from the most amazing spectrum of emotions, captive of an image that's thrust upon oneself without being allowed to inhale the freedom of sculpting one's own identity... now that's being "outta privileges"... wake up and smell the coffee, pal!

5:53 am  
Blogger m. said...

@ FM: yup - the guardians/custodians of the child should know better. totally agree...

@ his Highness: erm, just how high were you eh? lol.. you are SUCH a bat barfer! :P

@ Rajesh: hey! welcome back - activated brain cells and all! ;)eeks, no i didnt mean Darth Vader-ising was our solution!! yes, educating the child is important - its critical. almost as much as paying attention to what we as "informed" "adults" do.

i can remember my childhood pretty clearly (ah the dark ages!): yes, we were certainly dressed differently and not in adult clothes. i was speaking to a friend whos in the states: she had an interesting observation - said that kids there were dressed like kids despite the powerful influence of movies.

@ senthil: hmm. to sound as sensible...! :)

@ sea & sky: you do the impossible each time - reducing me to stunned silence is a superhuman feat! :)) pleeeease post more often no?

8:23 am  
Blogger Rajesh J Advani said...

So you do think that kids used to dress up less like adults? :) I don't remember much about fashion during my childhood. At least not what the girls were wearing :) Girls were mostly icky then. :D

So I'll take your word for it :)

And please link away. No permission required for that!

9:58 am  
Blogger Jake said...

what ? no more raging, raving, rants ? hath the lone critic, alone amongst a sweltering sea of unbelivers, been done in ?

10:32 pm  
Blogger m. said...

@ rajesh: hehe, yesh. i think everybody goes through that other sex "is icky" phase.. and boy, does it make for some hilarious memories!

@ jake: hah! you wish... no way! and *ching* my claws are out. i rant, do i? :P

7:57 am  
Blogger Anurag said...

I'm surprised I didn't start visiting your blog sooner. You bring up some real nice issues. I don't agree with you all the time, but mostly I do.

4:25 am  
Blogger m. said...

anurag, thanks very much - welcome to my 'umble 'ome! :D
and yes, im glad you dont agree with me all the time - a little disagreement makes a discussion so much more interesting!

8:46 am  

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