Tirath Singh Rawat, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, recently criticized women for donning ripped jeans, specifying the lack of values that they imparted upon their children, on doing so.
He continued, and described a personal scenario, where a co-passenger on his flight, wore jeans that were ripped at the knees, along with boots. She was travelling with her two children and ran an NGO. In his statement he wondered what values she would impart in the society by walking around in boots and ripped jeans.
Social media went through a frenzy, as it sparked outrage with hashtags like #RippedJeansTwitter, gained momentum and women shared pictures of styling ripped jeans on twitter. The chief minister tried to withdraw his statement by saying- ‘‘Mujhe Jeans Se Nahi, Fati Jeans Se Hai Aitraaz”, which translates to “I do not have a problem with jeans, but only with ripped jeans.” Other political leaders also slammed the chief minister for making a comment like this. Priyanka Chaturvedhi, who is a member of Shiv Sena, a regional party in India stated- “Change your thinking CM Rawat, only then the country will change.” (Translated from Hindi)
Tirath Singh Rawat is a member of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which is also the current ruling political party of the Republic of India. The comments he made were at a workshop organized by the Uttarakhand State commission for the protection of Child Rights.
This is not the first time an Indian man of significant power has used attire or insignificant attributes to define a woman’s character. K. J. Yesudas, a playback singer, had said that wearing jeans was completely against Indian culture and doing so can provoke unpredictable behavior. While talking to journalists about the high rate of rapes in India, a BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya that women should not dress up in a manner that provokes men. He referred to the Hindu mythological tale of Ramayana, where the story depicts the abduction of Lord Ram’s wife Sita, as she crosses a holy line, and compared it to modern women today proclaiming that they too will face consequences if they cross the so-called line in society. In a high profile rape care, Justice Bobde who was the head of a three-judge bench asked the man who was accused of raping a girl if he would marry her. His words said “If you want to marry (her) we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail.”
These statements and rules show a poignant tale of how derogatory remarks on women, rape culture and victim blaming remain a part of the Indian culture in the 21st century. For most of these men, it is incomprehensible to the least to see women making their own choices and decisions when it comes to fashion and lifestyle and any opinion or judgement is based on whether a woman has been the ideal Indian woman, according to centuries old archaic beliefs. This misogyny is hidden under the constant excuse of using culture as a justification. India today has seen many female leaders, who have beaten the odds to come up as successful individuals, but remarks like those of Tirath Singh Rawat, have the influence to sway public opinion among less educated communities, and in turn build an admonishing environment for women in such families.