Story of a lost journalist

November 2, 2010

Jeans and T-Shirt – what’s the big deal?

Filed under: My Musing Moments,People,Personal,Problems — Cris @ 12:19

There is a 2-minute walk from my house to the nearest auto rickshaw stand. Couple of days ago, I was on my way to catch an auto. There is an empty hall-cum-library on the way and men sometimes gather around on the ground outside. On this occasion there were around four or five young men talking aloud. I was wearing jeans and t-shirt and my trademark hat.

As I passed them, the men started hooting and shouting. One of them said: “Dei ninakonnum ammem penganmaarum ille?” (Don’t you have a mother and sisters?)
I’m sure this was not from any concern. Only to start a dialogue of some sort. Another replied: “Athinu ithu pennano? Ithu charakkalle?” (Is this a girl? Isn’t she a commodity?)
Lots of laughter.

My usual response to “commentadi” is pretending not to have heard anything. Ignore it completely. Am afraid, accustomed to my usual ways, I did the same here. Just walked past them, didn’t glance, didn’t stop, acted like I didn’t even know they existed. This was not a planned reaction. Just the usual.

Now I regret. I don’t mind subtle “commentadi”. It is natural that men and women may appraise each other on the streets, on the roads, etc. but when it comes out as an insulting comment, deliberately made to hurt the subject, or provoke her, things change.

From experience and from guy friends I have understood that the only way to stop such behaviour is by reacting to it. If you just ignore it, they may believe that you don’t mind, or even that you enjoy it. Be it a turn of your head or a stare or words, you need to react. It is only after taking my auto that I realized how offensive the comments were. And they were standing at a distance from me, so had to say it really aloud for it to reach me.

What would be the intention behind such comments? What pleasure do they get out of it? I don’t understand.

Few days ago, there was a discussion on a google group I am a member of – about a news article on a Malayalam daily. It was about a girl getting into a tussle with an older man who it seems criticized her for her choice of clothes (jeans and tshirt again). During a bus trip the man sat near the girl, who was in her early twenties, and told her he disapproved of what she wore, and to dress properly. She said something back. The article says that this man touched her after she told him not to and she slapped him. She beat him more after he got down from the bus. Half the people in the bus were with the girl, and the other with the man. The girl was arrested for assaulting the man.

In the course of the discussion, several viewpoints came out – one being the all-too-familiar ‘fault of the girl in choosing to wear a provocative dress’. I find this reaction too lowly to even respond to it. It just isn’t worth it. And there is absolutely no use trying to talk sense into such people. They will not change their mind no matter what, unless probably something of this sort happens to their own kith and kin.

I thought Trivandrum was mature enough to confront a pair of jeans and a t-shirt! But looks like we are a long way away. And I might add here, all the guys near my house were in some sort of jeans-t-shirt wear. Maybe they drool over their own ‘commodity selves’ every morning in front of the mirror.


  1. A good one, with a good choice of subject.

    I am not of the opinion that the whole Trivandrum is immature enough to act the same way as those who passed ugly comments on you. I believe, like the eye sight, the Insight also varies in humans. Hence even if you were dressed up in the conventional keralite style also, you might have had faced the same comments from them. They are like a pack of hunting wolfs and they never are concerned whether it is a hare or a rabbit as long as it is their prey.

    I am not against the Idea of modern dressing until and unless the purpose of dressing is fulfilled.

    Thanks for the Thought..

    Comment by Javed Miandad — November 2, 2010 @ 15:52 | Reply

    • Thank you Javed. I agree that most of the time it has nothing to do with what you wear, as long as you belong to a particular gender. But it is a fact that while a salwar may be ignored as a common sight, something like a pair of jeans still finds it hard to find itself a place in the nothing-unusual-category.

      Comment by Cris — November 11, 2010 @ 02:40 | Reply

  2. I have experienced the same several times, never knew what to respond so even i always follow the ignore policy cause often i feel baffled and don’t get what to say or how to react!!

    “Maybe they drool over their own ‘commodity selves’ every morning in front of the mirror.”

    I loved the last line. Classic!!!

    Comment by Akshaya — November 4, 2010 @ 02:20 | Reply

    • Thanks Akshaya. I believe we should react. At least express our distaste to the remarks, because the last thing we’d want would be them thinking we enjoy it.

      Comment by Cris — November 11, 2010 @ 02:42 | Reply

  3. thiruanthoram, i tell you!

    but i guess its more or less the same story most of the places. if it’s a jeans phobia there, then it’s a mini-skirt phobia someplace else. Basically, any outfit which isn’t the regular wear of a majority of the place. It all boils down to the fact that society (that includes men and women) always thought it was their responsibility to dictate what their womenfolk wear. and if they dont follow the accepted rules, they are disciplined into following it. Probably, these specimens were thinking their commentadi will be a deterrant to girls wearing jeans n tees. Funnily, these kind of perverts are also acting out their own inferiority complex and they are not even aware of it!

    Oh to hell with what they think. You go rock your world, girl! 🙂

    Comment by usha — November 4, 2010 @ 17:07 | Reply

    • Usha, that’s a good way to look at it 🙂 Inferiority complex – yes, that could very well be it.
      And agree to all you said. I am sure there must have been the same resistance 20 years ago, when women switched from Saris to Churidhars for convenience and men thought it “modern and out of taste with our tradition.”
      Sigh! Yeah to hell with their thoughts!

      Comment by Cris — November 11, 2010 @ 02:44 | Reply

  4. Kerala’s a peculiar contrast. Progressive at so many levels, but absolute pits at other things like the manner in which women are looked at. There’s an interesting feature story somewhere there analysing why

    Comment by Madhavan — November 7, 2010 @ 21:22 | Reply

    • Madhavan: Thanks for dropping by :-). It is interesting I suppose, the way we deal with our everyday progress on various fronts, and the way we refuse to change in matters concerning certain entities as women!

      Comment by Cris — November 11, 2010 @ 02:47 | Reply

  5. I am with the ignore-offensive-comments group. Never reacted to the worst of them. If I get into an argument, for these guys have tongues that can slice us however hard our skins are, I end up being more miserable than I was at the original ‘comment’. Let them keep on, they’ll never stop, come what may. And there will always be more of them. The ones I saw on the roadside are now family men, trying to keep their girls away from the ones that have now taken their place.

    I may be wrong, and this could be a very old-fashioned attitude.

    Comment by Jean — November 10, 2010 @ 11:03 | Reply

    • Well yeah Jean, you maybe right about that. Having never got into an argument, I dont know if it would make things any different. At the same time, I dont want to take it doing nothing about it. There should be some way.

      Comment by Cris — November 11, 2010 @ 02:50 | Reply

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