Friday, March 9, 2012

Why I don't wear a sari on International Women's Day

When all my female colleagues were mutually planning to wear saris to office the day before International Women's Day, I politely refused to participate. The first time I did this - refused to drape a sari on Women's Day, 5 years ago - I drew some flak from my then colleagues, notably my best friend who alleged that I just loved being different for the heck of it. Any other time of the year, she pointed out, I don't mind turning up for work draped in the national garment, so why not today? I'm sure my present colleagues and new friends have the same question - so here are some of my reasons. (Note: some bits of it are not very pleasant. Do not click if you are easily offended.)

1) The International Women's Day, as I understand, is a celebration of women's achievements and progress over the past century. It's a day to acknowledge, cherish and encourage the freedom we enjoy thanks to generations of women who struggled to break the old social norms and redefine the position of women in society. Heck, women then probably had to fight their way to even be part of society. They fought for the many privileges, big and small, that we take for granted today - the right to wear pants, for example. So even though I treasure my collection of colorful saris, wearing pants to office is my personal tribute to those women who made it possible for me to wear pants as well as to go to office. (It was a salwar-kameez this year, but you get the point)

2) The women in my life and I make up a very small sub-segment of Indian women, fortunate as we are to enjoy a degree of freedom that is still unknown to the majority of our sex in this country. A good number of girls are still not allowed to be born, or to lead a near-human existence. They are either aborted, abandoned, neglected, malnourished, exploited, or abused for the grave crime of inheriting the wrong chromosome. Women get raped by anyone ranging from a perfect stranger to a colleague to relatives to neighbors, and then get humiliated and punished for the crime of being violated. If I had a rupee for every time I've heard some version of 'it must have been her fault', from seemingly civilized people, I'd hire a henchman to kill at least one of those civilized men - or even women. The ongoing outrage against my kind gives me no cause to celebrate.

3) I have personally done nothing to make any woman's life any better. Now that is not my calling in life, nor do I harbor any dreams of bringing about a revolution. Nor do I expect that my colleagues, many of them competent mothers and accomplished professionals, to add more to their plates. Still, I would rather let this day go solemnly by, than trivialize the very real women-centered issues around me by spending this day in meaningless festivity. Festivals are fun, I know. They are good opportunities to take time and appreciate your friends and family. I do not strictly care if a certain deity really did kill a certain demon on this day a few millenia ago, but if the occasion grants me a day away from work, I'm not complaining. But Women's Day is not about mythical or historical events. It's about real women, and real issues that are as relevant today as they were a century ago. Nice clothes and potluck parties just don't cut it.


  1. I second your thoughts all the way. Though I did participate in cake-cutting at work on Women's Day :P

  2. I contributed for the Women's Day party at office too. Not exactly a religious issue, this :)

  3. Deepti, that was your vehement best.... speaking your opinion like the way you do is really outstanding... and as for women's day... we do trivilize the issue...

  4. Just 1 question after reading the post.. Are you single :) ? Btw, my blog is ..maybe u can visit it sometime.. Great post this madame..need more like u..

  5. I agree with you fully.

    I don't think we dress on any given day to 'celebrate' any occassion. Just because I am an Indian doesn't mean I should dress up in a dhoti kurta on Aug 15th. It's only to remember those people who laid down their lives for our country.