Dress to Oppress – Strip the Walls Bare

 

Today, we unravel the threads of time and tradition, and weave a new norm.

The dilemma of deciding what to wear is universal. But in an age where gender and sex are spectrums rather than definite lines, we must re-examine the stereotypes (‘tom-boy’, ‘slutty’, ‘sanskari’) we have woven with respect to the clothing choices of those around us. Furthermore, questions like “Who wears the pants in your relationship?” only deepen the scars of prejudice, and misguided notions of masculinity and/or power. Such erroneous judgments continue in assigning gender and/or sex to colours. While in the early 20th century, the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department, mentioned that “pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”, by the 1940s, the tide had turned altogether. However, regardless of this timeline, an earnest plea to the reader would be to leave the rainbow alone.

Then, there are those who advocate ideals of equality and freedom of choice, and admonish men wearing dresses (read Jaden Smith at prom), all in the same breath. Say, if a woman wore a tuxedo to her wedding, one would witness all dainty facades of acceptance and support flying off the shelves. Admittedly, open-mindedness is easier in theory than in practice, and hypocrisy a smoother path to traverse than honesty. The question is- are you willing to take the road less travelled?

Further, dear reader, recall the stunning, overexposed shots of testosterone-fuelled, muscled men, armed with spears and shields, skin slick with sweat, clad in plumed helmets and fustanellas (a traditional Greek skirt) in Zack Snyder’s dramatic fictionalised retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae within the Persian Wars. Fixated as you may be on the seeming juxtaposition in the above description, of brave men wearing skirts, I shall clarify, that I speak of the box office success, ‘300’.

Moreover, consider the Scottish, who, in donning the kilt, were concerned with convenience and comfort for their male warriors and employed several practical uses of the garment- apart from shielding one’s body from nature and clothing one’s frame. The kilt could serve as a camping blanket, and was worn over a full-sleeved garment stopping below the waist (léine); loose-fitting, it enabled the wearer to make distant, long marches with agility and to wade through rivers. The upper half could be worn as a cloak over the shoulder, or brought up over the head for protection against the weather. Now, as queer (in more ways than one) as it may seem for some, to witness warriors donning an article of clothing reserved for the ‘weaker’ sex, when you come to think of it, it may be wiser and more comfortable for males to don skirts and females to wear pants, for obvious anatomical reasons.

Having said that, one should be free to clothe themselves as they see fit, regardless of the anatomy of their body. This free will is embodied in Megan Fox’s parenting style, whereby she abstains from enforcing stereotypical dress-codes for her children; in conversation with Jimmy Kimmel, she mentioned how her son, Noah, likes to wear dresses sometimes. Parents all over the world should take notes from the Transformers star, who said, “…there are no rules- you can be whatever you want to be in my house!” Moreover, skirts have made their way into men’s fashion through celebrities; Jared Leto, David Beckham, David Bowie, Jaden Smith, Kanye West and Vin Diesel have all worn skirts proudly.

Why, though, must we view these developments as achievements to be proud of, rather than commonplace occurrences that are treated with normalcy? I suppose we have, indeed, come full circle- where once, Luisa Capetillo and Katherine Hepburn went against the tide and donned trousers, the garment of revolt (the former went to jail for the supposed ‘crime’, though charges were dropped later), the dawn of the twenty first century brings with it the campaign for men to freely wear ‘feminine’ clothes. This is baffling, juxtaposed with the fact that cultures across the world started out with simple, flowy, dress-like garments meant for both the sexes – from the Roman toga, to the Indian lungi, and the Japanese kimono (to name but a few) – which were differentiated and altered into gender-specific clothes. Having said that, the response to the present hue and cry for gender-neutral clothing has not been met satisfactorily; despite the promise of equality, the unisex garment has essentially been of a ‘masculine’ style. Needless to say, we have miles to go in this area.

But clothes aren’t where it all ends; cosmetics form an integral component of fashion trends and the way one wears them (or doesn’t, depending on one’s preferences) reflects a person’s projection of themselves as much as their clothes do. Men have found their footing in the cosmetics industry, debunking the myth that makeup can’t be ‘macho’. This comes amid a larger investigation into traditional gender boundaries in fashion and beauty, alongside the growth of internet-famous beauty fanatics who have built followings via social media. Take, for instance CoverGirl’s latest face, James Charles, 17, a high school senior from Bethlehem, N.Y., with nearly 650,000 followers on Instagram and over 90,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. Following suit, Maybelline unveiled their first ever male model, Manny Gutierrez, the 25-year-old “beauty boy”, with a whopping 3 million followers on Instagram and 2.1 million YouTube subscribers.

And then there is the eventful history of high-heels. From Medieval Persia to Carrie Bradshaw, the elevated shoe has come a long way. Initially donned by Persian noblemen as riding shoes, the heel enabled a steadier stance so that the rider could shoot his arrow more effectively while standing up in the stirrups. European royals took notice when Persian monarch, Shah Abbas went to tour European courts around the 1500s. And so the Persian style shoes were adopted by the aristocracy who felt it lent their demeanor a masculine edge, until it was eventually taken over by women.

Cut to the present, where more men are adopting the style originally meant for them, dispelling invisible boundaries and gender norms. In 2014, Yanis Marshall auditioned for the talent show Britain’s Got Talent; the part French, part British dancer combined his passion for dance and his undying love for high heels, and along with his two friends Arnaud and Mehdi, won the hearts of everyone who was watching. Sure-footed (in 6-inch heels, no less) and sassy as can be, the trio stunned the crowd and received nothing but adoration and respect from the judges, with their up-beat and bold moves on numbers by the Spice Girls and Beyoncé, among others. When asked why he dances in high heels, Yanis replied with the same answer he has always uttered, i.e.- “Why not?”

And truly, that is a question we must all ask ourselves. Why can’t men wear high heels? Why must make-up be withheld from the masculine? Why should women worry about being looked down upon for wearing a tuxedo instead of a dress? Can the walls we see around us be crossed and broken? More importantly, who built them to begin with? In part, we all are culprits, and these walls stand testament to our crime. Every naysayer has placed a brick and a dollop of mortar. It seemed a small contribution at the time- but then, no individual water drop holds itself responsible for the flood.

And while, as a general rule, things are easier to break than build- these walls are standing exceptions. We must all resolve to make a small indent, to chisel away yet another bit of prejudice, and to bury away our notions, in order to break the walls that separate us from each other, and ourselves. For, there are those amongst us who do not identify as either male or female- everything is not, after all, simply black or white. But this human tendency, an obsession almost, to put things into neat, tiny little boxes, has imprisoned some of our own; the breaking of these walls may be the first step for some of us to see ourselves in the clear light of day and do justice to who we truly are.

After all, walls are only so good as long as they protect and support us. But when they begin separating us from reality, and each other, it’s time to start considering cutting a few doors into them. And even if we don’t find the courage to cross those doors immediately, at least we’d have let in a bit of light from the other side.

– Divas Kindra

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Teezy Tiny Tales: Winning Entries

Following are the winning entries for the pre-event, Teezy Tiny Tales, hosted by the Philosophy Department as a preface to the much awaited Aletheia.

unnamed“What if it’s a daughter?” Asked the mother to a tensed father. 9 months later, Father was annoyed, the brother rejoiced.

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“What if you had a phone that could call your past?” “I would ask my mom, what happened to her on Feb 6th 2016 at 6:30 pm, in the last minute of her life.”, the student replied.

 

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What if there are as many worlds as many eyes are there? What if my black is your white?

Teezy Tiny Tales- An Aletheia Pre-Event

We have all come across literary posts all over social media that make us think, What if? What if we could write as well? What if we get published?

The pre-event, Teezy Tiny Tales, hosted by the Philosophy Department as a preface to the much awaited Aletheia, aims to answer just that.

Vignettes: Entries from Photography Exhibition

Following are the displayed entries from Vignettes, an online photography competition and exhibition organised as part of Aletheia, the annual academic fest of the Department of Philosophy.

The Hand

The hand has a double connotation. For some it defines beliefs such as the deeply embedded lines on our hands. For the others, it defines the courage of raising our hands to question the beliefs made by others. It is time to stop. To stop and think about our beliefs.

Anusha Mital, I Year, Lady Shri Ram College

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Caged

Beliefs are equivalent to a cage. You can try to break them down but they only rattle. You can stick your fingers out, but not your hand. They enclose us in unbreakable bonds from all sides, left, right, below and above. How ever will we escape this cage?

Anusha Mital, I Year, Lady Shri Ram College

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. . .

 

But greater joy by far I know

When with sweet faith and eyes aglow

And faith and wisdom here below

Until one day by saving grace he’ll meet his saviour face to face.

Archana Mishra, III Year, Shivaji College

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Believing in something and being a part of something you believe in and watching it work and coming from it.

Archana Mishra, III Year, Shivaji College

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. . .

We always have faith in god which is not to be questioned.

Adesh Sharma, IV Year, Delhi Technological University

We always have faith in god which is not to be questioned

Friendship is a belief which cannot be questioned.

Adesh Sharma, IV Year, Delhi Technological University

Friendship is a belief which cannot be questioned

. . .

Do our rivers that we consider Holy need to be sacrificed and left in a mess for purification of our souls?

I found this man cleaning the mess at the shores of river Yamuna before taking dip into the Holy river. The board right above his head reads a request and directs the pilgrims not to leave ‘Puja Samagri’ at the shores of the river & to use Dustbins. It’s not our sins that are washed away in the Holy river but the Puja Samagri which eventually dirties the Holy river.

Surya Prakash Sharma, III Year, Delhi College of Arts and Commerce

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Are the best plans for their child not the failed dreams of the parent himself/herself? 

Is what parents considered best for their child really the best or does it just ties the child to an invisible chain that leaves the child helpless and sometimes the chain eventually breaks shattering the hopes of the parents. What you considered best for yourself may not be the best for your child.

Surya Prakash Sharma, III Year, Delhi College of Arts and Commerce

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. . .

“teach me something great”, i said.

he smiled and replied “one with everything” gracefully.

Ishender Kawatra, III Year, Shivaji College

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Vignettes: Winning Entries

As part of Aletheia, the Annual Academic Fest of the Department of Philosophy, Vignettes, an online photography competition was organised. The theme given to the participants was “Can Beliefs Be Questioned?”, which was open to interpretation. The selected entries were then displayed at the fest and judged by Mr Nimit Nigam, a Delhi-based travel photographer. The winning entry was submitted by Mansheetal Singh, III Year, Khalsa College.

 

The Divine Reincarnation

“If Lord Krishna were to reincarnate as exactly himself in today’s urban setting, how much would he be cared for? A gaze? Or max to max a selfie with him?
Nobody has got time in the rat race of the cities. His legends in Mahabharta would only appeal as stories to people of today.”

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. . .

The runner up entry was submitted by Eden Roc B. Ramos, I Year, Lady Shri Ram College.

Marbled Stillness

“Her delicate body is curled, her faint hand resting on the marble, abiding by the practice she covered herself to pay respect. One may sense that her vision is enclosed in some way or the other, focused on what has been known and handed over, where she’s trapped invisibly, blinded by the course of time having the sincere intent to attain the guarantee of grace and mercy from the unprecedented entity. Her thoughts might be at liberty, but her external entity is limping, her foot is fastened, besmirched by the sweep of unwanted colors. One may utter that she has the volition to question her current state, but does she, herself, desires to be freed? Would it be possible to move without detaching the shackles?”
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Word Interpretation: Winning Entry

As part of the Philosophy Day Celebration, a competition was held by the Department of Philosophy. There were two categories under which students could participate, Word-Interpretation and Picture-Anaylsis. For Word-Interpretation we gave the word ‘Duende’which refers to the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person. The winning entry for this category was submitted by Divas Kindra, Ist Year, Philosophy.

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Inertia

Flowers claw their way through my chest
Planting their feet in my ribcage and weaving a story as they surface with my breaths.
A word, four syllables, one glance- 
Stir the seeds planted eons ago
(A fertile ground for thought)
With laughter to nourish my roots.

The longest lines I have penned in a century
Drawn in haphazard awe and in unfortunate replications of your mind-
They do justice to nobody
If they aren’t written by you. 

You restore vision to unseeing eyes;
I see the trains as dragons with heaving chests
Spewing fickle fiends instead of fire, 
Unable to stomach the hypocrisy of their meal-
Impatient, tasteless morsels of mankind
That fight their way into the beast’s belly,
Hungry to be eaten.
Courtesy comes with a shelf life.

Swallowed by a jostling crowd
Your silver words resuscitate me.
Finally, I find my feet on shifting sands and hold my own against inertia.
Velocity and direction are unchanging variants 
In the eloquence of our equation.
Inertia isn’t always a sour symptom, you see
For when you write, it gives me the will 
To go on.

– Divas Kindra