Monthly Archives: April 2013



I said I’d be a mother someday.
He said I needed a man.

I didn’t say I’d be pregnant.
I said I’d be a mother.
You don’t need anyone
But a child for that.

*Earlier posted here.

Dress Restrictions: Equal Opportunity Offense


Chain (Photo credit: HeatherKaiser)

Yesterday I was denied entry into a building. I was there to attend a business event, peopled by serious professionals. The reason for my not being allowed admission is that I was wearing a dress.

I think the details of the dress are not important but anticipating debate on that, I’ll clarify. It was a printed dress, sleeveless, knee-length and loose-fitting: a summer dress. It was a Sunday after all, and a hot one. Of note, it was not the event organizers who blocked me but the college in which the event was being conducted. The college is a very reputed management college which also conducts other professional/postgraduate programs. I think it’s safe to say that the average age of a student there would be mid-twenties.

Back when I was a teenager, colleges tried to impose restrictions on our dressing. Hats/caps were not allowed. Any attire not full-length was restricted (leading to my being pulled up for wearing a pair of calf-length capris). Sleeveless was banned. Notice here that all these restrictions pretty much apply to female attire.

Over the years, the shorts/three-quarter culture got popular among men as well. I remember questioning why I was being pulled up when I could see boys/men around me showing off their knees. A few places now ban people of both genders from these. I don’t see this as progress, just equal opportunity offense.

I am not against the culture of uniforms in certain situations. There are merits to having school children in uniforms. It reduces, at least visually, the economic disparity in playground drama. It helps the authorities manage the children that they are responsible for, a little better. In the uniformed professions, especially defense & the police, it certainly helps the system and their purpose better to be identifiable with their roles. Similarly so, for nurses and other such caregivers in populous situations, where it is necessary to be able to distinguish caregiver from patient and visitors. And finally, prisoners for the same reason as schoolchildren – to be able to identify and manage better.

I cannot think of any other situation where a uniform would be necessary. Dress restrictions seem to be a milder form of uniforms, an attempt to impose control and homogeneity.

When I was studying for my management degree, there was talk of introducing a uniform dress code for the students. I was entirely surprised to find some of my classmates championing this. When I asked one of them why she believed we should be uniformly dressed, she said,

“Do you know they do this in such-and-such college? Think how bad it looks for our college when ‘corporates’ visit and see students in jeans and casual clothes.”

I didn’t buy that logic then and I still don’t. Having been a ‘corporate’ myself, I know I don’t judge a college by what its students are wearing to class. It would be important that they be appropriately dressed at interviews and later on, working situations. But those are loose norms and certainly not to be imposed on adults sitting in classrooms for lecture. On the contrary, I’d wonder about the kind of people who let themselves be sheep-herded into this kind of forced uniformity by an authority. Would they have the sense to question their surroundings? Would they have the courage and strength to make the kind of decisions a professional has to make, without succumbing to peer pressure?

I want to reiterate that I believe this imposition of dress code in situations other than the ones I listed above, has to do with society’s control over women. In places of worship and every other social setting, dress restrictions have always been imposed on women. You dress up on happy occasions, you wear Indian wear to the temple, you wear certain colours on certain days. And you don’t expose your knees, your arms or your cleavage. Why? Because it doesn’t show respect to the system. Which somehow magically translates to your being ‘bad’.

I don’t see this as any different from women being forced to wear burqas. In fact, it’s even presumptuous to force women to not wear burqas, if they want. After all, why should anybody have the right to tell an adult what they may or may not wear?

I expect to be treated like I know how to conduct myself in every situation. Wearing a dress might be inappropriate if I had the job of a firefighter or rock-climber. But it is perfectly suitable to an afternoon spent sitting in a classroom/boardroom environment. It might make me stand out but that’s my call and the consequences are mine to bear.

Dress code as seen at a London Club in the Soh...

Dress code as seen at a London Club in the Soho area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Incidentally, I am also tickled by the notion that restaurants and pubs feel they can impose dress codes on their patrons. I found a pub last year which turned away men in shorts or open sandals. I did not think they were being progressive, especially since when I inquired if women were allowed, the bouncer gave me a broad grin, his eyes darting lasciviously to my legs and said,

“No ma’am. Women can dress in what they like.”

As far as such a place is concerned, if they are willing to turn away paying customers for the privilege of dictating what they wear, that’s their business. They won’t have any of mine.

I don’t see how it is progressive to extend these shackles (and make no mistake, that’s what they are) to men as well. Dress restrictions on adults are demeaning, in an equal-opportunity way and that does not make them okay. Tell me what you think in the comments.

Update: Buzzfeed carried this article titled ‘7 Insanely Rigid Dress Codes for Women‘ that essentially addresses the same thing.

XXFactored 8-14Apr: On Good Girls & Smart Boys

This week I looked at the way we women interact with the media. I don’t mean only the more famous of us and the soundbites to the press. I mean, what messages we take in and what we give out. In truth, all media is a two-way conversation between individuals and the world. What we make popular indicates what we like, what we are consuming and so we get fed more. Think about this and have a great week!

  • Some parts of this made me snigger, some parts made me angry. Feminism, just like other popular causes, gets hijacked and ruined by vested interests. (via Battlefield315)

You can catch these links as I find them on the XX Factor Facebook Page. Send me any interesting links you’d like to see here and I’ll feature them with due credit. Email ideasmithy at gmail dot com or

Scared Of Nobody

A colleague said to me,

You don’t seem to be scared of me.

I replied,

I’m not scared of anybody.

And I spent the rest of the day pondering that.

You never quite realize how much you live under fear until you break free of it. Afraid of your bosses, afraid of the government, afraid of your loved ones, afraid of losing face, afraid of being taken advantage of.

Scared child

Scared child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s true. I used to be scared of a lot of people. Even if I never admitted it, fear sat like a solid line above my head. It’s not that I’ve learnt courage. It’s that the fear has seeped out or evaporated. Like every experience riddled a tiny hole inside me, through which fear leaked & eventually ran out.

If you’re a woman, you’ve grown up steeped in so much of fear, fear, fear – fear of confrontation, fear of opposition, fear of disapproval, fear of abandonment, fear of a bad reputation, fear of judgement, fear of men, fear of women – this lack of fear is quite exhilarating.

I think the biggest fear most women have, is of something irreversible happening. Loss-of-virginity, marriage to the wrong man, childbirth (or not, since you’ll never be that age again and the bio clock is ticking) all fall under this. The fear looms huge like a monster, keeping you from making a decision. And back to the biological clock thing, there’s the fear that not making a decision will turn out to be just as bad a decision and just as irreversible.

There’s a conversation in Gone with the wind where an older lady observes that Scarlett has lost her fear. She also says that it is not a good thing for a woman to lose her fear. Women’s fears are the foundation of our social order. What when they are lost?

I’m just coming to realize that brashness is a result of this loss of fear. I thought about my last serious relationship. If I had feared hurting him just a little more and cared a little less about things like truth and fairness, things may have been different. Head over heart and all that. Still, that’s bygones.

The upside of fearlessness is really all that. Tremendous power and the energy that comes with it. Fatigue, boredom and ennui are indications of powerlessness. I experienced a rush of power and I think that’s fueled by (and adds to) being able to say just what I want, when I want, to who I want.

When the heady high dies down, however a hollowness returns. Hello fear, old companion, you’re back. It feels different though. This is fear of the world changing, of nothing seeming the way I thought it would be. But losing fear is an irreversible process, one that embeds itself in you. Once you’ve broken through, you know you’ll always be able to, again.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, right? And that includes fear.

XXFactored 1-7Apr13: Condoms Online & How A Snake Destroyed A Couple’s Eden

This April, I’m trying out XXFactored as a weekly instead of a monthly feature. Drop me your comments or Tweet to @ideasmithy, letting me know what you think. Also, if you see something you think should be XXFactored, let me know and I’ll post it with due credit to you. You can also post a link to XXFactor’s Facebook Page.

Here’s what I saw this week:

  • BuyMeCondom is an Indian eCommerce portal dedicated to condoms and contraceptive sales only. Connected India is certainly coming of age. And no, this is not an April Fool joke. (via BuyMeCondom)
  • This is an anonymous reply to a post that got featured as a follow-up post. It was written by someone I know and echoes the unacknowledged sentiments of a lot of other wonderful people in my life. Here’s to honoring the spirit of those that charge bravely where angels fear to tread – new ideas.: ‘Here’s Why You Should Date An Entrepreneur‘ (via YourStory)

XXFactored Mar2013: We want gender-neutrality but we also want sex!

I initiated a social media clean-up last year that continued over several weeks. Pages were unliked, dead blogs were unsubscribed from, uninteresting and spammy twitter accounts were unfollowed, Boards rather than people were looked at to follow on Pinterest. The result is that my timelines move slower and I’m getting a better chance to look at things that are really interesting and relevant. Also, it has considerably reduced my social media fatigue (yes, there is such a thing!) so I’m more inclined to look at newer content.

The Idea-smithy’s Facebook Page looks at pretty much everything that isn’t here so pop culture, fiction, poetry, general slice-of-life moments all fall under that purview. There is so much coming in there that I’m considering making Ideamarked (The Idea-smithy version of XXFactored posts) a weekly rather than monthly feature.

There have been posts coming up that I am not quite sure whether to put on XXFactor or The Idea-smithy. They often have to do with womanhood, sexulaity and relationships but are also about pop culture, fiction or other such things. In a few cases, I’ve posted to both places. But I’m starting to question whether it makes sense to keep these two blogs separate. I’m the same person writing for both and I’m not even anonymous anymore. On the other hand, each one has taken on a certain voice of its own. Also, these are two communities with some overlap but possibly differences, too. So I ask my community here at XX Factor: Should I merge the two or should they stay separate?

And while you’re thinking, here’s the March picks on XX Factor:

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