Short Skirts, Long Veils and Dancing Men: Responses to Dress and the Body



Whether brought up in response to direct questions about attire or more tangentially, discourses around clothing were invoked at various points by each of my interviewees in conjunction with issues as diverse as sexual fantasy, financial status, religion, an apparent deterioration of moral values, and sexual harassment. One of the most common strands in discussions about dress and sexuality on-screen was an appeal to direct effects as grounds for censorship of film costumes. After commenting that an actress, Urmila Matondkar, ‘must be hardly needing any material for her dresses’, Gautham, an unmarried clerk who lives with his parents in a Bombay suburb, worries that after watching performances by Matondkar on screen young women and girls will feel pressured into wearing things that they neither enjoy not feel comfortable in. Although implicitly he is averse to the wearing of ‘revealing’ clothes by girls and women, he poses the issue in terms of younger women falling prey to male predations:

I’ve seen the younger generation of girls in schools and colleges wearing these kinds of things, netted-cloth stockings and mini skirts … I feel that this is dangerous in the sense that the kids might be more of a target for eve-teasing and India might go the Western way with more child pregnancies; I feel that dress plays a part in this. You should wear dresses but only ones that suit you and that you are comfortable in, and a girl might wear a short skirt but keeps on pulling it down. They have no self-defence experience.

(GAU.1 /English)


Sexual Harassment Female Character Sexual Fantasy Film Maker Young Audience 
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© Shakuntala Banaji 2006

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