Wear What You Like: ?????????? 10/10
A young woman walking around the streets in shorts can trigger many mixed reactions in India, and this photo series proves it.
19-year-old Priyanka Shah from Bengaluru has released a photo series consisting of several still images featuring a girl wearing shorts as she wanders through public spaces in an Indian town. The photographs capture the many side glances and judgmental looks she gets as she walks around in “non-conservative” clothing.
Part of a project for Shah’s class at Srishti Institute of Art and Design Technology, the series provides an alarming paradox: a girl walks around in the clothes she feels most comfortable in, yet onlookers are sure to make her feel uncomfortable, discriminated against, and at times, even in danger.
The pictures portray an India where women not only suffer street harassment from men, but also battle remarks and judgmental looks from the women they pass by.
Shah’s model Aishwarya Suresh describes, “I was quite conscious when we started off but as I got comfortable, the stares became worse. At (one) point, I myself was feeling disgusted about what I was wearing solely because of the offensive looks and comments I got.” She describes that people would often laugh and make fun of her and her friend and pass remarks like, “yeh kaise insaan hai shee” (what sort of people are these, yuck).
Mindful of these attitudes, Shah named her invigorating project “Perspectives”, and has gained both acclaim and backlash after posting the photo series online. People praised the project for being very relatable to many females and for providing a solid reality-check, albeit bitter. Others question whether the onlookers in the images really are judgemental or even lecherous, as they may have simply been captured in the wrong moment, or to create a wrong image.
One user was quick to point out that the people photographed in the images belong to a ‘lower class’ in society, to which Shah rightfully responded, “I do not think the labeling of ‘lower’ or ‘upper’ caste is justifiable… these are the same people and the community that I live with. Please look at their expressions. For me, that’s what spoke a lot.”
It’s a valid point to make, and it’s one that points the finger and the lens right into the eyes of Indian society.
Shah argues that a girl simply walking around in shorts does not give people the authority to make offensive comments, stare, or make her feel unsafe. She says, “I wanted to make people understand how uncomfortable one feels on a daily basis.”
The beauty of the images lie in that the model is seemingly carefree and at ease throughout all these scenarios. The fact that we’re even questioning why she shouldn’t be, and the fact that she provides such a contrast to those around her, are the two leading concerns in the discussion of attitudes on female dress that India is facing both increasingly and fittingly so.
What do you think?