ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Not-so-curious Case of the Nightie Ban

Why did a village in Andhra Pradesh ban the seemingly innocuous nightie?

Anywhere in India, nay, anywhere in the whole world, you will be hard-pressed to find a woman who has never ever been told what to wear or has never had to think of whether her clothes would make someone else feel uncomfortable. Seemingly simple choices of how women dress or move their own bodies in public spaces or in the home are, in fact, matters of control and power over women’s agency. Clothes are used as a tool to either sexualise the female body or strip it of its sexuality to best suit the oppressor’s need at the moment. Think of why the clothes of women who are victims of sexual assault are called into question. Or why widowed women are even today discouraged from wearing “attractive” clothing or accessories. These powers vary in potency, but are the omnipresent powers of the state, of patriarchy, of intimate relationships, of society, and of internalised patriarchy in women.

Recently, a coastal fishing village in Andhra Pradesh, Tokalapalli, decided to ban women from wearing nighties between 7 am and 7 pm. The humble nightie doesn’t seem to warrant this kind of a reaction, surely! The nightie is as innocuous as it is inoffensive. It is an oversized, loose fitting, one-piece attire that women across India wear as night clothes and during the day and out in public places too. In smaller towns and working-class neighbourhoods, it is not uncommon to see women walk about with neatly combed hair adorned with flowers, their faces aglow with a greyish tinge of talcum powder, pottu (vermillion) and eyeliner in place, whilst wearing a nightie accessorised with a dupatta.

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Updated On : 2nd Jan, 2019

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