What won’t India try, in its attempt to stop thinking about sex? Ban underwear-clad mannequins outside lingerie shops in Mumbai? Make a big hooha about wanting to limit opportunities for men to think lascivious thoughts? Anything, it seems, to serve as anti-Viagra for the passionate masses.
So to Mumbai and the misplaced self-righteousness that has gone into thinking up the proposed new rules for mannequins. As reported by wondering news outlets throughout the world, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in Mumbai has unanimously supported a local politician, 39-year-old Ritu Tawande’s proposed policy on “indecent display” in public areas.
Ms Tawande has been quoted to say that she is particularly concerned about dummies in “two-piece clothes.” They “barely cover the body,” she explained, coyly adding that this causes the “pollution of minds in today’s generation. Such a display affects the mindset of men.” It is clear that the lady equates the shop dummy with a sex doll or even the Japanese inflatable love pillow or dakimakura.
Are Indian women safer if shop dummies look more virtuous? From this, it is but a short, sharp step to putting real live women into purdah or behind the veil “for their own safety”. I exaggerate, but not a lot. Remember that many men, including Indian MPs, judges and policemen, among others, often blame ‘provocative clothing’ for the sexual harassment of women. ‘Eve teasing’, that flippant term so well known to Indians of all ages, is coy about the consequences of being Eve, the temptress. The results are being “teased”.
Is hiding away the jointed model of a woman a way of saying that she is too Eve-like? That women must not be too distracting in order for men to stay chaste? How can a man stay on the straight and narrow (or so the argument goes) when confronted with the devastating combination of a trim underdressed figure with any, all, or none of the following: Pretty eyes, rouged cheeks, lipsticked lips, shiny hair, manicured hands? Whether she lives and breathes or is but a mannequin in a shop window, a man will be driven to lust; driven to break the law and determined to have his way with any woman.
This is what they seem to be thinking in Mumbai. I exaggerate but not a lot. So far, so laughable. But what about the serious matter of a Mumbai mannequin clad in so traditional an Indian outfit as a blouse and sari? (Perhaps Western dresses, see left, are less suggestive?) Is the sari-wearing, bare-midriff Indian mannequin more risqué by far? Is she so indecent she sets pulses racing and rape figures soaring?
This is not to say there is no virtue in modest clothing and a more considered representation of women. But what, if any, is the correlation between the West, sexually charged content and rape? As at least one American man pointed out on Friday’s BBC WS Radio debate on the ‘Indian mannequin issue’: Sexually explicit content is available everywhere in the US but I don’t feel a greater impulse to rape.