In Step with Decency
The introduction of dress code and ban on fashion parades and beauty contests in its affiliated colleges by Anna Technological University of Tamil Nadu has to be hailed by all those who cherish decency and modesty in public life. It had earlier banned use of mobile phones in campus and dresses like jeans, T-shirts, short tops and other body- hugging dresses.
Liberalists are likely to read moral policing and curtailment of individual freedoms in the diktat issued by the vice- chancellor. The reasoning that dress provokes indecent behaviour from the opposite sex also makes sense, even though the feminists might be tempted to argue that it stems from male chauvinist mindset.
Arguments on these lines betray the archaic and often orthodox understanding of gender relationship which urges absolute equality of the two sexes with parity in law being the natural corollary. Advocates of the theory gloss over the fact that equality does not mean identicality. Conventional wisdom suggests that men and women are guided by psyche typical to their own gender rather than being similar. What constitutes harassment to women from the opposite sex, may be just pure fun for the men, hence the asymmetry in law.
Women have been given protection in law against rape as they are victims of the biological and social consequences of the offence. But men have no similar legal defences against seduction. Given this premise, the Anna University’s proscription of dresses that accentuate the physical angularities does not seem to be misplaced. The University is well within its right to urge decent dressing within the campuses.
There is even less scope for criticism against ban on beauty contests and fashion parades in campuses. They certainly do not gel with the academic activity and are rightly considered the stepping stone for commodification of female gender physique. Commercialisation of something that is not earned but naturally gifted and has less to do with human qualities essential for progress, is certainly alien to campuses.
However, ban on mobiles in campuses may not win the approval of all in similar measure. Though undoubtedly it might be a reason for distraction in classes, and a source of malpractice during examinations, it is also a help for families in keeping track of and touch withstudents, especially the girls, in our unwieldy cities. A ban on use of mobiles in classes rather than campuses could have remedied the situation.