Saree is most certainly not a fuss-free garment. Yet more than half of Indian women still wear sarees in their daily lives.
Every country has its own traditional wear. Japanese have the Kimono, Koreans have hanbok, Thai has Chit Tai. And Indians have sarees. In all other regions, these traditional dresses are used only for special occasions. In day-to day lives, they have switched to western wear. However, in India, women wear saree daily.
No matter how much you claim that a saree is a comfortable garment, compared to other garments it certainly limits your movement and comes with a lot of paraphernalia. Managing a saree is not easy for a first-time wearer. Also, the blouse of a saree is as tight as it can be. Running and catching a bus in a saree is certainly not an easy task. Yet more than half of Indian women wear sarees.
Many times a woman is compelled to wear a saree because of the in-laws, the traditions of the household she is married into and the society’s regressive standards about what modest clothing for a woman is. If everybody around her did not wear a saree a newly wedded wife should not opt to choose a garment that will considerably reduce her ease of movement.
In some households, you have to wear a saree in such a way that no amount of skin is shown. Whereas some wear the saree in such a way that all of their midriff and a bit of leg is out in the open. Not that showing skin is a bad trait. They are also wearing saree this way to fight with its inbuilt restrictions. But the humour comes when a midriff exposing saree becomes a modest garment and the fully covered jeans & top becomes a modern garment that is ‘not modest’.
In today’s times, many young modern girls love to wear sarees on special occasions. It is indeed a joy to dress up in a saree and display your sexiness and beauty as a saree is a garment that also accentuates your curves and makes your feminity shine. You can choose sleeveless blouses or blouses with special embroidery and works… etc. But even these girls would not choose to wear a saree if they have to run and catch a bus or work in 30 plus degree heat.
But you can wear a saree in whatever way. And Indian women have accustomed themselves to these sarees and tolerate anything in them. They do their everyday chores, work with fire in the kitchen, do menial labour, build houses or even do martial arts in them.
Would they prefer to wear something else if they are given the choice? Some may. Some will find it difficult to part with something that has grown accustomed to. But we have often seen women who are keen to switch to salwar or pants and tops if they come out of their traditional settings.
So is saree a means to oppress women? Yes, it is. Any garment that you are conditioned to wear without a choice of your own is a sign of oppression. What one wears should be their freedom. But the reality is that many women are not given the freedom to wear anything other than a saree. Until when will we imprison women in these nine-yard long garments?