10 TED Talks if you love Fashion, Feminism and women empowerment

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All of those words probably don’t fit in the same line for a lot of us. But for me they truly do. And when I keep asking myself why is that.. my mind sends me back to a story. A personal story that I believe is important enough to be shared here.  

But before that, let me announce the result of the giveaway! Surbhi Suri, from New Delhi of the blog The Fashion Flite has won the january.Rose Bag! So congratulations to her and a big heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated on the occasion of TCB’s first birthday! 

Why am I a fashion-loving feminist?

I would have been roughly 12 at the time, the age when you have the tiny boobs enough to be the start of you being seen as a developing woman. For a lot of families, at least here, that is the age when the girl has to start taking care of what she wears, the childhood ways of wearing shorts, skirts and huge necklines doesn’t cut it anymore. Because as a “woman” your sexuality must be “preserved”.

So, I was at one of my uncle’s place where the whole family had gathered for a kirtan (religious ceremony). The whole “occasion dressing” concept was still unknown to me but I was about to get that lesson imprinted on me for life. I was wearing this knitted red and white windowpane checks tank which was just about long enough to cover the button closure of my sand colored denim. I looked good in the mirror when I saw myself. But when I sat down on the floor, of course I did not have a mirror to tell me that my waist was slightly exposed at the back. 

To one of my older male cousins in his late twenties, the outfit felt too revealing. So he sat down my parents, double his age, to tell them in a friendly caring way of course, that how “inappropriately” I was dressed as per the occasion and my age. It would have been embarrassing for them – I faintly remember my mom being infuriated. I don’t remember what they replied to him, but I do remember that for years to come I would try and fit-in with my clothes. I remember that questioning if my outfit was ok or not as per “family gathering standards” was a ritual that I troubled myself with before going out to meet everyone, each and every time. I always felt judged, anxious and shamed. It is funny how a little incident can be so traumatic and influential.

So what happened? I grew up.. that’s what happened. And as I started forming views against patriarchy and started believing in gender equality, I realized how telling women how to dress was part of the whole power equation where me as a gender was at the receiving end. I naturally refuse that now, vehemently. I do follow “when in Rome do as the Romans do” wherever necessary but you can safely call me the craziest dresser in the family or my social circles for that matter now. And that is me, that is what I metamorphosed into – a feminist who believes fashion is one of the ways that we can have power distributed equally. 

The TED talks to watch

I admit it, I am not a big fan of the term “feminism”. It doesn’t convey equality but rather feels biased when you hear it. But what true feminism stands for is equality, so as long as the concept stays intact, I am good. And if you have to understand what it all means, there is nothing better than listening to Chimamanda Ngozi’s talk that has been shot up in the popular culture now, thanks to Beyonce’s Flawless.  

But I often wonder why men tune out on these subjects, or don’t speak up. Is gender equality  or fairness in conduct a women’s issue alone? Jackson Katz is brilliant at answering all of those questions.

All that said, I ask is it only the women who are suffering? Aren’t men put under such tremendous pressure to confirm to gender stereotypes as well? Yes, they are and I do not agree with stereotyping.Tony Porter explains it with the Man-box.  

So we all agree that we should raise our sons right.. but the fact that can’t be ignored is women all over the world are meeting injustice right now. It is a global situation that is so rampant that it could shock you. Sheryl Wu Dunn says it all.  

So, is there anything positive happening at all? Are women rising and fighting for their rights? Yes, they are and they are succeeding. The freedom that we take for granted, like driving a car, a woman had to fight almost her complete nation for that. Manal Al-Sharif is that women and she changes the definition of what is possible.  

Yet, inequality in basic rights is not the only issue that we have to face as women. The sad part is, and the fashion industry promotes it, women have to feel insecure about their looks everyday because society as a whole places so much importance on women’s beauty. But if you have to believe someone on that issue, believe the super model Cameron Russel that looks are not everything.

Clearly, media plays an important role in perceptions and we are all the more impressionable as young teens. Are there any role models out there to tell teens that it is ok to not know everything? You will figure that out once you listen to the the legendary Tavi Gevinson and how she is making a difference.

So finally that was some good news right? Actually there is more. You will be shocked by this next talk because it shows how the power equation just might be in a process of getting reversed. Though we are hoping for equality but what Hanna Rosin has to say is sure hopeful.

We may be increasing in the work force but I wonder why not many women are at the top positions. Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook knows so and tell us what we can do to change the situation.  

So talking about professions, it leaves me to the fashion industry finally. This talk will tell you more about how fashion works than you could have imagined. Got questions like why Zara and Mango sell or nobody really sues knock-off manufacturers? Or even more importantly, why do designers send crazy outfits on the runway? Have fun finding your answers with Johanna Blakely. 

6 Comments

  1. I completely agree to every word you have said. If you are not fitting in “as per the rules of the society” you are pinpointed for. Standing out in crowd is such a big no no in our country especially but it takes courage to go against the flow. Our society is full of shitty people who believes in the rules that were set by our fore fathers and still follows them and worse than that force them on everyone.

    P.S :: I love this article.

    Reply
    • Thanks a tonne!! And I can imagine the frustration and you relating to the post…because I know it’s not me alone who must have faced it in this country.There will be countless others and yes we face a struggle for individuality everyday. Breaking free from mass mentality is not something respected in our culture… I totally agree. :) I wish we could all have had the freedom to be ourselves without the pressure to conform to stereotypes. That’s true freedom!

      Reply
  2. You have given a very inspiring and eyeopening overall projection of an growing individual , facing every possible adversities and the peak moments coming across in life we all exist today with an unique insight and a shaped individual of the learning gathered from those experiences.
    Growing up in the same country and experiencing few idiosyncrasity among various cultures within the nation for the opposite sex , i always had an uneasy feeling of not having the right question for the answers given to me ,
    Thankfully i was always taught in my upbringing of respecting women , so that respect always gave rise to the questions for the things i use to see happening to them.
    Your article have given me answers which rings the mind and heart both.
    Respect

    Reply
    • As a man living in the same country… and questioning the practices, even if in your head for now and relating to this post… it means I have reached somewhere. I talk of gender equality so, if not only my women audience were moved but the men as well…. part of the goal is achieved.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and stopping by. Means a lot! :)

      Reply
  3. The way you describe your experience as being formative to your adult views is so moving, I started to get a lump in my throat. I’m frequently shocked at how many seemingly forward thinking women never consider that the very idea of “appropriate” vs. “inappropriate” clothing is a means of controlling women through shame. These talks are sure to be inspiring, motivating, and maybe even a little infuriating as they remind me of all the ridiculous constraints we have to battle. I can’t wait to listen to every last one. :)

    Reply
    • An extremely late reply *part ashamed* :(

      But the fact that you connect with me on the “appropriate” and “inappropriate” issue really goes on to prove that you are an extremely logical and thoughtful person when it comes to seemingly small everyday issues such as that. I am not wrong when I look upto you.. :)

      Hope you did get time to see the talks… they were time consuming yes… but hopefully curated well.

      Reply

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