By The Ladies Finger
Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the Indian fashion designer known for his extravagant traditional outfits, recently said that Indian women who don’t know how to wear a saree should be ashamed of themselves. “I think, if you tell me that you do not know how to wear a saree, I would say shame on you. It’s a part of your culture, [you] need stand up for it,” said the designer while addressing students at the Harvard India Conference.
Even though Sabyasachi later claimed in an open letter that he didn’t mean to be misogynstic, his words were nevertheless insulting to women in their complete disregard for women, their choices, and their right to live their lives without being critiqued and shamed for their choices in clothing by all and sundry.
Sabyasachi’s belief that not knowing how to drape a sari is shameful and takes away from one’s Indian identity is undoubtedly maddening, given that the sari isn’t the be-all and end-all of comprehensive Indian identity. But at the end of the day, is it even about the sari? Where does anybody, even leading designers, get off telling women what they can or can’t wear, what they should know about their own identities and heritage, and what they should be ashamed of?
It isn’t just about the sari, Mr Mukherjee, it’s about the larger concept behind it. You’re a successful designer who tells celebrities and clients what to wear. That doesn’t mean you get to decide what everyone else in the country should be wearing, and to ascribe feelings of pride or shame to other people’s choices of clothing.
The women who have been drooling over your bridal collection over the years are now probably looking for inspiration from some other designers. And, despite your apologetic open letter, we don’t blame them. We like our bridal wear non-judgemental, thanks.