Did you know that the values of an Indian woman lie in her bare knees? And that she’s “running towards nudity” if she wears “western clothes” like ripped jeans? No, this is not the plot of a failed 80s Bollywood movie, but a newly appointed minister’s comments.
In today’s episode of “How Wild Can Indian Politics get?”, Tirath Singh Rawat—chief minister of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand— asked at a public event, “What values will women in ripped jeans impart?”
The newly appointed minister was at a workshop for the prevention of substance abuse where he narrated an incident of meeting a woman wearing ripped jeans while on a flight. “I looked at her feet, she was wearing boots, and then looked at her bare knees.” He, who openly admitted to checking out a woman from head to toe, also told the audience she had two children travelling with her. “I asked her what she did, her husband is a professor at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and she runs an NGO. She runs an NGO, her husband is a professor at JNU, and she goes into society like this. Where are her 'sanskars' (values)?" asked the minister.
The minister also said that while the West followed yoga and covered their bodies, “we run towards nudity.” He further compared the incident to “Kaynchi se sanskaar” (culture by scissors). “If this kind of woman goes out to meet people and solve their problems, what kind of message are we giving out to society? To our kids? It all starts at home. What we do, our kids follow. A child who is taught the right culture at home, no matter how modern he becomes, will never fail in life.”
He received further support from one of his newly appointed ministers, Ganesh Joshi, who said even more perplexing comments. “Women talk about all things they want to do in life, but the most important thing for them is to look after their family and children,” he mansplained.
The women of Twitter had a fitting reply for the misogynists in return. They started spamming Rawat’s Twitter account with photos of themselves in ripped jeans with the hashtags #RippedJeansTwitter and #GreetingsFromMyNakedKnee
Akshita Vohra, a resident of Dehradun in Uttarakhand, who started the hashtag #GreetingsFromMyNakedKnee told The New Indian Express that she started the hashtag on a friend’s advice. “I posted a picture of myself in ripped jeans with the hashtag, #GreetingsFromMyNakedKnees and soon other people, not just women but men too started doing the same. While it is overwhelming to see the support come in, it is still sad to even see people in authority, speak such crap without realising the responsibility on their shoulders.”
Twitter users also bought up India’s abysmal economy and unemployment rates while roasting the minister.
“If the rate of unemployment keeps increasing, soon half the country will be wearing ripped jeans,” a Twitter user said.
Other Twitter users found to rope in “sanskaari” jeans, connecting the honourable minister’s statements with those of another self-appointed upholder of Indian values, Baba Ramdev, who had once said about ripped jeans making an appearance in his fashion label: “People are wearing torn jeans these days. So some of our jeans are ripped, but we haven’t ripped them so much also so as to lose our Indian-ness and our values.”
Comparisons were also made to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu Nationalist group and their uniform.
Of course, women with ripped jeans now have superpowers too.
Last week, a village in Uttar Pradesh banned jeans for girls. The order was called by Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, and its national president Thakur Pooran Singh told The Hindu, “If they do not follow this order, they could be punished socially.”
It’s quite bizarre to see Indian ministers discuss ripped jeans while ignoring climate change, economic crisis, and unemployment rates. After all, ministers are also busy with sex scandals and walk free without any pun-knee-shment.