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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tradition and Women

I find it interesting that in many corners of the planet it is the women who, by choice or convention, tend to dress in traditional garb while the men... don't.

India is no exception to this trend.  While many men dress in traditional garb for ceremonial and festive occasions such as weddings holiday celebrations, for the most part they dress in western-style attire for both business and casual circumstances.

Indian women, on the other hand, are much more likely to wear traditional garb in their day-to-day lives.  Of course many women opt for western-style clothing here, but the percentage that opt for Sarees and Salwan & Kurtas (the long pajama-like tunic and pants often called a panjabi suit) is very high.

Here is a typical scene:

Here is another glimpse at some women in traditional attire (note the southern India tradition of putting fragrant flowers in the back of their hair):
See you in Goa later today.

Posted by David Bogner on January 23, 2007 | Permalink


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In the Jewish world it's the exact opposite. Many Orthodox men wear the traditional garb while their wives are often dressed as hot chanies.

Posted by: Fern | Jan 23, 2007 7:55:40 AM

"I find it interesting that in many corners of the planet it is the women who, by choice or convention, tend to dress in traditional garb while the men... don't."

women in general are more traditional/religious and they anchor these attitudes in their families throught their activities as domestic matrons.

hope you're having some fun.

Posted by: ari kinsberg | Jan 23, 2007 8:39:00 AM

Talking of traditional Indian women, have you caught wind of the Shilpa Shetty/Big Brother scandal while you've been hanging in her hometown?

Posted by: PP | Jan 23, 2007 11:35:05 AM

Honestly, I wonder how many women wear the traditional clothing by choice, and how many wear it because it is expected of them.

Some years ago I was in a taxi. The driver was Muslim, and we began talking. The conversation got to clothing, and he told me that while he felt perfectly free to wear Western clothing as a religiously observant Muslim, he felt strongly that such clothing was not appropriate for the women of his community. He could wear what he chose, but they must keep to traditional dress.

Different country, different religion ... but it still makes me wonder.

Have a good stay in India, David, and come back to us soon and safely!

Posted by: Rahel | Jan 23, 2007 12:11:44 PM

Ah! Goa... 24-hour rave parties with Israeli deejays doing it like it should be done.

Posted by: Rami | Jan 23, 2007 12:25:36 PM

Interesting thought. Traditional clothing also being far more modest may be a reason.

Posted by: Tim | Jan 23, 2007 1:53:34 PM

"Traditional clothing also being far more modest may be a reason."

Thanks to the good ol' "modest" Victorians, I guess?


Posted by: Account Deleted | Jan 23, 2007 3:20:55 PM

I agree with Ari K, women are usually the more traditional ones. I think they may also feel that is is expected of them, they may be fearful of "defying" the men.

Posted by: Sara K | Jan 23, 2007 5:28:19 PM

Fern... that might be true in some circles, but I think Judaism as a whole still assigns the woman as the default moral compass and chief educator in the family.

ari kinsberg..."Domestic Matrons"? Hmmm, I might have phrased that a bit more gently. :-)

PP... There are like a gazzillion newspapers here and they all seem to be abuzz over this issue. I guess the Indians love their gossip and reality shows as much as everyone else.

Rahel... I don't know nearly enough about Indian cultural norms to venture a guess... but the few women I've spoken to about their attire seem to take an enormous amount of pride in their appearance and a great deal of interest in their comfort. In fact I was reading an article about an Indian woman this morning who is supposed to attend the Academy Awards (and is short listed to win in one of the categories). She was quite adamant that she would not wear 'Prada' but rather would wear one of her favorite silk Sarees. She considered it a matter of cultural pride.

Rami... I'm not in that part of Goa. My hotel is a resort carved out of the jungle directly on the beach. It is one of the most relaxing places i have ever been.

Tim... I think without breaking a sweat we could come up with some 'traditional garb' that neither of us would consider particularly modest. The south sea islands come to mind. In fact, the Hawaiian MooMoo is actually a modest cover-up that was invented for the natives by the colonial immigrants :-)

a. ... I read through the Wiki definition and the Saree itself seems to be quite ancient. There is, however, some controversy as to whether the tight top worn under the Sari is a modern gift from the Victorians or whether that developed on it's own. COnsidering that the modern Sari offers only oblique glimpses at 'territory' one might consider immodest, I tend to think this is a non-issue. And the Panjabi suit is so 'tzenua' that I picked one up for my daughter (shhhhh... don't tell her). :-)

Sara K... As I said earlier, I don't know enough about the family dynamics here in India to comment on how much, if any, pressure is brought to bear. But my (very) limited experience tells me that the women are tremendously proud of their appearance and of their attire as a national /cultural symbol.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 23, 2007 6:58:22 PM

What kind of people live in Goa, anyways?


Posted by: Elisson | Jan 23, 2007 7:41:50 PM

Elisson... Oy. Actually, Goa is a former Portuguese Colony and has a large Christian population as a result of hundreds of years of their influence. Funny you should ask, eh?

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 23, 2007 7:48:47 PM

Although clothing is a means of communication for everyone, I think that most women use it as a much more detailed and particularized communication than most men. The lexicon of clothing seems much more eloquent and communicative for women. For men, the message tends to be very simple: success, power, potency. For women, I can't really guess, but it seems to involve youth, nurturing and or attractiveness, skill, glamour, and who knows what else. How else to explain their standing in front of a packed closet and saying "I have nothing to wear!!"

Posted by: Barzilai | Jan 23, 2007 9:43:36 PM

Wow, the colors are so amazing. I took a geography class in college and we learned about India. I was blown away at how colorful the country was. It made me want to go there. That and the food. Love me some Indian food.

Posted by: Fran Edwards | Jan 24, 2007 5:07:37 AM

Sorry folks but I don't agree I think now a days mostly men are following traditional clothing.

Posted by: kurta pajama | Sep 22, 2010 9:06:04 AM

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