Don’t Curl your Lips – Let them have their Say

One Sunday morning, while I was glancing through the newspapers I came across a bold title ‘Lipstick under my Burkha.’ That catchy title motivated me to read more about it and by the end I realized it was a movie slated to release on the 21st of July.  Out of sheer excitement, I counted the days for its release, and realized there were couple of more weeks to go. No sooner did I announce it in the family than my daughter who had just woken up from her deep sleep, who was rubbing her eyes to come out of the slumber, turned to me and said, ‘mama, this movie was supposed to release much earlier, but for some stupid reasons the censor board hadn’t nodded in the affirmative’.

I was quite curious to know more about the movie, about why the censor board declined to certify and about the relationship between lipstick and burkha. My curiosity thus set the ball rolling- the Censor board declined to certify for its extensive depiction of sexual scenes, abusive words, and audio pornography. According to its director Alankrita Shrivastava, it was a lipstick rebellion and was totally about defying patriarchy.

By breaking all taboos, we decided to watch the movie together.  I know, people in my society would definitely label us as ‘insane’ for watching the adult-rated movie with family.  We came out of the theatre with utter disappointment; because there was no clear message to the ever/over-conscious society of our times.  There was no proper theme or a sensible storyline.  It was disgusting, not for the explicit content but for the hollowness it showcased.  I didn’t think this movie deserves any review; nevertheless I am in awe of those few actresses who had worked hard and done justice to their roles.  Right now, I prefer to ignore the movie and turn my attention towards those captivating lines ‘Lipstick under my burkha’.

When I ponder upon these two terms ‘lipstick’ and ‘burkha’, two expressions, a little clichéd I believe, cross my mind – the former denotes modernity and the latter, seclusion.

Lipstick, a simple cosmetic, which has always meant to color and preserve our lips, thus beautifying a woman, has resulted in a kind of revolution in the society.  If we go back to the history of lipstick we would know it was introduced 5000 years ago, and according to sources, respectable women of the British society didn’t approve it then as it was exclusively worn by actresses and sex-workers.  Probably that could be one of the reasons even today why women who wear lipstick are looked down upon.  Similarly, Burkha is a piece of cloth, generally black or brown or grey in color, which is customarily worn by the Muslim and Jewish community. How did these two terms denote modernity and seclusion respectively? Couldn’t it be the change in the perspective of one’s thoughts or experiences or the environment one lived in? Isn’t it high time we came out of these prejudices?

As an Asian woman, and particularly from the Muslim community I had experienced quite a lot of controversies, debates, hurdles within the family and outside for my perspective on the women’s clothing and appearance.  Dress modestly, appear modestly, talk modestly, and sit modestly and so on were the words I heard since childhood.  So what is modesty? Plenty of girls like me would have asked, ‘why is modesty always relegated to women alone?’

However, today, we can see much change in one’s attire, or physical appearance.  Lipstick and Burkha are in sync with each other and have become intertwined. Be comfy comfy is the mantra today for adopting certain attires, be it a man or a woman. They have learnt to ignore the society’s age-old rules, or traditionally worn clothes, or religious scriptures.  Probably the debate on the authenticity of the scriptures would have confused people.  The mounting debates and articles or speeches on the topic of women’s attire have also indirectly created a kind of hostility, thus making women and men decide for themselves what to wear and what not to wear!  Let’s not break our idle minds on the attire, rather focus on the larger issues like what it means to be a woman who scripts her own versions of modesty and modernity.


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