One of Bollywood’s most iconic films, âDilwale Dulhania The Jayenge,â has a bra scene.
In 1995, DDLJ shows SRK awkwardly, nervously picking up a bra that accidentally fell out of Kajol’s suitcase.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha, in 2015, features newlyweds Bhumi Pednekar shopping for bras and lingerie.
Queen, in 2013, has a scene where Lisa Haydon pulls her bra off from under her top before leaving for a party. It was then blurred for the television premiere.
While these movie scenes made some people uncomfortable, bras, simply a piece of clothing for women, always made people uncomfortable.
The shame of underwear
All these years, women have been conditioned to be embarrassed by bras and underwear.. These clothes are not meant to be in the public eye, and “public eye” means here, even in their own homes where they are surrounded by men.
Women, to this day, face the shame of underwear. They aren’t supposed to dry their underwear in the sun, and if they do, they need to be covered with another piece of clothing, say a dupatta or a sari.
Salma Rahman, assistant professor at Delhi University, admits to drying her underwear by hiding them under other clothes. âBack in my village in Dehradun, the company is still trying to understand the existence of bras and underwear. I was strictly told to hide my underwear when I dry it. They are not meant to be seen by anyone.
Indian girls are brought up with strict instructions that their bras should not be hung up to dry like the rest of dirty laundry washed in public. And if there are men in the house, they have even more reason to claim that lingerie doesn’t exist.
Boxers, briefs and yellow vests with age for men can hang on in an adventurous way, without a sign of shame.
Salma says the taboo surrounding lingerie is all the more massive as women have internalized the embarrassment (when there’s no reason) if their underwear is ever seen hanging in public.
And this is the story of millions of young girls and women across the country.
What’s even more ridiculous is that women lower their voices when they say “bra” in public, or even in their homes, as if summoning an evil spirit if they speak out loud.
Manika Parasher, a media professional, has faced a similar stigma around lingerie.
âWhile I hang my underwear in the sun now because I live far from my parents, there have been many times that I have been told, ‘don’t hang them up to air dry, it doesn’t look good â.
âSo somehow these underwear aren’t meant to be seen. Somehow it’s inappropriate and offensive. I think they’re sexualized as well, and therefore considered vulgar. All this stigma, while the uncle banyan and kachche aren’t offensive, but my padded bra is, “she jokes.
While parts of Indian society see gigantic modern exhibitions of women in lingerie in urban malls, some young women take it upon themselves to break the taboo in their own homes.
Preeti Tiwari, a content creator who sails between Kanpur and Delhi, doesn’t hesitate to dry her underwear in the sun.
âAlthough we are aware of the taboo surrounding lingerie, I make sure to hang my underwear to dry in the sun. Why hide it under other clothes? What did they do? My hygiene is more important than a stupid archaic patriarchy and stigma, âshe says.
But a lot of women are still quite curious as to why they are supposed to hide their lingerie.
“Is it really inappropriate to dry your panty bra on your balcony which is visible to everyone on the road?” “
“Is there a way to hide your underwear when you hang it outside to dry?” “
âWhy are women’s underwear never seen drying outside an Indian house with the other clothes? “
âWhy do women hide their used underwear (especially the bra) inside other clothes? Is it really a secret? “
These are some of the questions on Quora by Indian women.
And the answers vary between:
âINAPPROPRIATE? From a conservative Indian perspective, a big YES. But from a liberalâs perspective, not so much.
Especially in India, whether in a city or a suburb. There will be certain dangers that a woman will face, if she brings out her âunnameableâ ones out in the open. “
âMost women’s underwear, although it is hung to dry outside, is covered by hanging a larger item of clothing or a towel on it, so that it is hidden. No problem because they dry quickly. But I think Indian society is so fucked up that they think showing off underwear (even without wearing them) is an invitation to sex.
“You can block them by hanging sheets on the outside of the clotheslines so that they block someone’s view of the rest of your laundry.”
âPeople are hypocrites in this regard!
According to Indian society, it is highly inappropriate for a woman to air dry her lingerie, but on the contrary, it is perfectly appropriate for men to dry theirs.
âI firmly believe that underwear is very private and should remain so. There is no need to display them and let people know what color or brand you are wearing. Of course everyone should wash and dry them, but you can choose a more discreet place to dry them and then hang them out for the whole world to see !! â
Bras remain a trigger garment, not only because men can’t cope with them, but also because women have meticulously hidden it and never given them a chance to expose themselves. It’s not lingerie that’s to blame, it’s silly patriarchy and stigma.