09 December 2009

A clean breast of it

I stumbled upon an article written about Travancore (Kerala) in 1869 in an Australian newspaper. Stop sniggering, I wasn't searching for 'breast,' I was looking for 'Travancore'. Here's some of the relevant text, please click on the title to read the whole article:

Caste outrages in Travancore
Among the many instances of fanaticism in Southern India, perhaps the most striking was that displayed by the Soodras in their efforts to divest the Shanar women of the upper garments, in which their women, in conformity with Christian ideas of decency, had clad themselves. The circumstances of the disturbance so caused by the Soodras are possibly remembered by our readers. The Christian Shanar women, in clothing themselves with jackets, were attacked by the Soodras in the public streets, and their jackets were torn off. The cause of this outrage was, that the Shanars being of a low caste, and the women of the higher castes being alone permitted to wear such garments, the Soodras considered that the Shanar women, by the adoption of such a dress, were deviating unwarrantably from the laws of caste.

So, in 1869, in Kerala, women were forced to walk around topless by local enforcers. They were worried that women deciding what to wear would lead to the destruction of traditional culture. Today, women who decide to wear something that doesn't totally cover themselves are harassed, for trying to destroy traditional culture.

Could the main problem be that women deciding something for themselves, in either 1869 or 2009, causes men to feel powerless?