Leave the shoulders of Amtul Baweja — and other women — alone

Leave the shoulders of Amtul Baweja — and other women — alone

She has something to say about policing women's clothes and bodies and we're listening.
02 Apr, 2021

Amtul Baweja, comedian and co-founder of Patangeer, has something to say about the policing of women's bodies and clothes and we want you all to listen.

Baweja posted a series of Instagram Stories on Wednesday night about her experience on the Nadia Khan show. The stories might be gone, but what she had to say is very important. After her interview, she was asked to take some photos for the show's thumbnails and promotions, which is where the problem arose.

Baweja was asked to cover up her shoulders that were showing through the cut outs of her shirt.

"Why is this an issue? If someone was wearing cut out shoulders in shalwar kameez it wouldn't be a problem but when it's a shirt there's a problem," she said. "Firstly, it should not even be a point of discussion, secondly have the decency to inform your guests from before that wear these kind of clothes, this is acceptable, this is not acceptable, then the guest can make their own decision whether they want to come or not and what kind of clothes they want to wear because this is really weird to me," she said.

She described the situation as very humiliating, weird and awkward, because she was asked to fix her clothes in front of everyone on set. "You're telling me to do something about it but I don't have anything! I don't have a scarf, I have nothing with me, what do I do?" she said. Eventually, they made her take the picture with her hair awkwardly draped over her shoulders.

This is how Baweja's hair was draped to cover her shoulders
This is how Baweja's hair was draped to cover her shoulders

She did it because she had no other option but she asked why the show, or all shows in general, couldn't just choose guests of people they want to associate with that go with their brand identity or vision. "Don't just call people and expect them to change for you. I know it's 'just clothes' and people will say 'it's just some small matter and you're making a big drama over nothing' but us women have been going through this for a long, long time."

Being in the industry, Baweja said this happens to her a lot. People tell her her clothes are too tight and she should loosen them and that her butt is showing or her clothes should be darker. "Tell me from before so I can make my own decision because if I knew this was the deal I would never go because I don't want to be someone I'm not," she said in the video.

This has happened to me before, she said. People have told her to wear dark coloured clothes because her figure or curves were showing and to wear long shirts to hide her hips and thighs. "When you approach me, or anyone, tell them from before that these are the requirements so they can decide if they're comfortable coming or not," she said.

"And what bothers me more is that women have to face this because no man will ever hear 'yaar your clothes aren't right, your shirt is too tight' or 'why are you wearing a light-coloured shirt, change into a dark one'," she said. "Nobody will tell a man this but we have to forever, forever, forever, hear this."

And she's right. As women, we are often told what we can and cannot wear. It's not always as overt as being told we aren't allowed to wear jeans or must wear a dupatta in public. Sometimes, it's being told that we shouldn't wear horizontal stripes because it makes our chests look bigger, being encouraged to wear black because it's "slimming" or having someone tell you to button an extra button on your shirt. Policing a person's body means you're trying to control what they wear and how they look.

For Baweja, the production crew told her to cover her shoulders, but she's right in that the professional thing to do would have been to inform a guest about the dress code before the show. Amtul Baweja isn't alone when she says she has been policed for her clothes because almost all women have been too.

It starts young and continues until we're on our deathbeds. Telling women what to wear isn't fair. We're all sentient beings and able of deciding what's best for ourselves.

Baweja is also right when she said no man will ever have to go through this. Men are not told to wear clothes that are flattering on their figures, or to hide any part of their bodies. It might indeed sound like a non-issue, something that people might say is being blown out of proportion but let us ask you this: when is enough enough? How many times do we have to be told what to wear before we're allowed to get annoyed? Twice, thrice, a 100 times?

Even once is too much and though it might feel like a small thing to you, it might be the straw that broke the camel's back to someone else.

A while later, Baweja posted another story in which she thanked women for sending her messages about their experiences of having their bodies and clothes policed in response to her videos. "I can't believe so many of you, so many women go through this. Whether you take a hijab or wear shalwar kameez, people will always comment," she said.

She then called on her followers to send her videos of themselves wearing "whatever the hell you want". You could wear a tube top or a shalwar kameez or a niqab or abaya, whatever you want, she said. "Imagine you're looking into the eyes of society and you're saying you're going to wear what you want and do whatever it is you want to do," she urged. Baweja has something up her sleeve and we can't wait to see what she's cooking up.


Ali khan Apr 02, 2021 05:26pm
My mom and her friends back in 60s started to wear sleeveless shirts. It was considered normal in army social gatherings. And she did smoke too... in the end it’s woman’s choice and her body. There are many other issues that are more important than her skin and her looks. Get over it.
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Khaled Apr 02, 2021 05:34pm
She should have simply walked out in protest.
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Waqar Apr 02, 2021 05:34pm
Images: Turning non-celebrities into celebrities since FOREVER!!
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Fast comment Apr 02, 2021 06:57pm
If you’re trolling in flowers terrain it’s ok. But if you are walking through horny place, please take care, the horns may torn your boutiques. Take care. Remember there’s a moral code of dressing even in most developed western nations. The crazy slogans “ mera jesem meri marzee “ not even allowed there. The difference between an animal & social- animal is of dress.
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Chrís Dăn Apr 02, 2021 07:10pm
The women in Pakistan need to be united on issue that their dressing&their lifestyle is their personal issue and no interference from anyone. Until women take a strong stance,emotionally insecured men will keep on finding refuge under the fake umbrella of religion & culture.
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Chrís Dăn Apr 02, 2021 07:15pm
@Ali khan yes in the initial years of pak.independence,we had a """nirmal""" nation with progressive leaders. Ayub Khan had in8tiated formal birth control program which was accessable to common people & people had a good life. Mullahism took over in late 70s& was loved by emotionally insecured men& tribal mentalities. This patriarchally judgemental system suits only to Pakistani men hence got its roots from 70ś onward. Unfortunate for the country which is at par with Somalia now.
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Chrís Dăn Apr 02, 2021 07:34pm
If there is no legal ban on wearing such normal to human world dresses like sari ,wearing jeans &blouse(internationally accepted dress) wearing (ladies) suits in corporate et cetera -then women should not be bothered about emotionally insecured men in Pakistan. These men could not develop Pakistan economically,ethically,morally,scientifically at any level & these men in 70 years time brought Pakistan down to Somaliaś level-how Pakistani women can trust these men . Pakistani men are good for nothing& therefore Pakistan is going down . Why you worry,lady?They are not worth consideration.
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nk Apr 02, 2021 07:43pm
@Ali khan Right it is her's choice but these kind of choices should remain within some boundaries and that has been defined in our religion and culture. Do not talk about the sixties it was the sixties that has brought the sexual revolution in the western world but should we own it too?
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nk Apr 02, 2021 07:49pm
@Khaled Why? These are the people who are trying to affect our social and moral structure and if you are Muslim then you have to abide by normal dress codes.
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Wasiqk Apr 02, 2021 08:00pm
@Ali khan great true story, that is exactly how this Country ended up with VIP culture and in ruins, your family should be ashamed for their contribution to shamelessness
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Ehsan Apr 02, 2021 08:01pm
As long as women keep tolerating and complying they will keep on getting such abusing requests
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Naeem Apr 02, 2021 08:03pm
She deserves attention ?
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Mardana Apr 02, 2021 08:20pm
Designer Amtul I have a question: In every society, every party I see men wear total coverings, full suits while women wear short sleeves, bare backs, leg slits. Is it they feel hot or warm or just some designers thought of making women show more skin. I have never told my wife what to ear or not. In fact she tells me what to wear although I was a fashion designer myself. Don't carry it too far. You live in a society that is 100 years behind in mental aptitude.
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Browngirl Apr 02, 2021 08:47pm
I don't understand. What's wrong with her shoulders. Seem to be in an OK shape.
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Tasvir-e-Buttan Apr 02, 2021 08:54pm
@Mardana It's up to each individual to come out of the medieval mindset. One step at a time.
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Chrís Dăn Apr 02, 2021 08:55pm
@nk women in Kosovo,Albania,in Bosnia and majority in Turkey ,muslim women wear what they like. Who are you to force them even if they do not wear what you like ?
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Chrís Dăn Apr 02, 2021 08:57pm
@nk you have no right to use the word"should" for any other human being -woman or man. This is her/h8s life on this planet and her own accountability system.Not to you.
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RationalBabu Apr 02, 2021 09:15pm
@Browngirl exactly, all your celebrity women have been wearing sleeveless for decades. Why is it suddenly an issue?
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Sab Se Pehle Pakistan Apr 02, 2021 09:33pm
Another failed attempt to stay relevant. No one cares about cheap publicity anymore.
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Farhan Apr 03, 2021 08:49am
Decenct clothes should be worn as prescribed by our religion. Religion should be renounced in case it's prescribed dress code isn't to be followed
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