Crossing boundaries: bras, lingerie and rape myths in postcolonial urban middle-class India

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With the processes of modernization, urbanization and the entry of women in the formal labour market in Indian metropolitan spaces, this article examines how the modern middle-class woman’s sartorial choices become enmeshed in popular rape myths (false beliefs) that serve to blame her for the wearing of western clothing. The article articulates the ways in which middle-class women’s social realities are shaped by historical, colonial and nationalist ideologies of modernization, constructed and mediated through moral codes of dressing. By drawing upon original and contemporary empirical narratives from the urban spaces of Delhi and Mumbai, we emphasise how everyday sartorial choices, in relation to particularly the bra and lingerie, can reveal the nuanced ways in which Urban Indian Professional Women (UIPW) seek to understand, negotiate, and resist patriarchal power. Our findings shed light on conflicting and contradictory spatial experiences, where some women internalize and negotiate moral codes of dressing, out of fear, and others who transgress are subject to sanctions. Given the paucity of scholarly literature in this area, the article makes an important theoretical and empirical contribution with its focus on postcoloniality and everyday discursive material spaces of gendered and sexualized dress practices. It argues for the consciousness raising of everyday urban geographies of dress that reveal complicated structures of power that are often deemed hidden.




Begum, L., & Barn, R. (2019). Crossing boundaries: bras, lingerie and rape myths in postcolonial urban middle-class India. Gender, Place and Culture, 26(10), 1324–1344.

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