Don't allow how we dress affect progress to be ESG nation

LAST month in Johor, a woman wearing a long sleeved dress with a hemline seven inches below her knee was stopped by a guard who said it was too provocative and told her to wear pants or wear something longer to cover up to her ankles.

In August 2020, a woman claimed she was told to "cover up her bra lines" before entering a Kuala Lumpur Library.

And, in September 2019, a Malaysian woman from Perak was banned from entering an Immigration Department office. Her attire, a pair of black pants which went past her knees, was deemed inappropriate.

I was once told by a security guard I could not enter a building because I was wearing a sleeveless long dress.

I told him I was going anyway, and as the door closed on him standing outside perplexed that someone was not going to do a dress change for him, I wondered about certain rules that are applied on Malaysians here.

Do Malaysian institutions in foreign countries also have security guards insisting women entering their buildings be wearing clothes covering ankles and arms to do business with Malaysia?

Do we say, sorry you cannot come to our premises and do business with us because we Malaysians judge women based on the net sum of skin that is shown?

The inherent problem here, as I see it, is an attempt to control, more than a sense of morality. Subjugating women by making them ashamed of their bodies is a psychological mind control perpetrated for years by a patriarchy that subtly 'puts women in their place'.

A security guard's job is to man security and not assess your body and what you can or cannot wear. If anyone cannot see how disrespectful this is to a woman, then that person is part of the problem.

Because that person will reinforce the whiny, no substance argument that women are responsible for the weakness in men.

That a man with no control over his desires cannot focus his eyes on a woman thoughts and substance but instead gets carried away by her neck, hair, shoulder or calves and its all her fault and she is being disrespectful.

It is also disrespectful to most men that we hold them in such low esteem, that we think they are nothing more than base creatures with only sex on their minds.

Most men I deal with at work and outside work are exemplary gentlemen who are nothing like the depraved souls that such rules are seemingly made for.

After all, we are trying to be an ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) country, for heaven's sake.

Embracing gender diversity and respect for women is a huge part of this. We need to make up our minds if we are going to have the political will to position ourselves as such to the world.

What are these rules for? What is the end objective? Who are we trying to appease?

When will we see human beings are more than just flesh? When will we start seeing our fellow human beings as souls that have so much to give in terms of ideas, performance, substance, love, compassion and a collective consciousness?

To keep relegating people into just their flesh and making your entire judgement of a person by the net amount of skin they show or don't show takes away everything that makes humanity great, which is what's inside us.

This way of thinking divides an already divisive world. We are more than this body we inhabit, we are greater than a species that can only focus on material gains or the flesh.

When we can understand that, and respect that source of power we have within us that makes the human race such a potentially powerful species, we will realise that petty things like how many inches a skirt should be above and below the knee or if one is wearing short or long sleeves becomes detrimental to our real progress, socially and economically.

The writer is IBR Asia Group chief executive officer, VOICE OF ASEAN founder and DEWI of Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry chairman

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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