While the event predictably attracted hoards of passersby, it also attracted a lion’s share of critics who slammed the company for using sexist and exhibitionist methods to promote their business, as well as portray an inappropriate depiction of Indian culture.
“We believe in equal rights for women and men, and that women should have the same right to their body as men. That’s why we were inspired by “Free the Nipple, ” a movement and film that exposes the double standards regarding female nudity in the United States. We wanted to introduce this movement to the traditionally conservative culture of India.”
The company also released a video of their dancers’ claiming their love for Indian culture, women’s bodies, and their desire to integrate the two into different art forms in order to expose new generations to breaking stigmas and adopting freethinking.
Rebtel certainly lived up to its name and gave us something to talk about—a very necessary conversation on the policing of South Asian women’s bodies.
South Asian culture instructs women to be conservative in how they dress and behave. From a young age, we are taught to cover our bodies and repress our sexuality. Yet, we are simultaneously exposed to Bollywood’s rampant sexualization of the female gender.
So, it’s totally okay when our favorite Bollywood actresses are clad in minimal clothes, dancing to sexy item numbers—that are many times misogynistic—but it’s not okay when a group of everyday women do the same to express themselves?
Whether a woman believes in dressing modestly or liberally is her own choice. It was refreshing to see these Bollywood dancers so confident in their own skin and unafraid of their bodies, when in fact, they grew up within the same confines of the double standard all desi women do. They send a bold message: to unleash our independence and not live our lives under the admonishing glare of societal and cultural standards.
Rebtel’s video featuring the dancers also shuts down an antiquated assumption about women who choose to bare more: they are not being coerced nor are they disrespecting themselves.