Debrahlee Lorenzana is a 5'5", slim, attractive brunette. So attractive, that her employer had to fire her for being 'too distracting' for her male colleagues. Early in June, Lorenzana had sued her bosses at Citibank for creating a"discriminatory atmosphere" at the workplace by asking her to stop wearing turtleneck sweaters, pencil skirts and high heels to work. In short, dress down.
For thousands of Indian women, the incident ought to strike an immediate chord. In a country where women who dress 'provocatively' are unfailingly seen to be 'asking for it', even by other women, there are few Debrahlees at workplaces. In the course of reporting for this story, our correspondents routinely came up against the notion that women who were sexually harassed at the workplace probably deserved it, most often because they were inappropriately dressed, even in the absence of a clear-cut dress code.
The solution for most seems to be to err on the side of caution by a) dressing like men or b) overdoing the frumpishness. No tight trousers where a salwar will do, discard the T-shirt, go for the sari, invest in a 'power suit', and fish out the dowager aunt pumps. If you have it, hide it, because flaunting it will invariably draw the attention of your lecherous colleague at the next table, and you can hardly blame him, can you?