“Women think of all colours except the absence of colour. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” said the famous designer Coco Chanel.
I have often been bemused and have seen that White and women… These two words have almost always been connected to each other. They have been the colours which has portrayed purity and virginity! The biggest irony is also, these two words, conversely have also probably been only attached to Women and White!
White has been the colour of Asexuality throughout the world, throughout centuries. From the bride’s clothes in Christianity to widow’s clothes in Hinduism; it has always been white! It’s interesting in fact, cause both the traditions, despite the logical reasoning and religious ones too differing; had the same cause.
In a patriarchal society, virginity has always been held in high esteem and has been considered to be very important from the marital aspect. But mind it… only when the bride is concerned. The virginity of the bride was important in order to ensure that she didn’t have a past, so that no one else had a claim in the family fortune.
By this same logic a Hindu widow must be without sex; to ensure that no future claimant came to lay a claim to the family fortune! But virgin brides and widows became almost myths and were looked at some of the biggest objects of desire.
In Indian cinema, each time we have wanted to make the heroine appear ‘pure, fragile’ and wanted, we had her wearing something in white in her introduction scene. Each time we depict a woman as vulnerable and thus very sexy in this patriarchal society, we put her in white. Remember Pooja Bhatt in Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, or remember Zeenie baby in Satyam Shivam Sundaram or the classic case of Madam Mandakini under the frothing waterfall!
In this context, I must mention some western movies as well. Remember ‘Bridges of Madison County’? When you think of Meryl Strip in her beige chinos and white shirt, working in the field, a committed and married woman in her middle age; who has almost no sex life. But her vulnerability must be depicted by white. Think Mike Lee’s ‘Secrets and lies’ where they use white as the defining colour as to sex and lack of it.? Also remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, where her wardrobe ranges from coloured ones to a gradual white, as her persona undergoes a change.
Red, black etc on the other hand, have always been associated and thought to be more predictable colours for sex and sexual predators. They have been colours for women who knows what she wants and knows how to get it! Contrarily, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, plays the sexual predator in a little white dress. But then contradictions are the only thing constant, aren’t they?
But then a patriarchal society doesn’t like women to be in control; so they must be damsels in distress and must be pure, innocent (and of course virgin) and therefore must need a saviour.
Thus over centuries and amidst all religion, white has remained intrinsically connected with sex or the lack of it thereof.