Stepping out in my towel I rush to get dressed. My wet hair drops till my mid waist rather dramatically in slight waves. I pause and stare at myself in my mirror. I see clear, slightly pink, lightly freckled skin, lash less eyes, a slim body and a face so used to being nude that it brightens up with makeup. I am scared to remove my towel and stare at myself. Naked, sun kissed, and already stretch mark suffused. I stand there for what seems to be eternity till I drop my towel and look at myself. Truly raw. I smile, then, suddenly aggravated I get into my pjs and ponder.
I’m taken back instantly to a ‘Carry On’ series movies where the women were often short, plum and padded with stretch marks. Those were the women sought after in the days gone by. Not just men, even women looked down upon those actors if they were too skinny. And then now here we are in what can easily be equated to Dante’s hell. Right here day in and day out. We have passionately entwined our lives within this man made hell we claim to escape.
But are we looking for a way out? Are we truly, actually, aggressively, passionately looking to change things? Are we, in India, working towards a change or are we working towards a bloated ego?
At one end we ramble on about natural beauty and when Sonam Kapoor, in an interview, reveals her stretch marks and fat, instantly she is at the receiving end of snarky, derogatory remarks, not by the ‘uneducated’ Indian we hide behind, but by the educated Gucci laden Indians that reside in so many homes. When we tweet anxiously about respecting women and not objectifying them we do so with the fervor of an India Pakistan match being won by Indians. But when it comes to music we still dance to the tunes of ‘Baby Doll’. Where one end we so aggressively rallied for justice for a rape victim, we still re-blog, repost, and agree with articles and pieces that judge women for their short clothes.
If you’ve looked away and declared me unworthy of your attention or yourself above the aforementioned, stop and think for yourself, when was the last time, you let your daughter wear what she wanted irrespective ‘of what people would say?’ When was the last time, you actually admired a woman in her ‘normal’ self or not snicker when she dressed up? When did you last teach your son to respect people for who they are and not their choices? As trivial as these might seem, they are the true indicators of change.
Or did you, like the million others, hand your son a bottle of whisky and your daughter an orange juice? How many times have you, boys, spoken to a girl and gotten to know her before her mini skirt proclaimed her a slut? I know for a fact that you didn’t. That you ‘educated’ kids in the pubs and discos went and spoke to the woman with the shortest skirt assuming right of the bat that she was ‘easy’ and yet if she asked to be taken home to meet your family, you’d disappear like perfume in air, almost there but never quite seen.
Is this to say we are all like that? No. If I’m writing this, someone else has thought it too. But are most of us like this? Yes. If you get offended by this piece, guess which category you fall into. We thrive in the negativity that we bestow upon others as it makes us feel superior. And you know what (if you didn’t already) it’s not just the men.
It’s the women too. You girls who sit among your guy friends watching your girl friends (if that term made you clinch or giggle, you might as well stop reading ahead and first educate yourself) get slut shamed by the boys are perpetuating this culture. Because for you, the attention, that momentary approval of those guys suddenly means more to you than your girl friend. This does not make you a bad human being, it makes you just that, human. However, the point is that you too are perpetuating a cycle you might be a victim of.
Because tomorrow when you come in a skirt, if it’s a full length skirt you are a ‘behenji’ and if it’s a mini you’ll be called a slut. Because you, knowingly or unknowingly gave them permission to judge you and shame you when you laughed with them at your ‘friend’.
Should the boys know better? Yes, but so should you.
So now, tell me are we truly perpetuating a change where every moment is a struggle? For that’s what change is, it’s uncomfortable, it’s uneasy and that’s why it’s so difficult to bring about. Or are you too just smothering your ego?
Well let me tell you. You’re doing neither. You’re comforting yourself in the anonymity of your stature in society and hiding behind the norms that you perpetuate. Re-blogging a post, or sharing a status isn’t enough, in fact it’s nothing. You’re waiting for a wave of spontaneous change to come along so that you can then dip your feet in it in an attempt to get famous and then again soothe your shameless ego by telling it you tried.
What have I done? What gives me the right to tell you this? Well, I too, was an educated teenage hypocrite. And as for what I’ve done, today, I volunteer at hospitals for the poor, write a fashion blog for the ‘normal’ Indian woman, defy every societal construct of beauty at my whim and fancy and hold workshops for women empowerment. I’ve not done enough but I’ve started. I weigh as much as my conscious agree upon, I dress however my mind wishes. I watch everything from Two and a Half Men to Mr Khan to Keeping Up with The Kardashians, but most of all, unlike you, I reflect and act. The degree of my actions are seen in my everyday behavior. But of course, you don’t know that for the minute you saw me laugh louder than you, you assumed I did for you.