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A few weeks ago I had come across a news report on a man who sued his ‘beautiful’ wife for producing a really ‘ugly’ daughter and came to know during court trials that his wife was all Botox beauty. Artificially enhanced that all her looks were, she had not informed the husband on any of the procedures she had undergone to become what she was. The statement that really struck me in the news report was how he called their daughter, ‘so ugly –hard to even look at’. And while the proceedings of the court took place, the reality was revealed and he won the case.
On the other hand, just few days ago I saw this video clip where it was shown how technology is being used since years to show women’s bodies as perfect (defined as one with no bulges, no stretch marks, no freckles). The video brought out how media and photography have shaped the images of women in my head, many of which are not even real i.e. software enhanced to suit the eye and made appealing. The reality is that these are what are termed as ‘acceptable’ now, with women and men craving for ‘size zero’ and ‘perfect model-like’ bodies, some even dying in the process of aiming to achieve this perfection.
These two very different but linked stories made me wonder on the concepts of ‘defining’ the words that surround our world; words like beauty, perfection, fair, flawless…so many definitions surround our world and while every day women crave to be called ‘beautiful’, I wonder what reason makes one crave for appreciation with respect to looks. The sudden explosion of beauty clinics (parlours too) makes me question the hidden emotion even more. It is not that I am not one of their customers but then where does one stop and label it as enough?
Let’s not even get started on concepts of Fairness and Flawlessness. Media, Marketing, Movies.. these three seem to have ruled the imaging process of women, in their own eyes (more than in the eyes of their male counterparts). Let’s start with Movies first. Be it any film industry anywhere in the world, the imaging process has been huge (and we talk with respect to looks here). Dark is not beautiful, fair is in. Those perfect bodies, perfect curves, sexy toned legs are more looked at by men, winning the hearts of the heros rather than the heavier ones with stretch marks or a scratch on her face. We all know how today female actresses a little on the heavy side are shunned by the industry, made fun of by the media. Vidya Balan and Sonakshi Sinha are breaking these stereotypes but Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi are looking at things like Botox for making their beauty last. Believe it or not, freckles are being frowned upon and those who can afford it are rushing to clinics to get themselves looking like timeless classics. Size C is more acceptable than a size A, don’t worry- get breast implants. On the hand while I say this, I know it’s a very personal choice but as we go back to the start of this article, it is nowhere bringing women closer to reality..
Media and Marketing go hand in hand. While we all look at those toned bodies endorsing male shaving products and get seduced by the fragrance of male deodorants, we wonder if this works in real life. While it has been creating a sexual image of women since ages, what I see is that for women it has the psychological effect of them disliking their reality and trying to achieve what is being depicted. Many waste a major chunk of their lives living these lies, trying to be what they are not. Using technological knives and tools to enhance pictures and then showcasing it as reality for the masses, makeup and technological makeup create an illusion that is way different from the truth. Being fit is important but becoming anorexic, injecting our bodies with chemicals just to look picture perfect is going a little overboard. As I said earlier, where do we stop?
Our media is funny. We talk about how a particular actress looks too bloated after pregnancy, how another one looks like she is on a no-food diet. The media creates images which look perfect. We forget that nobody can be the same and that bodies vary biologically, genetically and psychologically. Our matrimonial ads showcase this gruesome reality – how fair, slim and tall is all that is acceptable. Looks matter more than the person. And in our struggle to achieve those perfect images, the essence of life is somewhere lost.
I don’t know what is right for everyone. I know that drawing a line is very crucial. I know everybody cannot have a 36-24-36 figure and neither can everybody have the same face they had at 25 at the age of 40. In our struggles to achieve those, what is happening is that we are shaping coming generations with the values of ‘looks’ and not ‘depth’.
Botox, Beauty and Boobs are not synonymous. Valuing this statement is very important. We all know beauty is in the brain, and beauty is being natural, but do we really follow that? The anxiety of appealing physically to others and most importantly, the self, has made women insecure, unsure and too dependent on artificial enhancements. I know that these thoughts vary from one to another but for me, being comfortable in my own self, imperfect body, freckled face is what perfection is all about. Ageing is reality, and we need to cherish that. It is just how we see it. Isn’t it?
Pic credit: Shai Fox (Used under a Creative Commons license)
A Development Communication & Social Work professional working in the field of gender, health and technology
A well written post Suchi and a good though to start the year on! I am sure your article will make women ponder over where to draw the line in their obsession for beauty
Thanks Shireen! I agree and knowing this isn’t something new, All i wanted was to make women question where do we draw the line 🙂 There is so much depth to the issue. It varies for everyone too. But we do want to know where do we stop.
I loved this post Suchi. It does get us questioning. For myself, I am somewhat fashion ignorant and too lazy to do anything about my average-quality skin, hair etc. Even then, the constant stream of images that say we must be perfect looking all the time, are hard to ignore, and this is for a 35 year old woman who is somewhat unconcerned about the whole thing. How much harder would be the pressure on tweens and teens who are the most impressionable image? For me, one of the most pernicious things about this craze for perfection is that it takes our time away from so many other (better) things we could be doing – I remember some survey sometime which showed the crazy number of hours women spent in caring for their bodies. I do think it is a choice, but its also good to stop and reflect on our choices from time to time.
Totally Ritika. I completely agree. Even I don’t care that much but the fact that such images are around do create a little pressure at times on me. Perfect Bodies for example.. being fit is important, more than being size 0.
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