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In a recent video, Vidya Balan calls out body shamers and reminds us that everyone is special, irrespective of their body size, skin colour and other physical characteristics.
Vidya Balan is without a doubt one of India’s finest actors, and she has often used her celebrity status to speak about important issues.
Earlier this year, she had spoken about her own struggle with her weight and body image issues. “I’ve had hormonal problems all my life. It’s probably because of the judgment I’ve carried around my body. When I was a teenager, people would tell me, ‘You’ve got such a pretty face, why don’t you lose some weight?’ It’s not a nice thing to say to anyone. Be it a child or a grown-up. So, I’d starve myself, I’d go through crazy exercise regimens and lose weight. Then the hormonal issue would settle for a bit before it reared its head again,” she said.
Now, in a video titled Let’s Talk About Body Shaming for 92.7 Big FM, she has once again taken up the issue of body shaming.
The video features her singing popular Bollywood songs with lyrics modified to convey the message that body shaming can be hurtful and harmful. It shows her tearing up, and her make-up running, before she steps forward in a confident avatar to remind us that making fun of someone’s body type or skin colour, can cause significant psychological harm to those that they target.
Coincidentally, actor Sai Pallavi, who was lauded for refusing to endorse a fairness cream also spoke recently about her own body image issues, which encouraged her to turn down the advertisement. Talking about it, she said, “If I had not done Premam, I too would have applied 100 creams on my face to remove acne. I haven’t done my eyebrows yet. I asked Alphonse (director of Premam) if I should do all this – how can I be the heroine when I haven’t cut my hair or done anything at all?”
She revealed her worry at the viewing of the movie, “What if people walk out? I was literally breaking my mother’s bone because I was holding her hand so tight during the first day first show. I was worried about my voice, which sounds like a boy’s! Even now, when people call and I pick up, they say, ‘Sir, can you give the phone to Madam?’ And so, I even change my voice and speak in a feminine way.”
“I myself have had these insecurities. So when I have the power to change things at least a little bit, I want to use it the right way!” She added.
Body shaming is a problem that deeply affects many Indian women.
Oftentimes “jokes” target a person’s physical characteristics. A bias towards “thin, fair-skinned” brides dominates matrimonial ads. Greetings on meeting a person often involve comments about their weight or other physical attributes, and unasked for advice on weight loss etc. are given under the excuse that “it is for your good only.” In fact, even compliments paid to women are usually about how beautiful or cute they look, rather than about their intelligence, accomplishments or other features.
Recently, the Miss India pageant came under fire for its lack of diversity, with all contestants having the same fair skin tone and straight hair. When brown skin and curly hair are very much Indian characetristics, one wonders why women who possess these features are missing from the lineup of contestants.
A narrow definition of beauty can make many women feel insecure and unconfident. Moreover, body shaming can have actual, physical consequences apart from the psychological damage.
A study published in the journal Obesity, has shown that high levels of “weight bias internalization” (i.e. when people are aware of negative stereotypes about obesity and apply those stereotypes to themselves) were associated with more cases of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health issues that raise the risk for heart disease and diabetes. These affect even when BMI effects were accounted for, meaning that such internalization was a risk factor on its own. Insecurities about skin colour can lead people to use fairness creams, which in turn may lead to severe skin damage.
In such a scenario, it is a pleasure to hear women like Vidya Balan and Sai Pallavi speak up about their own insecurities, and stand up for body positivity.
Image source: YouTube
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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