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Body Image, Pop Culture And Dreams

Posted: August 20, 2020

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With the rise of social media use, our minds are becoming more conscious about our looks, our dressing style, our body shape, our skin. Thus, we all struggle in accepting our bodies, in accepting ourselves.

September 7, 1968 was the day when the Miss America protest was held and was attended by 200 feminists and civil rights advocates. It was organized by New York Radical Women  and included putting symbolic feminine products into a “Freedom Trash Can” including bras, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, false eyelashes, mops, and other items which had always caged them and imposed femininity, where a woman has to be fragile, sensitive, fair, slim, beautiful and not more than that. 

Our society divides humans on the basis of two characteristics i.e. feminine and masculine. These two terms outline appropriate behaviour for men and women, thus influencing gender identity, power relationships and social practices. And, if anyone shows characteristics apart from the assigned one is considered out of the place.  All these to-do and not-to-do characteristics have resulted in creating body images. Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception, these thoughts and feelings are influenced by individual and environmental factors. With the rise of social media use, our minds are becoming more conscious about our looks, our dressing style, our body shape, our skin. Thus, we all struggle in accepting our bodies, in accepting ourselves.

Since the 1968 revolt till now nothing has changed as much as to be proudly talked about. On the surface there may be changes but deep down nothing has altered. Still people get trolled by body shaming, racist, sexist and homophobic comments. Due to which a lot of people could not live life by being happy in their own skin. 

The negative connotations associated with dark skin, fat body, not having sharp features or a male with feminine characteristics or female with masculine characteristics are deep rooted in our society. A person with a heavy body is reminded in every meeting to lose weight not because they will have medical problems but because how will they get married? A dark skinned person has to go through racist comments all their life. And, a male with feminine attributes is nothing but ‘Chakka’ for the masses.

The Expansive Role of Media

In 2008, Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Zero figure for Tashan movie got the huge limelight from the audience. At that time, if there was anything to be discussed about bollywood was Karena’s Zero figure. Everyone, especially girls, were mesmerised by her figure and starved themselves to get that ‘zero figure’ body. 

Dum Laga Ke Haisha was released in 2015 where Bhumi Pednekar played the role of a big fat bride, for which Bhumi actually gained weight. I still remember how everyone talked about the movie because of its comedy genre and not to forget, to laugh at the big fat bride on the screen. No one talked about her skills but made fun of her big body showing that acting don not require skill but only physical beauty and fairness. Moreover, when she reduced her weight everyone talked again about her but again not about her acting skills rather about how attractive and beautiful she looks after shedding some weight from her.

Television shows, movies and magazines are full of fair skinned and slim actresses. There are dark skinned and fat female characters but they can never be in a lead role. Their role comprises either a villain character or a funny character, nothing more than that. Not only this, even our advertisements endorse such stigma. Lipton green tea ad, played by Shraddha Kapoor, emphasizes a slim body to be the fit body. Yami Gautam’s Fair & Lovely ad represents that a female can only be confident and achieve heights if she is fair skinned. Though now Fair & Lovely is removing fair from her brand name, will it really make any difference? It will still be a fairness cream. 

Bollywood actresses like Sonam Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Alia Bhatt etc had to reduce their weight before entering the film industry. These types of processes break the dreams of those girls who are overweight but passionate about becoming actresses. 

In the film Bala, Bhumi Pednekar played the role of a dark skinned girl who was confident and comfortable in her own skin. But the irony was a fair skinned actress Bhumi was cast as a dark skinned character rather than casting a dark skinned girl. In such types of situations where known actresses are cast rather than casting one who originally fits in that role creates nothing but stereotypes.

The Real-World Consequences

Movies, soap operas and advertisements are the main reason for the institutionalisation of these beauty standards, discrimination and biasness. They are filled with articles or contents on how to be an ideal woman figure, how to make yourself beautiful, tips on how to lose weight and become sexy and the list keeps on going. After all this it is not surprising that we are surrounded by people with a body image issue and self doubt. How women are portrayed and represented directly influences how women are treated by society. It has also reconstructed ‘femaleness’ in the socio-cultural milieu. The commercial exploitation of women’s image has affected women in multiple ways such as food intake, self-image and identity.

But one has to understand that happiness can only be attained when one is satisfied in their skin. Because all these body standards and beauty standards keep changing with every season. Only things that will always be constant are your confidence and your happiness in your own skin.

As Naomi Wolf in her book ‘The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women’ stated:

The beauty myth countered women’s new freedoms by transposing the social limits to women’s lives directly onto our faces and bodies. In response, we must now ask the questions about our place in our bodies that women a generation ago asked about their place in society.

Another being wishing for equality for all, with words and Chai.

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