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Ashaji, What Is This Expectation You Have That Indian Women Should Be ‘Thin’ And ‘Feminine’?!

Asha Parekh recently made unsavoury comments about women's clothes choices, displaying her fat phobia, something that wasn't expected of a woman who had become a feminist icon of sorts. Sigh.

Veteran actress Asha Parekh is someone I admire for her women-oriented roles, her iconic films, and her affirmative stance on her singlehood.

At the recently concluded 53rd International Film Festival of Goa (IFFI), she was asked why Indian women chose to wear western clothes.

I would have expected her to support a woman’s freedom of choice and slam the person asking the question. Instead, she commented, “These days, girls are attending Indian weddings, wearing gowns. Arre bhaiya, humari ghaghra choli, saariyan aur salwar-kameez hai aap wo pehno na. They just watch the heroines on the screen and wish to copy them. They just want to wear the clothes that are worn by the actors on screen. No matter even if they are fat or not, they just want to wear those clothes. I am very sad about westernization.” (Source: Hindustan Times).

The expectation that women MUST wear “Indian” clothes in weddings

A wedding is an event to bond, have fun, and celebrate, with friends and family. If a woman chooses not to sport a fifteen-kilo lehenga and jewellery matching her body weight, why is this considered an insult to Indian culture? A wedding day is a big day for the couple, and they should be allowed to celebrate it how they want. Wear what you are comfortable with, and not what society demands you to. Times are changing and so are fashion trends. Some brides prefer to wear sneakers with their lehengas so that they can dance comfortably without the fear of tripping over.

Even celebrities aren’t spared. Ira Khan chose to wear a red gown for her engagement.

Trollers: How modern and unsanskari!

Alia wore a simple white saree for her wedding.

Trollers: A shotgun wedding, that’s why a hurried outfit.

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This comment reminds me of an acquaintance of mine. She hails from an orthodox Christian family. For her wedding, her family wanted her to wear a saree as was their custom. However, she had always wanted to wear a white gown; something she had dreamt about from childhood. She convinced her bridegroom, who supported her. She put in a lot of effort to choose the perfect dress, and the perfect pearl jewellery to go with it. When relatives got to know about it, the criticism started pouring in.

“Why isn’t the bride wearing a saree and gold? Why some fancy dress?”

Thankfully she didn’t pay attention to any of their snide remarks, and arrived at her wedding, looking every bit like a princess, and celebrating it the way she wanted. More power to girls like her, thanks to whom, her younger cousins now have a choice.

The need for ‘thin’, ‘feminine’ women

Now on the ‘fat’ comment.

Women experience anxiety and stress-eating because they are taunted for how they look and relentlessly made fun of. The people making fun of them are hardly strangers; they could be friends, family, or acquaintances. Why the implication that ‘fat’ girls shouldn’t wear western clothes? Is there some unwritten rule that states so?

We have been told that a saree makes you look ‘feminine by enhancing your curves’. It is also believed that a woman wearing pants or jeans ‘dresses’ like a man. Does society feel threatened by a woman who establishes she is on an equal footing with a man? When Ranveer Singh dons a skirt, the same people laugh at him and call him ‘feminine’. Attire establishes some sort of power play. Is this perceived power imbalance the root cause of stereotypes?

Weight gain can have a lot of reasons so mind that fat phobia!

There was a time when I used to dread traveling back to India in December. Meeting my family and loved ones was wonderful. But what I feared the most was being subjected to the scrutiny of relatives who would point out my weight gain. These people would don the garb of ‘well-wishers’ and exclaim how “worried they were about my health”. I wanted to retort back to them that mirrors had been invented, and so had weighing scales; you didn’t have to point out what was visible. What they didn’t know, what wasn’t visible, was my struggle with hormonal imbalances and stress; their pointing out things I already knew didn’t help in the slightest.

Additionally, if you are a plus-sized woman, shopping in a store is a nightmare. Even before you can view a collection, you could be told by a salesperson that ‘there is nothing of your size in this store’ and turned away. I am reminded of how Instagram influencer, Dr. Cuterus faced body shaming while shopping for a wedding lehenga in a famed designer’s outlet.

It’s 2022 and are we still fat-shaming women for their choice of attire? In a world where we are made to feel inadequate and unloved, can we not as women uplift each other?

Here is the bottom line. If you can drape a saree and look graceful and comfortable in it, good for you. But if you prefer the comfort of a salwar suit or a jeans top, go for it.

And Ashaji, I hope you will clarify your remark and give new ‘Asha’ and direction to women, to live their lives judgment-free.

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

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