This post is more of an afterthought.. when I wrote about “Penelope”, the film and about the highly over-rated ideals of beauty , I forgot to mention a book which I read way back in college and which stayed with me for a long time. I read that at a juncture when I was highly influenced by Feminism as a school of thought .From being a hard core feminist to believing in gender equality my opinions have undergone a sea change.
But that book – “The Beauty Myth” ( Naomi Wolf’s highly controversial first work !!) left quite an imprint on my mind. Naomi Wolf strongly recommends that normative standards of beauty need to be relaxed since they’ve compelled women to starve and sometimes disfigure themselves to look “beautiful” . The way she saw the” beauty myth” in context of work, religion, hunger, sex and violence was truly an eye-opener. For instance, if you go back in history women would wear corsets made of iron just to give the impression of a slender waist ( Obviously at the risk of disfiguring themselves !!)
Critics went on to say her statistics on the number of teenage girls dying due to anorexia were inflated !! Agreed, but the fact remains anorexia is a silent killer… The book also set me thinking about companies in the business of beauty palm off “manufactured ideals of beauty ” to impressionable minds just to sell their products!! If were to look at it in the Indian context “Fair and Lovely” is the most striking instance I am sure the company that manufactures the cream is laughing all the way to the bank simply cashing in on the Indian psyche which seems to equate fair with beautiful..( How do we conveniently ignore the fact some of our most striking beauties are dusky :Sushmita Sen, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta) … Similarly over the counter slimming drugs are also doing booming business… At the cost of ruining their health several young girls fall prey to such marketing gimmicks… What I could make of all this was : we women need to stop being self-critical and harsh on ourselves especially when it comes to physical appearance… Our weight / dress size shouldn’t determine our self-worth !! We need to raise daughters with a healthy sense of self; those girls who derive their sense of self from who they are and not how they look.. Physical beauty fades away ( yes it does despite those Botox shots and anti-ageing concoctions !) its your inner beauty ( very cliched and hackneyed term but can’t think of a better phrase yet !! ) that is eternal and lasts a lifetime….( i say all this at the risk of sounding very preachy.!!)