Month: June 2014

Bollywood and body image

I have a friend who regularly trashes Sonakshi Sinha by calling her names such as haathi. Every time, I defend Sonakshi Sinha and argue that we should commend her for embracing her body, rather than giving in and losing weight as convention demands. Sadly, it’s not just this one person who makes such comments and the comments are not restricted only to Sonakshi Sinha. We feel entitled to judge Bollywood actors for their bodies and we hold them up to standards which are incredibly narrow: The women must appear slim and toned. They must not appear too muscular and definitely should not have six-pack abs. On the other hand, abs are totally, absolutely, completely mandatory for men. And unlike the average Indian man, they must be as hairless as a plucked chicken. (more…)

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The World Before Her: What is your brand of patriarchy?

Imagine you are a twelve year old girl living in India, who has just been given permission to attend a summer camp. This is a very big deal, as your parents don’t let you go anywhere on your own and you must be home before 7 pm every evening. You cannot wait to get away. 

Life is difficult at the camp as you must wake up at 5 am everyday, but the day ahead is packed with fun activities: They teach you karate kicks, chops and other ways to scare off opponents. You learn camp songs. You make friends with the other girls at the camp, who aren’t very different from you. The adults give you talks on values and Indian culture. 

Sounds harmless, until you realise that you are at a training camp run by Durga Vahini, the female wing of right-wing organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The songs are about marking “your forehead with blood” and welcoming “your enemy with bullets”. The opponents are both abroad (Pakistanis) and at home (Muslims and Christians). Your values and culture are to embrace your natural weakness as women, marry early and to avoid pursuing a career for the sake of your ego. 

(more…)