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The “Flawless” Images On Magazine Covers Are Fake! We Should Learn A Lot From Them

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By Rachna Baruah:

Beauty is that one contested word of which we hear so much every passing day. Oxford defines beauty as a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.

We define and judge. Who? Well let’s just say we define and judge every possible thing or creature that comes in front of us- right from passing our critique on that ‘beautiful’ dress on the ramp to the ‘ugliest’ fish in the world. We are a bunch obsessed with beauty, aren’t we? We have to literally categorize everything into the diasporas of faultless beauty and the crook of unsightly images.

beauty

Though flawed in nature, we humans never give up the relentless struggle to beautify or elevate the normal character of life. Let’s take an instance of our obsession with the pretty faces on the glossy covers of the leading fashion magazines. We look at the trail of surreal angels on those pages and just wonder in awe how or who could’ve created such pieces of art? Rarely does it occur to us that we live in the world of ground-breaking technology where virtually anything is possible. Nothing is real in our distorted reality of life and neither is beauty, in this case. We follow such stringent gauge to judge beauty that we forget about the real picture. The real picture is that not everybody is a Miranda Kerr or an Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Not everybody earns their bread from the maintenance of their dainty faces or petite bodies. Not everybody has the liberty to spend a fortune for the latest skin treatment for them. In reality, we are a bunch of people who are as common as everybody out there. The other way to put this is that the ones who stand out on these cover pages and the showbiz pedestal are just as common and more importantly, normal as us.

As modern perfectionists we have created a distorted reality for ourselves, thanks to Photoshop and other likes that now we are trapped in our own self-made cage. We all know that the glamorous pictures that we see on the billboards are nothing but a creation of good editing skills but yet like imbeciles we keep knocking at the same door of illusion again and again. The drastic change that the editing makes is beyond shocking. It is sheer hysteria to see the gradual process and the end product. It is almost as if a new creature of perfection has been created and put in front of us so that we can now peacefully return to our imperfect world and die in self-loathing.

On one hand there is an obsessed population who can go to any lengths to achieve the unreal goals of ‘beauty’ that the society has created for us, and there is on the other hand, another segment who believe they are setting a counter culture by gorging on food and letting the world know that they are desirable when plump. On one hand there are teenagers obsessed about the new growing popular trend of ‘thigh gaps’ and there are societies like in Mauritania where young girls as early as five are force fed to dangerous lengths to become fat so that they can find good husbands later in life.

In both contrasting situations we see how society has created a norm for the people, and most especially for women as to what is desirable. In most western societies, status and figure are inversely proportionate. The higher you go up the societal scale the thinner you are expected to be. On the other hand, Mauritanian culture follows a direct proportion of figure and status. It is believed that the bigger you are in size, the more space you hold in your husband’s heart. The bigger you are, the more honour your family has in the society. These dichotomies bring us closer to the reality of how society makes your image desirable or non-desirable.

These preposterous standards of beauty is what we follow blindly and despite debates, discussions, campaigns we continue to follow the league of the impeccably edited versions beauty. The increasing reports of brides going under the knife before their wedding or even better, the mother of the bride/groom going under the knife to look that special glamorous bit seems outrageous but when yesterday’s deviance becomes today’s normality, who are we kidding, right? Despite the awareness programs, we will continue to go that extra mile to be the perfect image of flawless beauty. What do you then, suggest should be the approach to bring people down to the real, natural standards of life?

Here’s some food for thought:

You must be to comment.
  1. Thomson Chakramakkil

    The article seems to build a dichotomy between “natural beauty” and “perceived beauty” in the process of warning the reader to not fall victim to illusions created by photo-editing techniques. While the author may be factually accurate, the article overlooks how problematic the notions of beauty in themselves are. Regardless of whether the “beauty” of these models and such are naturally endowed or technologically manipulated, the emphasis should be on empowering people to be comfortable in their own bodies rather than attempting to live up to any traditional, socially-constructed standards of beauty.

    1. Astha Agarwal

      I agree that the obsession with beauty is misplaced. There are surely much better things in life to do or achieve. However, I do not think that appreciation of one’s own beauty needs to be problematised, nor do I consider beauty an essentially problematic idea. When one has mastered the art of not being influenced by dangerously imposing beauty myth of the society is in itself empowerment – to be in control of ones body is empowerment, in my opinion. I also think that the dichotomy was presented to show the artificiality of current norms of beauty. I quite agree with the views of the author.

    2. Thomson Chakramakkil

      I do not think that appreciation of one’s own beauty, or anybody else’s beauty, for that matter, is problematic in any way.
      All the same, beauty, per se, has always been a problematic notion.
      I find the portrayal of a combination of physical attributes as “naturally beautiful” in pop culture and media to be gravely insensitive. As members of the civil society we have the collective responsibility to encourage alternative perceptions of “beauty” and its depiction in various media. While I do not particularly question the validity of the article or disagree with the author, I think she glossed over the bit about how “beauty” need not necessarily be a singular, standardized abstraction as the television wants us to believe. Also, I don’t think the dichotomy between “natural” and “artificial” beauty presented in the article addressed the crucial point I was trying to make.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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