By Rohini Banerjee:
A couple of months ago you said that you wanted to be “a role model, not a feminist”. You said that you believe in gender equality, and hence, refuse to label yourself a feminist. At that point, fresh from outraging over similar comments by Priyanka Chopra and Meryl Streep, I was too exhausted to be vocal about my exasperation surrounding this statement. But, your recent “Built That Way” campaign and photoshoot was the last straw, and I couldn’t take it sitting down.
Here’s the deal—and let me break it down for you with all due respect—Feminism IS about equality, and you, someone who has been outspoken about the wage gap and other inequalities in Bollywood, could have easily understood this if you had merely consulted a dictionary.
Feminism is inclusive and intersectional and not just about women — it is about challenging and smashing the patriarchy, a big part of which is bodyshaming. Bollywood is definitely a space where, even now, many patriarchal norms reign supreme, further proof of which is the fact that you have been constantly and ruthlessly hounded about your weight since your entry into the industry.
However, instead of battling the fat-shaming and shutting down the narrow-minded patriarchal douchebags that idealize a certain (ridiculous) body type and standard of beauty, you are now running a campaign that reasserts these very same standards. You losing weight is absolutely your personal choice and something that I have no objection to because it’s your body, so it is completely your prerogative on what you do with it.
However, one should examine whether one is losing weight for the right reasons. Is it because of fitness, health, personal empowerment — or is it because of the patriarchal conditioning that makes us believe that fat can’t be beautiful? We live in a world where the word ‘fat’ has become an insult — a politically incorrect term, and your photoshoot continues to perpetuate the fact that those who are plus-sized cannot be beautiful and strong and empowered.
The campaign is called, “Built That Way” — a phrase that could have been rendered extremely powerful had it acknowledged that everyone is built in different ways, that there is no one single ideal body type, that one can be strong and emancipated regardless of one’s weight.
But instead, you reinforced the notions that one can be strong and beautiful ONLY if they are built in that idealized thin way; you reinforced that there is something wrong with being “chubby”. In a year when we had a film like “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, with a stereotype-free, empowered plus-sized heroine, and even a film as mainstream as “Shaandaar” had powerful body-positive statements; your weight-loss campaign is a huge step backward.
In an industry where, for the longest time, humour has been derived through fat shaming, and “zero-sized figures” have been glorified, plus-sized heroines such as you could have challenged norms, could have dragged stereotypes through the mud and smashed patriarchal standards of beauty. But instead, the statement you chose to make is that, since the way you were originally built did not meet societal expectations, there was something wrong with it which needed fixing.
What is even more problematic, are some of the captions that go with the images. “Lost Excuses, Found Results” —does this mean that those who are not conventionally thin are lazy and making excuses to avoid reaching that ideal notion of thinness? Does this also mean thin is the “result” one should be striving towards? With this, you are again reinforcing the plethora of damaging stereotypes that come with being plus-sized, and essentially, perpetuating the same kind of fatshaming that you yourself have experienced in the past. Why one should aim to be “built” thin is something we should question. Why can’t someone be plus-sized, active, desirable, healthy (both physically and emotionally)?
I am happy the way I am built (which, by the way, is definitely not thin), and I don’t need your campaign to tell me that I should lose my “excuses” to gain “results”. What you, and all of us, should be really losing is the patriarchal conditioning that only ‘thin’ is beautiful.
A woman who is plus-sized and ACTUALLY ‘Built That Way’