What is the definition of a beautiful woman?
Ask one of your friends and they will have their own definition based on their perception constructed or developed in the society they live in. The social construct I want to bring up here as an example is body shaming and commenting on the complexion of women. You must have heard your mother say, “you would grow fat if you eat a lot, who would marry you if you grow fat” or your father say, “I have only one boy why should I get a dark skinned or fat girl for him.”
We often ignore these words uttered by our closed ones. The worst of all was the day when I found myself tagged in a post with a dark complexioned and overweight African girl stating “According to psychology the boy whose name starts with R, S, D and J will get this kind of wife”.
This was supposed to be a ‘joke’ but honestly this is racist and misogynist nothing else.
Now, this shows our mindset which is indeed shameful, but unfortunately, almost all of our young friends and family members have this inherent rotten perception of beauty. For them, someone who is overweight or has a dark complexion is just a subject of mockery. This is incredibly immature and shameful behaviour.
But how did it happen? From where did this beauty myth came into our minds. Is it created by the Indian film industry or is it an old patriarchal construct that popular media has further perpetuated?
Our life revolves around ideologies. Ideologies have shaped our society – but who created them? Me, you, our family members, the Babas and Maulvis of our society, or the film industry? Honestly, it doesn’t matter who creates these ideologies, because all we care about is following them blindly like sheep. Whether it’s size zero, six-inch heels, Botox treatment trends started by film industry or preference of marrying someone who has a fair complexion – everything was started by the egoist patriarchs of our society.
There controlling ideologies are everywhere, just switch on the TV and the advertisements will prove it, look at the matrimonial website ads the demands from grooms and brides will prove it. It does not seem to stop, the reason being our undermining the derogatory or controlling words of our loved ones. We allow the other to control us, to be ruled by their ideologies without pondering on the consequences. We don’t have any idea how fatal it can be to live up to a standard or ideal, and how difficult it is for someone who chooses to deviate from this set norm.
The beauty myth has spoiled the lives of many, but the media does not show us that side. One of the recent examples is the sudden demise of Sri Devi, a celebrated film actress. She died of a cardiac arrest and many experts have blamed cosmetic surgeries, strict diet plans and pressure to look healthy and beautiful in front of the world as the reason for her ‘sudden’ demise. She succumbed to her endeavor to look beautiful as per the perception of the society.
The short-term methods to lose weight which are being promoted – actually take a toll on the health of an individual. Thyroxin increases metabolism by causing pressure on the heart, which increases the risk of cardiac arrest. Likewise, anti-appetite medicines act as appetite suppressants, and impact heart and liver severely. Unfortunately, many young women in the business often adapt these methods to look a certain way.
Ideologies are important for any society to grow, but only to the point where it does not harm or impact you and your surroundings negatively.
Naomi Wolf says in one of her books, “The image of a woman is used against women to control them. The desire to control others in men have created ideologies that have shattered societies.” She wrote a very powerful book named, ‘The Beauty Myth’ as a consequence of the pressure women felt in the west to adhere to unrealistic social standards of physical beauty which grew stronger because of commercial influences on the mass media. This pressure leads to unhealthy behaviors in women and a preoccupation with appearance in every person, and it compromises the ability of women to be effective in and accepted by society.
Various ‘trends’ or beliefs around how an ideal woman should look have infested the west time and again, and we all know India loves to follow the ‘superior’ west. I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to understand the intensity of the situation we are in and where we are heading towards.