When I was five years old, I was repeatedly assaulted by someone known to me. I did not understand it back then, but as I started growing up, I noticed remnants of my unhealed trauma in my adult personality. This is a chapter of my life that I still haven’t been able to come to terms with, this is a part of my life that doesn’t get to come out and live its truth even in my therapy sessions. The most I have ever talked about it is in a couple of lines during the introduction of a story, like I am doing right now. Continue reading “‘But someone out there has it worse’- Can we all stop belittling trauma?”
“Everybody is different, and every body is different.”
― Beverly Dieh
The concept of body-positivity is fundamentally based on the belief that everyone, male or female, should be able to look at their bodies without contempt, and accept it, regardless of changes in shape, size, complexion, and other features. It empowers people to have a positive relationship with their own bodies. The movement strives to challenge the socio-cultural representations of what a beautiful, handsome, or a perfect body ‘should’ look like. Undoubtedly, the idea in its entirety is an empowering one.
However, if you look closely and mindfully, the body-positivity movement on the Internet as we see today seems to have completely derailed from its track. To be body positive is a good thing, great, in fact. But the way the internet has molded this movement is problematic in more than one way.
A gorgeous piece of fabric with meticulous handwork, a flawless archetype of Indian traditional wear. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? It would probably be a saree or a lehenga. And if you have to instantly name a designer who represents this kind of artwork? Yes, that would be Sabyasachi Mukherjee. The ‘brand’ Sabya for most of us.
But some of us who care to go deeper into matters and observe from various lenses, it’s just one aspect of this man. It’s his talent of creating these exquisite, dreamy tales of weddings and celebration and no one is taking that away from him. But talk about separating the art from the artist? It is difficult, but can we at least acknowledge that there is something terribly wrong with Sabya and the ideas of femininity he promotes?
A friend of mine sent me a frantic text in the middle of the night. It was odd because we weren’t the best of friends, we had drifted apart gradually due to our busy schedules (at least that’s what I had always thought). The text said that her live-in boyfriend physically assaulted her, and she was spending the night at a friend’s. That day, and for weeks after that day, I was by her side.
I supported her emotionally, offered financial help since they had been living together and he might have had control over her money, texted her every other day to see if she was alright.
The guy was abusive, and this wasn’t the first time he had hit her. It was a pattern. I told her, in no kind words, that he was an absolute jerk, and that she needed to stay away from him. I even proposed a police complaint, but I could sense she wasn’t ready for it, and that was okay. I have learnt with time that everyone has a different, unique way to process their trauma, and that’s alright.
Weeks passed. Months passed.
As things cooled down, and she became better, she cut me off completely. I thought she was too embarrassed after the very public episode and needed her own time to heal.
Three months later, I saw her Instagram posts with the same guy. Continue reading ““Why can’t she simply leave him?”- Understanding trauma bonding”
“Did your husband ask you to put that up?”
“You are a progressive woman, then why?”
“Don’t you feel restricted?”
These are some of the many questions people bombarded me with when I decided to embrace Hijab as a part of my identity, almost three years ago.
It was a minuscule decision but impacted my life to a great extent, thankfully in a positive manner. I engaged myself in getting correct information about my religion and that changed everything. Continue reading “Zaira Wasim’s decision to quit Bollywood – Is it really our business? “
It’s 2019 but the cosmetics and beauty industry still continues to use the female body and its imperfections in their quest to generate profit. This time, it’s none other than Kim Kardashian and her line of KKW Beauty Products, which has launched three new items. Set for release by the end of this month, Kim K has launched a new range of body makeup, including liquid body shimmer and a loose shimmer powder. In a tweet announcing the launch, she wrote “I use this when I want to enhance my skin tone or cover my psoriasis. I bruise easily and have veins and this has been my secret for over a decade.” She went on to post a video that demonstrated how the products help her cover her psoriasis scars.
Kim also demonstrated how the body makeup covers her psoriasis scars. The products, she claimed, “will enhance your skin by blurring out imperfections with a smooth satin finish.”
Yes, really. As if our bodies were furniture, needing the perfect finish in order to be displayed.
Kim K and her beauty line was soon criticised for being insecure about her own body, and also projecting those insecurities on her millions of followers. At a time when models are being criticised for airbrushing their photos, and brands like Nike are embracing body positive mannequins, Kim K’s product goes back to commercializing self-doubt.
A foundation that covers your scars and marks over your body? That helps to ‘hide’ your veins and psoriasis? That evens out your skin tone?
It’s appalling that it’s 2019 and such products and language are still being used by icons who influence a million others. It’s also insulting to those with skin diseases and scars, who’ve taken years to be comfortable in their own skin. It gives out a message to those bullied for their skin that the onus is on them to hide their flaws, instead of on the society to be okay with it.
It tells those who struggle with self-esteem issues and adverse mental health as a result, that the only way out is to apply filters, both on social media and in real life. It tells women that their body must have a ‘smooth satin finish’, just like their vaginas must smell like flowers and their facial complexion must resemble that of pasteurised milk. It sets unfair and skewed benchmarks for ‘beauty’ by relying on ‘secrets’ that we all could do without.
Having been born and brought up in India, it is easy to see that this is not the first, and unfortunately not the last time either, that women have been told that their imperfections have to go, be blurred out, and hidden from public view. We’ve had products like Fair and Lovely’s “Anti Marks” cream. Or the “No Scars” facial cream. The advertisements for these products often linked scars to a low self-esteem and lack of confidence. And the way to overcome these? Simple: just hide your scars.
Generations of women have been forced to grow up to believe that hiding their scars and whitening their skin held the key to success (defined 90% of the times by good marriage proposals and sometimes by a decent job offer). Burn victims, acid attack victims, or those who suffer an accident have been ostracised by the society for not being presentable enough. Such products, and the use of such language, only reinforces the doubts in their heads.
The female body is not a commodity for corporations to profit from, and it’s high time that influencers like Kim K realize that.
Growing up, I had short hair or what was called ‘boy cut’ back then. I used to love wearing shirts and pants, instead of the frocks my relatives would gift me each birthday. On TV, I’d watch Sachin Tendulkar hitting sixes rather than play with dolls. Hence, I was termed a “tomboy”.
For a lot of us, gendered appearances, behaviours, and norms were defined at a young age. While shopping, for instance, there would be two sections in each toy shop: one for boys and one for girls. The former would have plastic guns, bats, balls and action figures. For girls, there’d be dolls, glittery miniature accessories and of course, kitchen sets. All of them wrapped up in shiny pink paper.
You are my friend, my colleague, a follower on Instagram, my father, my boyfriend, my ex.
You are a man, in this world, where the power dynamics between genders has been systemically skewed and abused to give you privilege over women, and other minority groups.
You enjoy a position that has been created and upheld since ages to give you innumerable advantages over us. You have been the decision maker among the two of us; you have benefitted from this position that your fathers, and their forefathers created for you to enjoy and exploit, and I understand you want to uphold it for your sons.
I know it must truly be scary to suddenly be asked to share that kind of power which was bestowed upon you for so long that it started feeling like entitlement instead of plain blatant privilege which it actually is.
“The wound is the place where the light enters you”
Director Shonali Bose quoted Rumi in her film ‘Margarita With A straw” that is based on her own cousin’s life who has cerebral palsy (permanent movement disorders caused by brain damage). Hereby quoting Rumi, Shonali refers to the process of self-healing in which one comes out of the abyss triumphantly after going through the tough times of despair.
However, this would only happen if the external elements are stabilized and not when a differently-abled is constantly reminded of her/his shortcomings. The film gave us hope for the future of differently-abled in India but this utopia seems to be a distant dream when we take a quick glance of the real facts.
Like most Indians, I had grown up hearing about Tagore, reading “Where The Mind is Without Fear” in our textbooks but never really delving into the vast body of his literature. While I had memorized his name as the first Indian recipient of the Nobel Prize, I could not say the same about his stories.
On the other hand, disillusioned by the lack of innovative and progressive shows on mainstream Indian television, I too had turned towards bingeing on western shows. That’s when I discovered “Stories by Rabindranath Tagore” on Netflix. Directed by Anurag Basu and first aired on EPIC Channel, the show is based on stories written by Tagore a century ago. As I binge watched it, it shone through for its relevance and ideas far ahead of its time.
What struck me the most was the portrayal of the female characters- so different from what I had seen before. They couldn’t be fit into black or white categories of the “sanskari bahu” or the vamp, neither could they be understood using an upright moral compass. They rebelled, they questioned, they desired and most importantly, they challenged the status quo of the society they lived in without fearing the consequences.