This is the first article on my blog completely unrelated to my experiences and life in Bangalore, I hope you will indulge me as I just can’t help myself. Certain so-called “news” today has me a bit fired up.
Now, in my opinion, I’ve been dealing really well with and have accepted the issues of inequality between men and women in India. As a liberal native of Los Angeles, California, I don’t love these realities and I don’t promote them but I respect the fact that they are part of Indian culture and my new life and something that I can do absolutely nothing about. So I roll with it. From the double standards in the “dress code” between the sexes, to the appropriate way that men can socialize but women can’t, and more…I know that I’m the odd duck out as a visitor to this country. So I write about things from time to time that ‘get my goat’ but I try not to cause waves based on my personal beliefs and lifestyle…and I try to conform.
But today I’m hopping up on the soap box to complain a bit. It turns out that Aishwarya Rai has been under attack by the industry and the media because she has yet to regain the physique she had prior to having her baby six months ago. This woman, a beloved treasure in India and an appointed campaign ambassador for the United Nations’ girl child awareness project, is being harassed because some people feel she’s not representing Bollywood as she should be since gaining some weight. The various articles I read cite concern over her baby weight as the industry ramps up for next week’s Cannes Film Festival, where she will represent Bollywood, even though she’s not promoting a film this year. No one talks about how she’s been to Cannes for the Festival 10 times now, drawing mainstream attention to Bollywood better than almost anyone else to date (at least I believe this to be true because in the US and Europe where I’ve lived we see her more than anyone else in the press and she’s a household name).
For me, Aishwarya is the first Indian woman I personally can recall to so successfully open up my eyes to Bollywood. While I was living in Spain, my daughter and I first discovered her when we rented her Hollywood film (debut I think) ‘The Mistress of Spices’ in 2005 or 2006 and fell mesmerized by those eyes and her beauty like virtually every other man and woman from Bangalore to Los Angeles.
Yet at the end of the day, although she’s exquisitely beautiful and successful, she is still just a real 38 year old woman…three years younger than me and much thinner at the moment I’m sure since I’ve gained some weight the past few weeks (like real women do from time to time). Real women definitely put on weight when pregnant. It takes the most disciplined and determined woman on the planet not to. Hell, it’s the one time in life when us girls are given carte blanche to crave and eat anything, at any hour and gain weight because “we’re eating for two” and that’s what’s healthy for the baby. I remember going on holiday to Istanbul when I was three months pregnant with my daughter and I was still wearing 28” or 29” Levis, which I have never been able to squeeze into since that trip. Like lots of Indian girls, I’m curvy, and try as I might I could never fit into them again because my body changed. It happens!
Depending on an array of factors and conditions and feelings…those of us who care to lose the weight DO. But every woman does it in her own time. It is shameful that the media is creating “news” out of something so natural as a few extra pounds after having a baby. I guess this wouldn’t be bothering me so much if I could remember the media doing the same for one of the Bollywood male heros. But for the life of me I can’t remember reading so much trashy news about any of the male actors or sports stars. I even went onto Google to try and dig something up but in the first few pages I DID find several articles about how a few Bollywood actresses were putting on weight (getting fat, not putting on weight for a film) but I found ZERO for the guys.
Are men off limits and have less pressure placed upon them when it comes to weight? Although there is always a hunky leading man, every Indian film (Bollywood, Sandalwood…doesn’t matter) is chock-a-block full of male actors sporting their little or big bellies without seemingly a care in the world. They also generally stay covered up in most scenes as well, in contrast to the ladies who bare their midriff, backs, shoulders and arms.
At the moment, the media uses concern over what the international community will think about Aishwarya at Cannes in order to push this news to the mass public. But in my book that doesn’t make it right. I’m looking at it from MY perspective now and to me it looks like this supposed “news” brings to light another nationwide double standard between men and women. However, given the massively high number of married women I work with or acquaintances I know from around town who have gained weight after they married or after their children were born and their “duty to procreate” was done, it makes me think that this isn’t a general double standard but perhaps just a double standard for the entertainment industry? If I had found even one or two trashy articles about a male lead being ridiculed for looking fat when I Googled it I would feel differently but I didn’t. Just negative articles about women.
Perhaps I’m overreaching and the issue is as simple as insensitive cruelty by the media to capitalize at the expense of a new mom who is simply living her life…and her number one priority is not her weight at the moment?
That still doesn’t make it right. I close my eyes and try to imagine what it must be like to have someone snap a completely unfavourable photo of me (you know, the ones we all immediately delete from our cameras because we look like we have a double chin, or bucky beaver teeth, or a big buddha belly or an arm looking so fat that it looks like a thigh). Then to take that photo and tag it for malicious reasons and ill intent, parade it around to any willing newspaper and website instead of just deleting it because it’s a crap photo. This might be the wine and 2am talking but it would be nice to see the tables turn one day on unethical paparazzi and media so they get a taste of their own medicine.