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Nude MAXIM India Magazine Cover: The Double-Standard For Women

********UPDATE 1am Jan 22, 2013*********  The MAXIM Magazine cover for Janaury’s 7th Anniversary Issue will not feature the original cover, the magazine announced tonight. 

In the end, MAXIM pulled the original cover and opted to go with this one instead.

Their official statement included with the announcement is, “While we’re sure most of you have already seen what was going to be our original cover for our 7th Anniversary special this month, we believe that this is a more appropriate cover keeping in mind the current scenario for women in our society!”  Personally, I don’t believe that their wonderfully artistic cover has anything to do with the heightened awareness of violence against women.  To me it seems like ‘apples & oranges’ but I respect their choice to do what they feel is most appropriate for their magazine.



Maxim Magazine January 2013 cover

I’ve said it before and I will say it again … I don’t understand the massive double standard of life in India that exists between men and women.  I have written about it time and again but today I was pretty shocked by something so …here we go again!

I know that not everyone reads English language ‘lads mags’ here in India and that the popular international magazines like FHM, Men’s Health and Maxim are read by a small minority of the population.  Well, MAXIM, a magazine that I really enjoy and admire for their creativity and surprising editorials and content for guys, is causing quite a stir at the moment.  And really indirectly pissing me off.  Their January cover features seven of India’s top models in a lovely, artistic manner – nude.  These beautiful women are not exposing too much (in my opinion).  In fact, there really is nothing exposed except for some skin here and there on each of them.  angela-carson-expat-blog-india-maxim-cover-nude-indian-girl-models-scarlett_johannsonIt is reminiscent of the covers shot by Vanity Fair with Scarlet Johansen and Keira Knightley with fashion designer Tom Ford or the historic cover of Demi Moore when she was pregnant.  They are all lovely magazine covers.

But the Maxim cover is a real first for India and people are talking.  More to the point, people are vehemently judging the models.  But not because of the theme of the cover exactly.  The problem that some people have is that the models on the cover are WOMEN.  A friend here who is a former Miss India commented on the cover, “Not everybody has bodies like these to show off. So if you work on yourself and have an amazing body why not ? Nudity is one thing and vulgarity is another. We have seen pictures of women clad in sarees that can look vulgar. In my opinion it is a great cover that bares it all and yet shows you nothing.”   But she is not in the majority according to all the opinions I – sadly – read.  See below in the screen capture from Facebook … there are some mind blowing CRAZY negative and seemingly insane comments all over the net!

angela-carson-expat-blog-india-maxim-cover-nude-indian-girl-models-naked-men-religious-ceremonyIf the cover was shot with male models, history dictates that society wouldn’t really be upset because – from the outside looking in – men can do as they wish.  Indian men – especially those sexy actors in Bollywood – can pose in whatever saucy positions they wish.  And not-so-sexy religious followers and priests can run around with their manly-bits exposed for the world to see.  From toes to forehead, they are displaying it all and no one says anything about it because either A) they are men or B) it is a religious tradition.

angela-carson-expat-blog-india-maxim-cover-nude-indian-girl-models-bolltwood-actorFrom my ‘outsider’ point of view, men can virtually do whatever they wish in this country.  Men can:

  • Wear whatever clothing they want to from International fashion designers
  • Dance to the latest music someplace other than a wedding or house party
  • Work if they want to, in whatever profession or trade that floats their boat
  • Go out for chai with their buddies
  • Eat out late night with just the guys
  • Walk around town showing everything from their toes to their thighs or – scandal – their shoulders
  • Walk down the runway at a fashion show in underwear
This hoarding was placed all around downtown Bangalore. In this instance, just below a really nice advert with penguins by the Bangalore traffic police. What a contrast!

Women, on the other hand, seem to have this completely archaic, antiquated and demeaning set of rules placed on them (often camouflaged as “for their own good and safety” but it is men who make the world unsafe for women so that mentality needs to shift and some men need to stop being a threat to innocent women).  In 2013, Indian women CAN NOT:

  • Wear whatever clothing they want to from International fashion designers – because IF SOME WOMEN DO then their neighbours will judge them, they would be blamed for being raped and society would ‘justifiably’ call them sluts
  • Dance to the latest music someplace other than a wedding or house party – because those girls are talked about and generally won’t be able to marry as well if they frequent bars or clubs so they have to suppress their impulse to dance to music at a club
  • Work if they want to, in whatever profession or trade that floats their boat – because there are laws that FORBID it.  Women can’t work as bartenders, waitresses, rickshaw drivers, etc etc…
  • Go out for chai with their buddies – because men make it unsafe and society would judge them
  • Eat out late night with just the girls – for some reason, only men get to have fun eating a midnight biryani alone if they want to street-side (or if women do they need to be accompanied by a man)
  • Walk around town showing everything from their toes to their thighs or, heaven forbid, their shoulders – because if they do then they are sluts, will be judged, the neighbours will talk … and in my personal case, women in burkas will hiss at me and men will think it’s an invitation to touch and grope me
  • Walk down the runway at a fashion show in underwear – because they will be judged.  Period.  Men can do it all the time but not the ladies.  People will say horrible things about them for no reason that I comprehend.  They will become the demise of this country, bring shame to people by their actions and so much more
The assumptions and misconceptions that some people have astound me!

Seriously, I love so many of the cultural differences that I experience here as a foreigner living in this exotic, wonderful land.  There is so much that the western world can learn from India – which explains our fascination with traveling here.  But the inequality between men and women in 2013 is just ridiculous to me.  That may sound harsh but … come on!  Women run major tech companies.  They rule nations.  They are astronauts and athletes and film directors.  Women may not be the physical equals of men but we are the intellectual and spiritual equal of men … and we can go out every day to work, bring home an equal salary (if the company doesn’t discriminate against women on the basis of sex) and then take care of our husbands and children and home on top of everything else.

So why can’t a woman show her shoulders, her back, her legs … just like a man?  Why can lungi-guy show me everything he’s ‘got to flaunt’ but a woman is called a slut or a bitch or a shameful person if she does it?  I can’t get my head around that.  I’ve tried so many times and just don’t understand.  If anyone could tell me a rational ‘2013’ reason for all of this I would love it.  But all the reasons I hear seem so old-fashioned and “20 or 30 or 50 years ago” that they don’t resonate with life as it is today – especially here in Bangalore, the world’s 2nd Silicon Valley and home to some of the most amazing global innovations.

And let me tell you the saddest thing for me.  The people repressing Indian women and snickering and talking behind their backs aren’t just some conservative men.  I grew to realise recently from an amazing article on the topic (by a man) that more often than not it is actually some Indian women helping to repress women.  Not the educated, younger girls so much but the “Aunties” who gossip and put down any girl or woman whose behaviour falls outside of the norm of what they themselves deem normal and acceptable.  Crazy!  But it does appear to be that some Indian women are in the first row of this show trying to keep Indian women from becoming equals.

I love the MAXIM cover.  I find it soft and vulnerable yet powerful.  The ladies look natural and … like real woman.  Why can’t we just celebrate that beauty?

XOXO Angela



Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Sunil Shekhar

    Dear Madam, There are many misconceptions in your mind about Indian society. Let me clear them a bit.
    1. If men pose nude – people still don’t appreciate it. Yes there is no BIG noise as in the case of women. But reaction is SAME. Men posing nude on covers is NOT appreciated by ordinary people.
    2. Western people, like you, ALWAYS bring the case of few nude naga sadhus to make a logical case that nudity is Indian way of life. Truth is hinduism and indian saints don’t promote nudity. Meera bai, Sita who are worshiped everywhere in India, were they nude? Naga sadhus are one section of vast hinduism and they are nude because of their religious tradition and they don’t go to indian households promoting nudity.
    3. As you mentioned indian women have scaled heights in their professional careers. So why not MAXIM saluted those women who worked day and night to improve the society? Kiran Bedi is one example. Saluting women because of her body and not because of her good deeds is the biggest Hypocrisy of all times.
    Truth is for these magazines Nudity sells!! It is all money.

    1. AngelaCarson

      Hi Sunil, I really appreciate you adding to the conversation.  Maybe you are right about the male models or actors nudity but I have never read such horrible and disgusting comments under a hot Bollywood actors pic as I have with anything sexy for women so I’m not so sure about that to be honest.  The words used to describe the women are awful.  I doubt that the men get such treatment but you could be right.  As for 2), I was google’ing “naked indian men” and the mix of pics of Bollywood guys and the religious guys came up evenly.  I didn’t know that anything like their practice existed until 2 hours ago so sorry but I don’t ALWAYS bring in that case 🙂  Trust me on that, this was oddly fascinating after 19 months of living here to discover 🙂   Not all of us westerners think that, we have the lovely modern side of India in our minds too (at least ME who is from the high tech world and I still have NEVER seen a single snake charmer since moving here … and no naked man-bits).  And as for 3)… I like your view on it.  I personally am happy to see both the professional side of a woman shine as much as our sensual side.  So I could appreciate either as you described.  And you are 100% right, sex sells.  It sells deodorant, it sells, soap, it sells shavers and gold jewelery.  This was a lovely and naturally sensual cover photo that I really love … you never mention if you like it and I’m curious.  Do tell me please.  Have a lovely night -angela

      1. Bibi

        I see ‘naked man bits’ about every 100 ft whenever I visit Delhi- urinating anywhere & everywhere, wearing a business suit or dhoti- doesn’t matter.

      2. ashutosh

        honestly common person is not concerned about it, i read about it in media and frankly i was alright with it as i believe its art, and i would say our history and culture has always had nudity ( it is in texts and even temples) it was only when some Arab invaders attacked us and raped out women, turned them into slaves and took them as sex objects to their countries that some restrictions came.

  2. Ajan

    This isn’t the first time Maxim India has shot a so-called nude shot with women, they’ve done the same with many Indian-Flim Actors in the past.
    I’m not sure how to put my thoughts about this, the bullet points that you mentioned under “In 2013, Indian women CAN NOT:” are certainly true. I have made this statement before and I’d like to make it again, “India is a country that lives in multiple centuries at the same time”. (Multiple centuries encompasses lots of things)
    If your post is based on the ‘178 comments’ and neglecting the ‘573 likes’ (Including you), with nude sadhus (saints, not exactly saints, but hard to give it the right word in English) as an example; then I’d say you’ve chosen the wrong examples. I personally feel that the post takes a misandristic turn.
    India is still in the middle of a change, change from its cultural/traditional roots about keeping women safe at home and in some places down-trodden.
    Were everyone in USA in the favor of abolishment of slaves and slave trade? No! But, they took time to accept the fact that ‘Blacks’ should be treated equal. Its been more than 150 years and yet many haven’t accepted that even now.
    My point is, any kind of change that an entire nation goes through, takes time. Nothing changes overnight.
    As for the photo on the Maxim India cover page, I find it neither sexy nor aesthetically pleasing. IMHO they look malnourished in a way.

  3. Jinoy

    Too lazy so here are some short points.
    Females enjoy freedoms based on class.
    In upper class society females are more free than men of the same class.
    This is not entirely so in lower classes. However quockly changing with special govt focus on education for the girl child and additional incentives like free cycles for girls who go to school etc.
    Females in any species are considered more fierce than males. This is tru for humans also. So women will fiercely fight for their liberty and freedom. Successful election campaigns in india have always targetted women voters.
    It would be nice if you would write a similar article focusing on the differences in freedoms enjoyed by sexes in different classes. Eg: a brother and sister from the same family (upper / middle)etc.

    “Neighbours talk” is all women in india. And men are also victims.
    Women do drive rickshaws,trains , cabs etc in india. Search on google . I came across many even 15 years ago in various south indian states.

    In the educated upper -middle class society you will find more men are constrained by “good boy syndrome” than women.

    If you visit some villages in south india you can find women of all ages walking around without blouses showing their unharnessed breasts. This was apparently common in india 150 years ago. Morality was introduced and reinforced in Indian culture by the british and christianity. Blouses became common only then. Look at females depicted in sculptures, goddesses etc. The name for india – Bharat is the name of a goddess.

    The class system is deeply rooted in india by design. The Serpant Races. 7 classes in society. This has been well researched and documented bymany western socialogists, anthropologists etc.

    Here are some observations from a professor friend of mine who has taught at top management institutes in india and abroad:
    Girls are far more confident than boys these days. The boys of these days behave like the girls 4 decades ago.
    Due to Gender sensitive laws these young men are often scared of women at the workplace. A simple complaint from a woman will lead to immediate arrest. This is often misused.

    ……….. Lazy to write more……….


  4. Ajan

    I have to agree with Jinoy here although you can find exceptions everywhere. The things that the British and Portugese have done is a topic of debate.
    And I’ve personally seen misuse of the gender laws many a time. Many women mis-understand the difference between a compliment and a sexual remark, a friendly touch and a sexual advance, these are common at work places. But once again, there are exceptions everywhere.

  5. 5w_haul

    how dare you include naga sadhus pic in your post.
    doing activism is one thing but disrespecting one’s faith and tradition which is older than these so called women’s right by heapes of centuries.
    so please remove naga pic.

    1. AngelaCarson

      Ummm…. not understanding your comment at all.  Did you read the article?  Because your comment and insulting comment that I am disrespecting religion really don’t make sense to me.  Please do re-read 🙂  Thanks, Angela

  6. 5w_haul

    and if you were really ignorant can’t you see their sadhu appearance or they look like some silly men to you

    1. AngelaCarson

      Hmmmm… I’m going to say that I’m not really ignorant but you call me as you wish 🙂

  7. sreekanth

    Hi Angela ,

    While I agree with you with your statements on the how there is a discrimination between men and women on ‘ what people interpret from a dress’ , I guess its changing . I believe , that like many practices this one too has a historical reason which has got misinterpreted over time . India has been a country which was rich just not in culture but by wealth in the past .This while making her famous also made her attractive for foreign invasions.So we have been attacked and looted by everyone from the Persians to the British.And any invasion around the world place the women and children at risk of exploitation. My belief is this changed a society which worshiped women in the form of goddesses into one which became protective about our women .So there came courtesans who expressed their sexuality and family women who were protected from the conquerers. This divide remained and though things slowly changed in independent india , the impact it left in our society failed to change at same pace as is with most practices .It did change in some parts of india where education and development set in .When i mean education, i mean the right education. But in parts where this took time to come its still changing , and I am sure it will change with time. The number of men who turned up to stand for ‘Nirbhaya’ says the future is promising.So with time I am sure this will change as well.

    While I am was reading related articles on internet, came across the following link in Wiki As per this number of reported rape cases in india is much lesser than UK or US. I havent travelled to rural india to strongly vouch for this number- may be there are much more unreported cases. But what the number says is also that neither is the west great in their respect of women.

    As for the magazine cover.Its totally harmless in my view.while it looks a interesting expression of freedom, i dont thing it stirred any sexual thoughts. Katrina kaif in a sari would perhaps stir more sexual thoughts in an india man i guess:)

    1. AngelaCarson

      I have to say I pretty much agree with you across the board …. thanks for the very articulate addition to the topic at hand! 

      AND yes…Rape happens everywhere, all over the world, every day … it is even a weapon of war in some countries in western and central Africa sadly.  Did you read my article on Rape?  I actually conducted a survey and wanted to explore the affects on the victim so wrote this:    You are certainly right in saying that many more cases go unregistered than the # of rapes documented in the stats too.  Thanks for taking the time to comment, please stop by again and join in anytime! -angela

    2. pulkit

      hey sreekanth
      i agree with your point except one
      you just googled rape statistics and saw a page on wikipedia
      now let me tell you more about it
      do you know that according to research by an ngo in delhi , it says that many number of incidents of rape are not reported in indie due to shame or victim-blaming by the society and if you add all these cases , then you will find that india has much more rape cases than usa , this research was also published in times of india after nirbhaya incident so i suggest you do a deep research and not just read some articles on wikipedia

      Secondly different countries have different definitions for rape
      and this is also the reason that some countries have higher recorded cases of rape
      For example: Sweden has one of the the highest rape cases but that does not mean that it is a huge problem in country
      its just that it has high rates of incident reporting unlike in india where the victim a lot of times especially in rural areas do not report the crime

  8. Dinesh Subramani

    Hi Angela ,

    going thru these conversations i would like to put forth my view on indian women. it is not an individual act to change . its the entire society which should change . india is a very religious country . i feel being religious is what makes india not to develop. if religions are thrown away the country will rest in peace. girls will automatically get their freedom of life. your views are good but nothing can be changed overnight . i want to see indian girls urinating on roadside . im not speaking bad but girls should reach to that level of freedom and no men should abuse or harrass them. . so finally i mean THROW THESE BULLSHIT RELEGIONS TREAT HUMAN AS THEY ARE . Any comments on my views please mail me to . hope my views doesnt hurt anybody. if so im sorry.

  9. Nithin

    I believe and this is just my opinion, that the almost 50 year long education system in India is to blame for almost all the problems with India today. ‘Aunties’ and ‘uncles’ were brought up showing women and girls as different and submissive to men, rape as eol for women, violence on women as norm, pre-marital sex as taboo, adopting western wear as provocative and deservng of slut-shaming. I am not saying their parents in turn didn’t have a bigger role to play in their mindset, they did, but the education system should have opened their minds which it hasn’t.

    This older generation and conservative parents are still influencing the younger ones, into arranged marriages, into double standards and into the stereotypical culture and mindset that they strongly believe should be upholded as pure. I am not saying media is not to be given their deserving share of blame, but i believe it is just a derivative compared to what happens at your home and school that makes you as a person.

    Sometimes i wonder about the girl in Delhi, why she was raped by 7 men, and not one of them felt this is wrong, i should speak up. I feel its upto eac one of us to make a change in how people as a whole think, just like that uprising in Delhi was for one of our own.People need to find the courage and conviction to speak up, and eventually its brings about that much needed change. And i feel it has to start at home and in the schools of the country.
    I am sorry if i took a bit more of your comment space than usual.


  10. monica

    Hey Angela,
    I’d like to make a point that I think the majority of Indians misconceive about western culture, and from the way you wrote this blog I think you unintentionally espouse this misconception.

    In the West we also judge women based on how much skin they show. Just because it is okay for western women to walk down the street in a mini skirt and a crop top, it does not mean we are as free as men to bare it all. For instance men can be topless on a hot day, but most women would not dare to do the same for she would be called a slut or an exhibitionist. True most of us think women are free to look ‘slutty’ if they want to, but it is still a passing judgement that is made. When we compare ourselves to Indian women we think we are free, but unfortunately westerners also have a double standard when it comes to modesty, it is just that it is articulated differently. For instance I think sarees when worn a certain way are quite revealing and very sexy compared to a lot of typical western outfits. Western women are however lucky because the disparity between men and women is much smaller than other more patriarchal societies such as India.

    But I am so sick of Indians talking about how in the west it is acceptable to sleep around, we lack morals and have no concept of modesty etc. People who talk like that have no cross-cultural outlook. Symbols and objects have different meanings in different cultures, and where cultures draw the line between modest and revealing is completely arbitrary. Just because we don’t have the exact same concept of modesty, it does not mean we don’t have our own. We do have morals surrounding the way women should look and act, but our individualistic culture tells us that people are free to do what they want regardless of whether it is morally acceptable to others.

    I honestly believe modesty is bullsh*t and causes much trouble in the world, but I’ll admit I fall into it’s trap. I won’t dress in a certain way if I think people will perceive me in a bad light, and even though I try not to but I judge women when I think they look tacky (this is not so much the amount of skin they are showing, but whether it looks ‘tasteful’… which is also an arbitrary cultural distinction).

    I think it is fair to say that any clothed society judges a woman based on the amount skin she shows. Equality for women is a worldwide struggle, but each region has its own battle to fight and requires a different tactical approach.

    1. AngelaCarson

      Hey Monica, you should start up a blog as you have quite a bit to say and have an interesting point of view. Sadly I disagree with some of your comments here (it IS acceptable to sleep around, we DO lack morals and we DO have a different concept of modesty — when compared to traditional Indian women). That is a fact, not right or wrong, not good or bad … it is what it is) but it is nice to have a difference of opinion to make the conversation more interesting. Thanks for taking the time to comment… -angela

  11. Annonymous well wisher of society

    Miss Angela,
    if u are interested in celebrating beauty, u can show ur beauty – Posing semi/full nude at Maxim,
    and no need to go and dictate, tht those girls look stunning with shoulders, legs, hips.. and u say all guys can show anything and anywhere, then better go and approach guys, sadhus to Pose,.. for MAXIM. in nude.
    Maxim and its stinking controversies, hell with it.

    Maxim goes and begs all actress to pose semi nude/ bikni, as if all Indian men want them to say nude.

    making money through baking Indian actress mind, and bring them to shed their clothes infront camera.. add some silly write up and sell.

    Maxim, will sure face wrath of Angry Indians soon i think.

    by the way we wanna see, Angela in upcoming cover of Maxim..

    will thy take u to pose??

    better u should behave naturall way to get respect and love from people.

    In India we pray to God as well as Goddesss.

    our culture is sensitive dear

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