Women are often at the receiving end of constant body-shaming, be it from family, friends or just random strangers. Women in public lives, though, have it even harder, with internet trolls and naysayers throwing ugly comments from behind the armour of anonymity.
Negative commentary about appearance and weight seems to have increased in recent times, with social media providing a platform for internet trolls.
However, the silver lining is the emergence of numerous movements that aim to change the direction of thought. The body positivity movement is an example, which seeks to challenge the way media portrays and society perceives ideal body types, and promotes acceptance. It takes courage for women to get out of their comfort zone and be comfortable and confident about their body. And every such movement only adds to their confidence.
Over the last couple of years, many women including celebrities have driven the conversation around positive body image and self-love.
Few weeks ago, actor Vanita Kharat posed nude for a calendar photoshoot, with a strategically placed blue kite and a wide laugh firmly in place. Vanita, who essayed the role of Shahid Kapoor's maid servant in the movie Kabir Singh, spoke to the media on the concept behind the shoot.
"Why should an overweight girl be conscious about her looks and clothes? I have seen even men being very bothered if they are overweight, but women are in the majority. The photoshoot is our way of contributing to the body positivity movement. I want people to understand the beauty of the thought behind it and celebrate themselves no matter how they look, without sulking about why they aren't lean and fair. Why are we told that only dolls and fairies are beautiful since childhood?”
Vanita added, "I was never hesitant because I was very clear that the stereotypes and fat-shaming that exists in our society needs to be broken."
In a 2020 calendar photoshoot, actress Kiara was also seen posing topless, with just a leaf to cover herself. The image became the talk of town and soon photoshopped images of Kiara with clothes went viral.
This can only be seen as an expression of toxic misogyny by trolls on the internet who have the urge to moral police women and question their choices in order to feel empowered over them.
Is age an issue?
While we are increasingly exposed to women in Bollywood and the West dressing in any manner they feel comfortable or stylish, should we still be caught up with the notions of age appropriateness with our celebrities?
Recently, Malayalam actor Rajini Chandy took social media by storm with her latest glamorous photoshoot. The 68-year-old actor opted for western outfits instead of the cliched Indian attire. She was seen in outfits such as a midi dress, denim jackets and jumpsuits for the shoot.
Though the aim of the pictures was to suggest that age is just a number, the actress was heavily trolled online for something as simple as deviating from her usual dress sense. In a recent interview with BBC, Rajini shared, "A lot of young men find sexiness in older women disturbing, they don’t want to think of them as an object of desire. But what I found surprising was that most of the negative comments were made by women.”
Time to normalise womanhood
Remember how in 2018, model, poet, writer and air hostess Gilu Joseph’s breastfeeding cover photo in a Malayalam magazine sparked controversies?
While the act of breastfeeding is best representative of a mother’s bond with her children, it also happened to be seen in a ‘shamefully vile and sexualised context’ in public spaces.
Forget breastfeeding, even posing with a pregnant belly is seen as tabboo in a country like India. The best example of this will be the recent photoshoot that actress Anushka Sharma did for Vogue's January 2021 edition. Anushka was seen happily showing off her baby bump in the pictures.
The Bollywood actor recently welcomed a baby girl with Indian cricket team skipper, Virat Kohli. After making official announcements on their social media platforms in August 2020, Anushka regularly posted photos of her growing baby belly.
However, the Vogue photoshoot attracted trolling on social media for flaunting her bare baby bump for a magazine photoshoot. Netizens vehemently shamed her for not respecting Indian traditions, and disapproved of her outfit choices for the pregnancy photoshoot. It's 2021, and it is high time people normalised pregnancy and motherhood.
It is also time to look beyond these photos and see them for what they truly represent - a woman’s freewill to dress and act as she deems fit for herself, without being subjected to judgemental vitriol. As someone once said, beauty is nothing without brains.
(Edited by Anju Narayanan)