As a child, I remember playing with “pretty” dolls. That changed my definition of pretty and I recovered quite late, that is, when I indulged into serious research after I was angry with how the world sees women. And the world sees men and women differently. When you hand a girl a doll and you let her dress up the doll and design clothes for the doll, you sow the first seeds of objectification. How the girl sees/dresses up her doll is how she thinks an ideal woman must look like and is how she would see herself in the future, constantly trying to live up to an image that is inanimate. This doll, this object that she tries to personify, is indeed what she has already seen in the movies, which, again, is not an image perfect in reality. We all know how barbie and other dolls look–replicas of supermodels. This is how we change the definition of beauty for her. But the girl’s endeavour has only started soaring… She inadvertently becomes the object and not the subject.
It’s personal taste to like a face but it’s social crime to define it as the only beautiful one. If perspective is what makes one beautiful, why do girls roam around loaded with mousse, rouge, and blush? Why do they enhance their eyes, hide acne and scars, dye their hair?
A healthy skin is a sign of good health but is instead treated as a standard of beauty.
This is how we create an implicit pressure on girls to look good, to satisfy a certain criterion of beauty, and not preserve/embrace what they were born with. These insecurities give birth to more insecurities and a boost to the cosmetics industry.
We have an obscene affinity with fairness in India. We consider it normal for boys to play football in the sun but advise girls to prevent sun tan by playing indoors (usually with a teddy bear). (I believe that playing with replicas of humans and animals stimulates emotional quotient of a child but that sure is an independent topic. )
Many mothers make their daughters believe that they indeed fit into the category of beautiful girls. They tell them they are beautiful because “they have such a facial feature”. The society later breaks the girls’ faith.
And all this happens while the girl’s little brother is encouraged to play a sport, to strengthen his body, to solve math, to show courage and bravery. Many of us will argue that we do encourage girls to take education seriously and to equal boys in all arenas. I will agree with the point but insist that it is not enough.
Some of us are raised by parents who know everything of what’s written here and yet the society, the external influence of relatives and friends dissuade the child from being anything but a girl.
From the beginning, a girl is made to believe that she is physically weak, that her final retort is weeping, that she is beautiful only if she fits in the definition of beauty. It takes an effort beyond normal to overcome this belief. A boy is made to believe that he is powerful, that weeping will make him weak, that the responsibility of earning a living is on him, that he has to be more educated than a girl, that a girl looks up to him for a better life, and that a real girl is beautiful according to the standards the society has made.
This is where we define the space for each.
What am I up to? I was always curious about kids growing up to be boys and girls, and I wondered if the chromosomes have a part to play. No, they do not. I was never sceptical that human psychology is induced and almost every human behaviour can be traced back to one’s childhood. So this is one woman’s ambition to shred this psychology and lay every detail open. What may follow next is now-insurmountable and a huge dream I am nobody to speak of as of today. Maybe tomorrow, until I have realized that I have the potential to pronounce it. I will know it by trying it and I might fail, but I have hope that something might come out of this endeavour.
As part of my research, I am bringing to you thoughts that can change how you see your actions. Since not everyone likes to read fat books, I will document highlights in short.
I have always admired Nandita Das for her simplicity and beauty, more than I could ever admire Aishwarya Rai or any other world-celebrated beauty. As a teenager, when I would see Rai’s flawless photographs spanning the newspapers, I would say, wow! My eyeballs would be out and I would stare at her perfection.
Das, on the other hand, made me speechless. And experience the sort that makes you pause and think. Her simplicity is audacious and her beauty, fierce. She is that defiant woman who just walked past glamour and made heads turn. Remember Cannes? While every actor tries to wear the most glamorous clothes and use the boldest strokes of color to draw attention to the best of her face, she snubbed the popular culture.
It’s an honest confession that I am awed by her will, the way she never brought herself to chasing conventional perfection. She has done over thirty films in various languages and if I remember her it is for her labour of love and her natural performance and the shining apathy to towards trying to fit in.
And while the subject is on, one must not dare to forget Smita Patil who detested wearing makeup at all and appeared on screen with her pimples and scars showing off. If you find someone who’s got the guts to tell it as it is, celebrate them.
My personal taste is simplicity, perhaps also because my mother lives by it and equates it to sincerity.
This feeling has a charisma I cannot distinguish from speciousness because I am sinking into it, losing my sense and sanity. I am in a beautiful world the charm of which is piercing my nerves followed by an outbreak of bloody emotions. As I go deeper into this world, I stumble at some stone and bump into a pillar. I’m hurt in my heart. I fumble my hand over my skin to find it slathered in blood. The gold dust around has a sweet smell, but I cannot pack an atom of it. I’m captivated, enraptured, lost. This world has all good that is not really good in the eyes of the outside world. I’m sobbing, overwhelmed by love and kindness in this world.
Everything has an end to it, so has this experience of surrealism. And, now that it’s time to sublimate, to leave this phantasmagoric wonder and submit to the social bondage that strangles me, I am nudged and disturbed.
But, I’m still smelling good. It’s the gold dust that has dissolved its aroma in my blood; glittering gold in barn red.