Just when we thought we were making progress in respecting the female form and abstaining from practices like body shaming, news is trickling in of an iconic Indian celebrity being trolled for her looks.
Yes, the once epitome of physical perfection, someone called ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’, Aishwarya Rai is being slammed for her ‘looks’ at the Paris Fashion Week. Comments about her range from the objectionable to downright outrageous.
One user wrote on social media, “What has happened to her face?” Another commented, “That dress doesn’t go well with her body type.” Others addressed her rudely on the internet. Some comments are beyond rude.
What does this tell us about the attitude of internet users in general and Indians in particular about ‘body shaming’? For starters, it points to the ease with which these ‘trolls’ can post anything they want without caring about the consequences. You can go after one, two or a dozen. But when the comments come in thick and fast in droves, which celebrity in their right mind would really try to hold everyone who wrote those comments to accountable? It is just not possible.
Body shaming is not new. And it is certainly not new for Aishwarya Rai. She had faced body shaming after the birth of her daughter Aaradhya in 2011. At that time she had told the Indian Express, “It was natural in my case; that was the natural turn that my body took in terms of whether I gained weight or I had water retention or whatever else that goes with the space. I was comfortable, and that’s why I have been who I have been. I stepped out in public when I could take time out from my baby, and if I did think it was a big deal, I would have been in hiding or would have done something about it.”
She added, “I wasn’t disturbed by it. If people were, well, I guess I hope they enjoyed the drama because I was busy leading a very real life with my baby. I didn’t realise, but I think the most positive thing that came out of it for me was to have so many women come to me and say, ‘Thank you, you’ve actually gone and given so much confidence to so many of us who always believed that. I wasn’t on some mission to prove a point in this way or that. I was just being real.”
This time around, however, things were markedly different. There was no post-pregnancy weight gain; there was no ‘reason’ why a celebrity so admired would so suddenly face such flak for her appearance, that too at a high-profile event abroad.
It could be considered simplistic to reduce this to sexism in general and misogyny in particular. It would be considered par for the course for an A-list director of noir films to turn up for an international film festival looking haggard — and even be hailed for his ‘devil may care chutzpah’.
However, when it is a world-renowned, celebrated female actor, model, brand ambassador who is being targeted, it somehow seems less murky and ‘okay’ even, to go after her. What does this speak of if not barely-disguised misogyny? How does this make it okay to target a woman like this for the way she looks? Is a woman only as good as her dress size? Is that we have reduced the female form to — a wanton admiration for the ‘perfect’ (read: highly subjective) vital statistics?
Hello…! Are we still in the 23rd year of the 21st century or have we time-travelled back to the ‘dark ages’? We may never know…