Measuring the beauty standards

“I had an experience where my tuition kid who is just seven years old once asked me ‘Why are you so dark’ with a weird look on his face” quoted Shreya Sinha, 23 years old who works in a software developing company. The survey was taken by 10 girls/women of age group 18 to 25 and the answers given were revelatory. Imagine what the girl must have gone through after hearing that comment from a small kid.

As Indians, we have always heard this false notion that to be fair is to be pretty and to be dark is not. There are many girls who face this discrimination. Why girls with dark skin are advised to not to wear bright colours or to apply fairness creams on their skin to look good?

“I was in class fifth. I liked a yellow coloured top for myself and was going to get it. A relative of mine commented told me not to buy yellow colour as I am dark and it won’t suit me. I felt really bad at that time” said Tanya Saxena, 20 years old college student.

Indian media also further intensify this issue. They show celebrities and actors all whitewashed in advertisements that promote the usage of skin lightening creams and products.

“All of us have seen fair&lovely advertisement on television. Their main motive is to make your skin look fair. Why does everyone want to see a fair skin, when dark skin is equally good? I have a dark complexion and I am very fond of it,” says Snigdha Mahajan, 20 years old college student.

“Hindustan Unilever, the manufacturer of Fair&Lovely, under its cosmetic brand name Vaseline, launched an application to make the skin of Facebook users look lighter in their profile pictures” published by Shalomie Tewes on june 27, 2017.

 

According to the survey, 71% of the girls agreed that they are judged by the society because of their dark skin.

It was 100% when the girls were asked whether they have been suggested home remedies by their relatives to brighten up their skin.

It was interesting to know that 100% of them believe that girls are more judged as compared to boys.

“My skin colour made me conscious in school, but as I got matured especially after coming to college I started accepting the way I am and embracing it. Now I am like 100% confident about my complexion and myself. My skin colour makes me feel amazing,” said Ayushi Varma, 18 years old college student.

Sakshi Aggarwal, 20 years old college student quoted “when I go to buy a foundation for myself, the shopkeeper always recommend me a lighter tone for my skin. This is nothing else but cheap marketing strategies. They think that girls with dark skin would prefer to buy a lighter tone in order to look fair. This is a misconception as I love my skin colour and I always tell the shopkeepers to hand me something which actually suits my skin and give it a natural look.”

It’s high time now. The narrow-mind thinking of the society needs to change. In India where girls have a lead in every field, they should not be judged or forced to stop anywhere on the basis of these narrow thinking which does not make any sense. Everyone should have the right to live freely whether a girl or a boy, dark or fair.

 

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Cleaning down the crampy valley

“I have relatives in my village. I have seen them using cloth during their periods. They may have the money needed to buy sanitary napkins but still prefer to use that cloth. Due to lack of education, they are unaware of the deadly diseases, which are caused by it.” Quoted Usha, 35-year-old woman who is a Delhi-based maid by profession.

 

Our country is witnessing major judgments in recent years. There have been many issues that are finally discussed today. Women play a crucial role everywhere. There are also issues, which are associated with women. Some are being examined and solved but some are still prevalent and needs to be considered.

 

Health of a woman and their well-being is inspected on the basis of their menstrual health.

Period poverty has been in talks for a long time now. There are many findings, debates about menstrual health. And women from the rural areas are studied the most.

Period poverty refers to the lack of resources, which a woman needs during her periods due to financial constraints, and lack of awareness.

 

Women belonging to the rural areas, still not use sanitary napkins during their periods. Young girls grow up with limited knowledge about managing their menstrual cycles, due to lack of education and awareness. They know very little about their personal hygiene.

 

Dr Vandana Malik, M.B.B.S, M.D Gynecologist practicing at RML hospital, RK Ashram told us many things about period poverty and how women in rural areas pay no attention to their health.

“I have met women from the rural areas who use cloth during their menstrual cycles. It is very sad to see them using the same cloth every time. They have no knowledge about what is menstrual hygiene. Women patients come to me telling that they have a fever but they hardly know why that is happening to them. Sometimes, thread from the cloth they use sticks inside their vagina, which deteriorates their health. A lot of them suffer from Dysmenorrhea but know nothing about the disease.”

 

On asking her about the help given in these rural areas by the government she quoted “In government schools, girls are given sanitary napkins. But it hardly helps them, as it is not given on a regular basis. It is just that the government provides them with these so that the girls never complain about it.” She also said “giving education about these things and issues are more important than giving them sanitary napkins.”

 

Has anyone thought what happens to those girls who live on the roadsides when they are introduced to periods? They have no knowledge about periods and also no money to buy the necessary resources. Imagine what their body goes through. They have nothing in their hands except using those dirty clothes.

 

Ashay foundation, lead by Mrs Seema Khandale, who is a Pune-based social worker. She started this NGO to make people aware about periods, hygiene and use of sanitary napkins instead of any other fabric.

 

“20 years after marriage, taking care of my family and being there for my children all the time, I pursued masters in social work from IGNOU. Gradually my passion for social work evolved and turned into a full time undertaking and all of it with the full support of my family. I found this NGO, Ashay social group, and got it registered in October 2015” says 45-year-old.

Mrs Seema adds “There are two primary objectives in my life. Firstly avoid plastic carry bags and use cloth bags and secondly hygiene and promotion of sustainable menstruation options (Menstrual caps and cloth pads).”

 

Her life revolves around helping and spreading awareness amongst deprived girls and women who suffer because of this.

“In the past two years of my awareness campaigns, I have come across women coming from different sections. Young girls, married women, housewives, Anganvadi , Sevikas , teachers, women from government offices, corporate sector, maids, street women, visually challenged, runners, swimmers and even doctors. And I am proud to say that I have been successful in guiding them all about how to use menstrual cups and pads. And today they are now comfortably using them.”

 

Seema Khandale says that sanitary pads are used everywhere and are very useful. But they have their own negative aspects and are unhygienic if not used properly.

She, with the help of a labour, came up with a better option, i.e. introduction to Rutu cups for every girl, which is sustainable as well as hygienic.

 

“While working on spreading awareness about the sustainable menstrual options, in 2017, I got an opportunity to design a menstrual cup. A gentleman having an experience of working with silicon for 45 years helped me achieve my next landmark- The designing of RUTU cup. Made of good quality silicon medically graded material, the cup has pores and a small stem.”

She then continued, “So far, I have helped more than 800 women to switch to this sustainable option and hope to do so for many more years. The comforts that Rutu cup gives them have made these women by far the best volunteers. It does not say ‘sit still’ but discuss it all around!”

Seema wanted a sustainable and economical option for the woman for a better future. Other than spreading awareness Seema Khandale also motivates women from different walks of life to use environment-friendly products to avoid infections and also to help women in their areas who are not aware of such products.

However today, there are many campaigns happening in order to educate people. The announcement of national campaign #YESIBLEED on menstrual hygiene has affected many. The Indian cinema has also contributed to this issue by making films like Padman. The film brought attention to the long-neglected issue in developing countries. These things have a great impact on urban areas..

 

Grow hair Don’t care

Women, in general, are always expected to do things in a certain way. The generalised beauty standards continue to be the reason today. It is almost like a routine for women to go to parlours and get their body hair removed. Shaving, waxing, lasering and plucking hair from legs and armpits have become so obvious for them that if you don’t get it shaved, people will judge you, severely.

Why is it like this? Why do people have such a constricted view of beauty for women? It is absolutely okay for men to have their body hair and feel proud of it, but why is it not okay if a woman wants to keep it natural. Why?

 

Shailee Koranne is here to answer all the questions. Shailee is a writer and a student living in Toronto, Canada. She writes about pop culture, politics, bodies and identities, etc.

I was very inquisitive to know her views on body hair removal and why women are so much pressurised by society. The interesting thing is Shailee has stopped removing her body hair and likes to keep it natural.

 

  1. What was the turning point in your life when you decided to embrace and love your body hair?

 

The turning point was when I started reading poetry and articles by other people talking about body hair insecurities. It felt very validating to hear that other people felt the same way I did—talking about such things openly is already difficult, but it feels more difficult when you are unsure if there will be support for you if you are honest. Knowing that people were ready to listen to me was empowering.

 

  1. What encouraged you to get over your hair, brownness and love the way you are?

 

Funny enough, the thing that encouraged me to “get over it” was understanding that I shouldn’t try to get rid of my hair and skin colour, but that I should learn to love it. I don’t think that we should encourage people to “overcome” their issues with their body, because then you make your body the hurdle. Even though I’ve made big strides, I still struggle with body insecurity every day, and the way that I remember to be kinder to myself is by thinking of all the people who benefit from my insecurity and other people’s marginalisation. Taking that perspective also helps me understand that there is nothing wrong with me, but the way that our larger society views body hair on women.

 

 

  1. Do you feel the society puts a lot of pressure on a girl or a woman as compared to the men?

 

Absolutely. In every society, girls and women face much more pressure in everyday life to look, act, and behave certain ways. Women of colour, women of minority religions, transgender women, and disabled women have it especially tough because they are dealing with multiple discriminations. I encourage everyone to read about Kimberle Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality to better understand this principle.

 

 

  1. What all challenges you faced or are facing now when it comes to body image?

 

Now that I have had honest conversations with my inner self and faced my personal insecurities, the larger problem is convincing those around me how harmful it can be to fixate on a woman’s body and reduce her to her appearance. For example, some Indian societies are quite insensitive when it comes to weight, and many Indian women can be outwardly judgmental about other Indian girls’ and women’s weight. This is so damaging to young girls. The Indian-Canadian writer Scaachi Koul has a great article called “I Shouldn’t Have To Lose Weight For My Wedding. So Why Do I Feel Like A Failure?” about how she internalized our culture’s body image problems and how she copes with it.

 

 

  1. What changes you feel in yourself after you decided to look the way you are and embrace yourself?

 

I am much more confident and open-minded than ever. I used to think that the only way that I would be confident would be if I became model-thin, hairless, and somehow got perfect, smooth hair instead of being a US size 12, hairy, frizzy brown girl. But learning to appreciate everything I can do regardless of the body I have has given me that confidence I was looking for. Being honest, vulnerable, and open about my issues was all I needed to become freer.

 

  1. What comments you would want to make on the Indian society when it comes to issues against women?

 

From the perspective of someone who lived in India until she was eight years old and has been living in Canada ever since, I am troubled by how much the North American media makes India seem like a backwards and repressed place, especially for women. I know that sexism against women in India is a very real issue, but I wish the way it was reported on in Canada did not demean the issue by turning it into a race problem, because sexism is absolutely everywhere. The issue in all places is not entirely the cultural traditions or the religion the society follows, but the patriarchal systems. Canadian women deal with as much sexism as Indian women, and just like Canadian women fight back every day, so do Indian women. I wish I heard more about the stories of the strong Indian women who fight against sexism in India—I seek this out myself by reading news online, but the media bias against South Asia is real in North America.

 

 

  1. Do you want to share any incident from your life that made you upset but eventually you learned something good from it?

 

Thinking specifically to body hair, when I was sixteen, I started removing my facial hair regularly, and I noticed that more boys started paying attention to me. This actually scared me—I was afraid to stop removing my hair, because I was afraid that if I stopped, I would go back to being “ugly.” For years, I spent so much money and time maintaining my appearance. I eventually learned that the expectations placed on me as a woman to look a certain way was unfair and no matter how much I worked on my body, people would always find something wrong with it, so I should be happy with its natural state and spend my energy on something productive!

 

  1. What message do you want to give to the young Indian girls who are so conscious about their body and body image?

 

Your body is yours, not anyone else’s, so make it your home. Don’t be ashamed if you wear certain things or do things to yourself to be more “attractive,” because adding shame to that only makes it tougher. Just know that other people are capable of loving your natural self, and more importantly, you are capable of it too.

 

 

  1. Do you think that hair is political?

 

Yes. I think hair can be a political statement in many ways. My writing covers how body-shaming related to hair can force people to act in ways that is beneficial to patriarchy. However, as a brown cisgender woman, my femininity is much less up for debate than that of Black people, trans people, and trans people of colour, for whom hair is a much more violent form of bodily policing.

 

Many Black people in North America have shared stories of how their employers have asked them to manage their hair or style it in certain ways because their natural hair is not a part of the dress code, which is absurd and very racist, so many Black Canadians and Americans wear their natural hair with pride as a symbol of their race and cultures.

 

For transgender and LGBTQ+ people, hair is political as well. The gender non-conforming performance artist Alok Menon is a hairy brown person who chooses not to remove their body hair; on their Instagram, Menon has documented the transphobic and racist comments they receive for defying bodily expectations. Alok’s posts about the harassment they face are also filled with comments from trans people of colour who share Menon’s experience and appreciate them speaking out about their body and their experiences.

 

After knowing Shailee Koranne’s views, it struck me how we are constantly reminded of “The perfect body” especially when it comes to women, and the way we should look just because the society demands.

It’s saddening how we define the entire race of women in a same way, so much, that if somebody tries to stand out, they are being reminded of right and wrong or how she is ‘supposed to behave or live.’

Hair, a small little fiber, which naturally grows on our body, is being victimized and is frowned upon for what purposes? Because one-day society decided to bring down women who thought that natural beauty is what it is? How is it even a punishment? It’s not. So rather than being talking about such issues, we should talk about something which will actually help us in the betterment of our country.

Is fashion more important than health ?

Fashion has the power to attract you and influence you. It looks very happening from outside, but what goes inside is pretty destructive. Fashion is very demanding at times. It has that image in everyone’s mind that if you wish to be fashionable you should have good body attributes in you. Stereotypically speaking, a fat person or a person with some imperfection cannot look stylish or sexy. Everyone has a craze for fashion, but when they get to know that it’s so demanding and complex they become self-conscious and start torturing their bodies. And therefore it creates insecurities and a wish to fit perfectly in the fashion world.

 

Fashion is somehow associated with looking good. Looking good in this language means to have a slim body and perfect features. Just for the sake of doing fashion and looking stylish people go through so much. Plastic surgeries have become so obvious that many people go for it to look good and destroy their natural looks. So many models are seen depriving themselves of food by doing dieting and even take pills to maintain their slim figure. Just to look good and fashionable in those revealing and complex clothes.

 

Tattoos have become so common now days that you could see one on every second person. It is definitely fashion and not only adults but also children are also falling for it. Everything looks very cool from outside but it has many bad affects on the body.

Along with tattoos, piercing is also becoming very popular. People are getting their body pierced as they think that it looks cool and fashionable. Getting piercing done on different body parts is painful and hurting.

 

Doing fashion is a personal choice till you are doing it for yourself. But when you do it just to show others how cool you are it becomes worthless.

Fashion should not be just related to slim and zero figure bodies. It should be something, which a person of any body type can follow and be proud to flaunt.

When fashion blends with politics

With time, the fashion industry is also evolving. Fashion today is not just about garments and glamour but it seems it is more than that. Fashion shows always showcase the work of the designers, the new trends and what all new is going to be there this season.

But along with this, today these shows have more to represent. Fashion shows are also a medium through which designers educate people or send them a message. Today you can see acid attack victims as well as LGBT on the ramp. It’s a new way of blending social cause with fashion shows.

 

One more fashion show happened which was a blend of political issue with fashion. It was the anti-trump fashion show. Models showing Tommy Hilfiger’s spring collection sported white bandanas protesting the American president’s executive order on immigrants.

 

All this started when celebrity fashion designer Tom Ford refused to dress the First Lady, Melania Trump. Then the Indian-born American designer Naeem Khan too denied to design for Mrs Trump.

Designer Tommy Hilfiger, launched his spring collection in New York. He used the fashion event to show his unity for the #TiedTogether movement. His models exhibited white bandanas in protest of Donald Trump’s anti-refugee order.

 

Little hands in the industry

The fashion world is where you can see glamour all around. Those light glittering off of sequins, sparkles and other embellishments is eye catching and is very alluring. Fashion industry looks very charming and glamorous from outside but what goes inside is disappointing and discouraging.

 

Behind these glitters and spectacular outfit is the darkness of how these garments are manufactured. Most of the garments have intricate and delicate work on it. The machines used to do such type of fine work are very costly for many manufacturers. Therefore children do most of the finishing work, as their soft and tiny fingers are appropriate for doing such intricate work.

 

Prevalence of fast fashion in the industry has encouraged the companies to find cheaper sources of labor. “There are many girls in countries like India and Bangladesh, who are willing to work for very low prices and are easily brought into these industries under false promises of earning decent wages” say Sofie Ovaa, global campaign coordinator of stop child labour. Children are working under appalling conditions in the fashion industry.

 

Child labour is a serious issue for fashion as most of the supply chain requires low skilled labour and there are some tasks like cotton picking which are better done by children than adults. The supply chain has many stages and there are children working at all stages in the fashion industry from production of cotton seeds, harvesting, spinning yarn to putting garments together in factories. In the cotton industry, they are used to transfer pollen from one plant to another. These children are exposed to long hours of work, pesticides and are paid below the minimum wage.

 

We easily get tempted to embellished, sequined or embroidered clothes from those fast fashion companies. But no one knows what all it takes to make these fascinating clothes. We wear and flaunt them.

How is fast fashion affecting the environment

Fashion today is all over the minds of the people. Everyone follows it, are aware of the latest trends and are willing to invest in it. Fashion is now popular amongst the youth as well as aged people. Today people keep on buying clothes which are more trendy and are in fashion and they continue to discard their old ones very frequently. Now its very difficult to love a particular dress of yours when you know that a new thing will come and replace it soon. Keeping in mind the need for fashion, the industry is using the method of fast fashion.

 

Fast fashion focuses on speed and low cost of the product so that new designs inspired by the catwalk collections and from celebrity style are delivered frequently. Today people keep on buying clothes, which are trendier and are in fashion and they continue to discard their old ones very frequently.

Doing something, which reduces the cost of the product and the time taken to manufacture it means that the environment is going to get affected.

Fashion involves many things chains of production, raw material, textile manufacturing, clothing construction, shipping, retail and use and ultimate disposal of the garment.

 

Due to fast fashion our environment is facing negativities. Use of toxic chemicals pesticides and textile waste environment is getting harmed; water is being polluted to a high level. Textile dyeing which is very important for a garment is the biggest polluter. Those vibrant colours that you see and get attracted to are actually causing harm to our planet.

 

Brands like Forever 21, H&M, Zara etc. use fast fashion and clothes pertaining to new collection are available easily and at an affordable price. These brands are loved by almost everyone as they help you to look fashionable and keep you updated. Therefore this gives people the hunger for newness. New clothes are bought easily but are not used that much and then becomes textile waste which is also consequence of fast fashion.