BY INDRANI RAIMEDHI
Mind De curve!
Dear Shobhaa De,
Before I begin, let’s get some things out of the way. This piece starts with you, but is not about you. Secondly, here’s the question we are all dying to ask. “What were you thinking?” What glory is there in body shaming a beautiful, radiant Duchess who was perfectly gracious to everybody, from politicos, Bollywood celebs, disadvantaged school kids and even elephants? Controversy is no doubt your middle name and you have shot your mouth off more times than we care to keep count, but this is one instance when your reputation now resembles a vada pao way past its sell by date. Some day, of course, you will look back at it and laugh but right now, you must be wishing you are as anonymous as Shantabai of Dharavi. Glam diva, pop philosopher, social commentator, Queen Bee of Page Three – all that has taken a beating from a spunky Assam girl whose passionate outburst against your malicious tirade struck a chord among gazillions of women, as well as men in cyberspace. More of that later.
So how did you go about demolishing the Duchess? Very ingeniously, I must say. You delivered a compliment here, and an insult there. Kate would look gorgeous in a sack, you enthused. Then you described her blue gown as one resembling those tacky ones available at Mumbai galis for Arab tourists. You mentioned her trim waist and then said a particular outfit aged her by 20 years. You wanted another outfit to be more flirty, yet another to be less boring. Her expression, you wrote cattily, was listless. Didn’t it occur to you that she might have been missing her young children on the other side of the globe? And why did you describe Kate as yummy? Aren’t you trying too hard to sound like a bratty teen? But your vitriolic worst came out in these line “Khair, let’s count our blessings ji. Kate has skipped wearing a saree… a saree needs curves. A saree demands a derriere. Kate has none.” In one interview you had once said you get agitated unless you wrote a couple of thousand words every day, that you are a compulsive writer. I admire that, may be I am even a teensy weensie envious. But, you forget one important point – you need to think before you write.
Now lets get this clear. The female body is a serious issue. In her book The Female Body, Margaret Atwood shows that women are expected to look feminine and act as sex objects. She argues that dolls have a negative influence on children. Dolls bodies are portrayed as an ideal image for every woman. Across history and cultures the female body stands for servitude and entrapment, victimisation and imprisonment. It is often a mute and fragile symbol of weakness. When man vies for supremacy, he brutalises a woman’s most intimate spaces as a battlefield.
Long before you dipped your claws in vitriol, women like Simone De Beauvoir were giving the female body the dignity it truly deserves. In her ground breaking work The Second Sex, Beauvoir created an existential history of a woman’s life – a story about a woman’s changing attitude to her body and bodily functions across the years and equally significantly, how society influences her. She painstakingly explored case studies of the various stages of female life. In this study, female bodies are both positive and negative and women are both oppressed and free. For a woman, her body can be seen as both a vehicle of her freedom and yet a cage. She wrote about development of female sex organs, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and how, in a hostile society these experiences are seen as a burden and a disadvantage. Beauvoir gives examples of this – a mother criticising her daughter’s body and posture, the man on the street passing a sexual comment, everyday instances that leave a mark.
And I cannot even begin to talk about horrendous acts of female genital mutilation taking place in many parts of the world, the commodification of women’s bodies in the media, anorexic young girls looking like Holocaust victims because starving is the preferred alternative to fat. Think of perfectly normal women going through breast implants, botox treatments, tummy tucks and nose jobs because that yawning void inside them tells them they are not beautiful enough?
The time now for us is to not battle cellulite but to carry on the war for women to be treated like human beings – with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of involvement in cultural, political and economic arenas. As Beauvoir so famously wrote “to lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.” And when we have so many battles left to fight, we ought to start with self-affirmation of our bodies, a warm, unconditional acceptance of all their flaws, idiosyncrasies so that we can move to things that matter.
Our girl from Bongaigaon – Sneha Roy, was enraged enough to react to your objectification of women. I want to share her words with readers to marvel that such wisdom could dwell on one so young. So over to Sneha…
“A saree needs curves: Kate has none.”
– Shobhaa De
Let me tell you, when an 80-year-old Indian woman, be it your ageing mother, mother-in-law, or your own grandmother: greets you with a smile so radiant, bedecked in a saree loosely draped over her frail body: her once supple youth having fallen victim to Time:
A saree needs no curves.
Let me tell you, when your daughter of ten, excitedly dons on a saree, with a being glowing soft with a loveliness so childlike on Saraswati Puja:
A saree needs no curves.
Let me tell you, when an anorexic Indian girl, dresses up all pretty in a pink saree to bring in a new tomorrow, lighting up her father’s face to remove his tears of distress:
A saree needs no curves.
But, I being an amateur, find it rather hilarious to tell you what a writer needs.
And, a heart.
Ms De, seems like, you, my “curvaceous” woman, have none.
Such a shame.”
So this must suffice for now. Between you and me, being the Jackie Collins of India is highly overrated, don’t you think?
Yours, with malice towards none.
Courtesy: The Assam Tribune