JOIN THE Women WHO Broke THE Bridal BEAUTY RULES
Femina|March 2021
WOMEN HAVE ALWAYS BEEN EXPECTED BY SOCIETY TO CONFORM TO CERTAIN NORMS OF BEAUTY, AND NEVER MORE SO THAN WHEN LOOKING TO MARRY. IT’S TIME WE DID AWAY WITH THESE STEREOTYPES. TIME WE EMBRACED OURSELVES AS WE ARE. TIME WE WORKED WITH DOVE’S #STOPTHEBEAUTYTEST TO CREATE A WORLD WHERE WE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL, CONFIDENT AND EMPOWERED THE WAY WE ARE
TANYA MEHTA

THE SEARCH FOR BEAUTY CAN OFTEN BE UGLY AND DEMEANING. A RECENTLY-CONDUCTED SURVEY REVEALS SOME UNSETTLING STATISTICS ABOUT THE PRESSURES AND ANXIETIES AROUND CONFORMING TO THIS NARROW DEFINITION OF BEAUTY IN THE RUN-UP TO MARRIAGE. AN ALARMING 9 OUT OF 10 SINGLE WOMEN IN INDIA FEEL THAT THEY ARE JUDGED BASED ON THEIR LOOKS DURING THE MATCHMAKING PROCESS. THESE UNPLEASANT INCIDENTS ARE BOUND TO SHATTER ANY YOUNG WOMAN’S SELF-ESTEEM AND BODY CONFIDENCE. THE PRESSURE TO ADHERE TO A SINGULAR VISION OF BEAUTY IS INTENSE. WITH AN AIM TO END THIS #BEAUTYTEST, WE SPOTLIGHT THE PERSONAL JOURNEYS OF FIVE WOMEN WHO HAVE FACED BEAUTY BIASES ON THE BASIS OF BODY TYPE, SKIN COLOUR, HEIGHT, SCARS, AND HAIR TYPE AS THEY SHARE NARRATIVES OF HOW THEY’VE RISEN ABOVE THESE AND LOVE THE SKIN THEY ARE IN.

DEEKSHA SINGH, Etawah, Uttar Pradesh

YOUNG AND RESTLESS The pressure to fit into the societal standard of beauty starts very early on in a woman’s life, and she is conditioned to become critical about how she looks from her early years. It starts in the form of innocuous advice at a very young age (below 10 years) and intensifies as she becomes an adolescent (10 to 18 years), dealing with her changing body, peer pressure, and the innate need for acceptance in society. For Noor Zahira, a freelance journalist hailing from Bengaluru, colour-shaming is something she has had to contend with, with her family and relatives nudging her to lighten her skin tone. “Because my mother is fair-skinned and my father is of a darker complexion, I’ve grown up being told to scrub my face with turmeric, curd, or multani mitti in order to get fairer skin. When I entered my adolescent years, I was told that I would have to compromise on my choice of men for marriage—I would probably end up with somebody who isn’t well educated or in a high position at a company, all because of the colour of my skin,” she says.

The result of the negative comments girls hear at a young age is why a large number of them feel less confident about the way they look and are likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression due to lower self-esteem.

“I was a chubby child, I was always told that if I lose weight now it won’t create a problem in the future because when you grow up it is harder to lose weight,” shares Mahak Wadhwa, an MBBS student based in New Delhi. “I never understood the relevance of those few kilos, but I have been subjected to this criticism for several years. Many times, my relatives pass these comments off as a joke, but they still sting.”

The pressure to fit into the societal standard of beauty STARTS VERY EARLY ON IN A WOMAN’S LIFE, and she is conditioned to become critical about how she looks from her early years

RAJESHWARI ROY, Delhi, NCR

Deeksha Singh, a news editor from Etawah, in Uttar Pradesh, recollects how she was treated differently from her peers because of the birthmark on her face. “When I was a child, I really enjoyed dancing but, despite being a talented dancer, I was always made to stand at the back of the class on the basis of my appearance. Being young and bogged down by the criticism, I used to try all sorts of remedies—I’ve used peel-off masks thinking that would erase my birthmark. People were very insensitive over the years—they would verbally mock me as well as physically pick and poke the spot asking me what had happened to my face. These were questions I was not ready to answer. I spent many moments crying alone in the bathroom.”

The experiences faced in these impressionable years are known to have a deep impact on self-image and self-esteem for years to come. Explains Dr Anupama Kapoor, a psychologist, “There is a barrage of negative comments right from childhood. Children form these impressions at a very young age, from six to eight years, and wonder, ‘Why am I like this? Why was I given this colour?’ This creates a negative predisposition in everyday life.” It is no surprise that 45 per cent of women interviewed recall being told: “You are not beautiful enough” and “Who will want to marry you” when they were young.

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