The Vagenda

Aishwarya Rai- The Western Media is No Better

Much has been said about the western ideal to have a perfect body and the pressure to keep it like that. Very much. So much, in fact, that we are all weary not only of being told to be perfect, but weary of being told that we are being told to be perfect. Yawn. I’d rather have some cake and a gin and get on with important stuff like bringing down the government. (IT’S A JOKE, DAVE). 
Nevertheless, my patriarchal bullshitometre was buzzing this morning so I took to twitter, the home of all righteous indignation, to investigate. It was not long before I stumbled across this article in the Guardian about the Indian media and Aishwarya Rai, the woman dubiously blessed with the entirely subjective honour of being the most beautiful woman in the world. (I won’t get started on how her pale skin and light coloured eyes are the western ideal of eastern beauty.)    
Anyway, poor Aishwarya is in trouble with the Indian media for – get this, I know – daring to put on a few pounds. They have actually told her she has a duty to her fans to lose some weight she gained because, wait, her crimes don’t stop there – six months after having a baby, she still hasn’t regained the svelte figure she had before she pushed a ten pound infant out of her fanny. Unbelievable isn’t it, to have let her nation down so shamefully.  
“Many in India are asking whether the woman routinely referred to as the most beautiful in the world, and who occupies a place in Indian popular culture akin to Kate Middleton or Victoria Beckham, has an obligation to her fans to lose weight.”
That would be Kate “please someone give the poor girl a pie” Middleton, and self-proclaimed lettuce eater Beckham who looks so perpetually miserable that I can’t help but feel that a nice piece of cake would cheer her up a bit. Nice comparison there.  
There seems, however, to be an assumption that we have the moral high ground here. “Good lord” we gasp in moral indignation, “as if they would tell her she has an obligation to lose weight!” Granted, British media doesn’t usually tell women, actually, literally, outright, to regain their pre-pregnancy figures; they are more like purse-lipped mothers, sweetly judging us with pointed comments and a knife in the back. The “oh, you aren’t going to wear that out, are you dear?” of the world’s media.  
Alongside the judgemental snobbery of the women who didn’t manage to look like supermodels three days after squeezing out a screaming sproglet, there is almost a hero-worship of the Miranda Kerrs, Giseles and Jessica Albas of this world. These paragons of the miraculous post-baby transformation, who regain their figures almost instantly thanks presumably to nannies, personal trainers, good genes and god-knows what punishing diet and exercise regimes are widely celebrated. Most new mothers I know are so perpetually exhausted they need about 8,000 calories a day just to make it out of bed. Losing six pounds probably isn’t a priority when you’re recovering from third degree tears.
At the heart of this is the Daily Mail conundrum: we fetishise motherhood at the same time as worshipping at the altar of the pre-adolescent female body: slender, hairless, highly sexualised yet babyish. It’s just so confusing for poor old Paul Dacre. Do we want good obedient stay-at-home mothers, or pre-teen bodies? The Indian columnist quoted by the guardian sums up this strange Catch 22:  
“There is a glorification of motherhood in India and Indian cinema,” said cinema professor Shohini Ghosh. “But people are confused because they don’t know whether to glorify Aishwarya in her new motherhood or lament that she is not looking like a runway model.”‘
You and us both, India. The New York Daily News loftily announced that this story has “forced the Indian media to confront it’s attitude to women” – as if the western media, in all it’s sexist patriarchal tight-lipped glory, stands upon a pedestal of non-judgemental acceptance.
So quite frankly, fuck off with your hypocrisy and don’t pretend we’re any better. We’re all quite tired of it and we have better things to be getting on with, like overthrowing the government. DAVE, SERIOUSLY, CALM THE FUCK DOWN. ITS A JOKE. (It’s not).

One thought on “Aishwarya Rai- The Western Media is No Better

  1. As always, great post! Having looked at the pictures of pre and post baby, I think she looks amazing no matter what. I’m also not surprised by the reaction in India to her weight gain. Growing up Asian means light skinned, long dark hair and slim… and that’s just for starters! I hope that whatever she does, she does it because SHE wants to, not what’s expected of her.