Ramona and I talked further about the question of beauty ideals in India, especially for women, as well as the attitude that people have towards these ideals and their body.
On one hand, the idea of how thin a beautiful woman is, is definitely different here in India than in the west. In India, the models we usually get to see on posters as well as the actresses we get to see in movies usually weigh some more kilos than the ones in the west. Size zero was and is not as popular here as there. I believe that this has something to do with the fact that we actually have people dying of hunger. The general Indian will associate an extremely thin body with poverty, not with beauty.
In the same way, having a few kilos more than the average is considered as good in India. That’s how, when we once visited friends whom we had not seen for a while, the lady told Ramona ‘You look healthy!’ with a smile. What she meant was that Ramona had gained weight since she had last seen her – and it was a compliment made sincerely! I explained that to Ramona later, as in that moment, she had just been slightly confused for having been complimented on looking to be of good health. She had to laugh and now always tells our non-Indian friends that she’s not really keen of looking ‘healthy’!
So that is the difference in how women see a figure in India. On the other hand however, they do talk about it in very similar ways as out of India, too! There you have women discussing their weight and ideas on how to lose weight fast, shows on TV where the female characters try to go on diet and finally lots of products and charlatanry trying to sell pills that make you slim in a very limited amount of days.
You can see and hear both in India – but while those who are happy in being big get bigger and bigger, those who wish to be slim and fit know only one way to achieve it: go on a diet and be hungry for most of your day. Obviously, that is not the right and best solution but it is the sad truth that there are little to no fitness offers for women in India! It obviously depends on where you are, as you can easily find a gym for women in Delhi or Mumbai – but once you are out of the mega cities, it gets difficult! Colleges and universities offer sports but for adults, working women, housewives and those who simply don’t attend these schools, there is nothing! No place where they could learn exercises, no place where they could meet and work out in a group!
There is even no awareness about exercises during pregnancy or after birth. That’s another reason for women to look pregnant although they are not – after five children and with no exercise for your belly muscles, your belly won’t look flat anymore! No complaining or dieting will help here, you would need to exercise!
Of course, yoga is one option which you can easily do at home with little equipment and space. You can use help like our online yoga posture directory.
In the end however, in order to help people in India to be fit and healthy instead of oversize or undersize, India would need to first of all create awareness and the possibility for women to work out. It might change the image that people have of themselves – and maybe improve it one day!
In a world where everything is about what you see instead of what you feel, our appearance, our physical body has become so very important. That’s how there has been a huge fitness-boom recently and lots of people use sometimes crazy diets and very strict workout schedules to get into shape. In the spiritual scene however, people preach practically the opposite: love yourself and your body as you are. I would like to write a little bit about these two ideas and where I believe it is best to stand.
The point where we start this conversation is that you are not happy with your body as it is right now, most probably because it doesn’t fit into a beauty ideal propagated to you by common public media. You want to change this and you have two possible ways:
First, you can get your body to the size and shape that you are admiring on others. For that, you will need to change or regulate your diet and do physical exercise.
If you choose this way, I want to recommend you, as I have done before, too, that you focus on being healthy. This means that you should not, in any case, go on a diet that harms your body! The same goes for any kind of pills or shakes that are supposed to make you lose weight. They often contain chemical ingredients that have side-effects you cannot even think of. When it comes to physical exercise, please take the help of a professional for finding out how to exercise properly without hurting yourself.
And I want to warn you about two things: for once, it is impossible to actually reach the figure of the bikini models on public posters – because Photoshop played a big role in making them look like this! Secondly, you may not gain happiness and satisfaction in this way. You may never be really happy with how your body looks like and just keep on trying different diets or workouts to achieve something that may not be possible for you – simply because you are another body type or it is an unrealistic ideal you are having!
So we get to the other possibility: learning to accept and love your body however it is. You will probably assume that I would vote for this option. I don’t. At least not completely.
Yes, you should love your body, yes, you should accept yourself. At the same time however, I think you should also be healthy! If you are overweight and you will just work on accepting yourself, you may go further and accept your unwillingness to move and your urges to eat more than your body actually needs! You may even accept any unknown health problem that causes your weight to skyrocket! You will accept knee problems and back pain because you accepted your weight. You will just try to accept things as they are and will thus avoid any change that could come out of it.
So no, I don’t agree with this concept either. I believe we should focus on being healthy and feel good. You cannot tell me that you feel good if your knees hurt when walking for ten minutes. Don’t try to convince me that you feel good when your body is craving more than the apple you have eaten the whole day long.
The common beauty ideals are contorted and wrong, as we all are different and cannot fit in one frame. You don’t need to starve yourself to a certain weight if you feel good with pants that are one or two sizes bigger. But please take care that while you accept and love your body, you love it enough to keep it healthy. Eat good food, not junk food. Stay fit and enjoy moving.
Make it right for you!
Today I would like to write about a topic which I believe is important for everyone, meaning people of both genders: you have to feel good in your body. It should be healthy and you need to take care of it but you don't need to try to reach common beauty ideals or figures that tell you your ‘ideal weight’. Don’t let them make you unhappy!
First of all, I want to say that I am really in favor of healthy eating and a healthy weight. When I say you should love your body, I don't mean that you should ignore overweight that is causing you back, hip and knee problems and very serious health issues like diabetes. When I say you should feel good in your body I don't want to encourage you to accept an unhealthy underweight either, which can be a real danger, too.
There is however a wide range in between overweight and underweight. And this is something that is not widely accepted. Beauty ideals which are propagated by the media always show you exactly one figure, one weight, one ‘way to be’. It is highly unrealistic, no, impossible for every person on this earth to look the same.
And how would you change your body over the course of time the same way as these ideals change? How can you go from curvy in one decade to super skinny in the next? You cannot have both with just the one body that you have!
That is how I say it is most important that you feel good! Even if you are over or under the one figure that is supposed to be your ‘ideal weight’, as long as you are healthy, you should feel good! And that includes meals, eating and exercise, too!
I am really a fan of food and I enjoy my daily yoga and workout as well. I have heard from so many women however that when they eat, they count every calorie and feel guilty after festive dinners or just indulging in their favourite food – which they should actually enjoy! The result is that mealtime is something they are dreading and even disorders can be the consequence!
Men, too, have such issues though, just that they mostly get obsessed with sports and exercise, with building muscles and sweating off every extra calorie they ate. Nothing against a good, sweaty workout – but once you HAVE to go to the gym every single day and for hours after holiday meals, it becomes a constraint. That is not behavior that shows your love for your body.
Stop feeling bad about eating, love food. Love your exercise but don’t mind if you don’t do it one day or do less one day. Don’t place importance on ideals from outside – and love your body. Enjoy life – and that won’t happen if you declare war on your body!
Yesterday I explained how many people, especially women, compare themselves constantly to others, taking self-esteem out of these doubtable victories and feeling bad when they believe they lose that comparison. Apart from the fact that this makes it difficult for you to feel good when you are alone, you also need to realize that the beauty ideal that you are following brings a whole lot of further problems.
I think we don’t need to spend much time on discussing whether the beauty ideal to which most women compare their own bodies is realistic or not. The images that the media displays are modified with computers, the women who are displayed wear heavy make-up, the light is in their favour, they don’t act in real-life situations and it is their profession to look like that. The image that you thus normally see displayed on posters, in magazines and on TV burns itself into your mind and makes you forget that this is shown to you to make you purchase whatever they are selling. You take it for the norm, for how you and every woman should look like in order to be called beautiful.
Mainstream media doesn’t take into account that there are people of all kinds of different body shapes! The people, men and women, whom you see in the end are only a very few selected ones, sorted out with strict criteria which a majority of people cannot fulfill.
The result is clear: people all over believe that this is normal and try to look the same. If they cannot reach there, they believe they are not beautiful – although it is mostly really impossible! And this fact that it is impossible frustrates a lot of women who are honestly trying with full effort to lose weight, to get into the same shape as the women on the screen! They cannot achieve that because their body structure for example is different!
Seeing this, many just give up completely. They see that the only way to be called ‘beautiful’ is to look like that – but they won’t ever reach, so why even try? They don’t have any enthusiasm or reason to work out, to move and to do something for their body. The only reason that they see would be the competition and the goal to reach but if it is anyway impossible, why even try? They know that they can never win.
The solution to this problem – apart from changing the way society works and promotes unrealistic beauty ideals – is to change the way that you look at exercise, healthy nutrition and your body in general. You need to realize that you don’t eat healthy in order to lose weight just to look like someone else. You also don’t move your body, run or swim in order to look like anybody else. You should not do all of this for anybody else but for yourself!
Do it for yourself! Eat healthy because you feel better! Work out because you get a good mood and feel your body again! YOU are the one that benefits from a healthy weight, nobody else! Do it because you love your body, because you love yourself!
If enough people act like this, we might even get advertising companies, the movie industry and the general thought of society to realize that there is beauty in each individual, in all different shapes that exist!
Yesterday I mentioned that people get very stressed simply because they constantly compare themselves to others in all regards. The area of life in which especially woman make most comparisons is of course beauty. This kind of comparison however is, in my eyes, the reason why there are so many women with low self-esteem and a bad body-image for themselves.
The main problem is again the comparison with the outside. It is nothing unusual that a woman comes into a room and screens the place for other women. It sounds like cliché but a majority of women will admit – at least to themselves – that they do look at other women’s bodies and faces, comparing their dress, their slimness, level of fitness, hairstyle and even make-up to their own. Depending on the result of their little check, their self-esteem either rises a bit or falls. They feel more beautiful if the woman in front of them is heavier, has an acne problem or a bad hair day. In the same way however, they feel conscious about their weight or whatever they believe is their problem zone, if the woman seems more beautiful to them.
While I am talking about women here, this is not only a problem for the female gender! You might not talk about beauty when men do the same thing but what happens is not different in any way! Men look at other men’s abs, their muscles, their toned biceps and triceps and then of course the air of nonchalance or that confident smile and they feel the exact same thing!
But does beauty only work when you win in comparison to others? Do you really only feel beautiful when you look at another woman and feel that she looks even less like a movie star or supermodel than you do? Do you really think that you are only beautiful if you look like the women whom you see on posters and in TV advertisements?
I understand that there is a certain feel-good factor when you win in a comparison, even if it is just in your own mind and there are no spectators to witness your victory. You should however realize what you are really doing there and reflect a bit what your beauty ideal really is!
The fact is that this beauty ideal is not realistic, as every media channel uses computer programs to ‘optimize’ the looks of their models and actors. You however take this ideal as a goal for how you would like to look and simultaneously measure other people on this ideal as well.
Again, the question is how much you really have to look on the outside in order to define yourself and identify who you are? Do you have to think ‘I am slimmer than Heather, have better skin than Mary and fuller hair than Louise’? Wouldn’t it be enough to just think ‘I am beautiful’?
I cannot stress often enough that beauty is not only on the outside and that everybody’s perception of beauty is different! You have to feel beautiful when you are standing alone in a room, too, when you have nobody to compare to! And you should feel beautiful if you are standing in a crowd full of superstars. You are unique and you are beautiful.
I have recently been writing a lot about arranged marriages, about the many problems such marriages cause, about the dowry, the broken dreams and hearts and the fights among husband and wife as well as each other’s families. After reading all of this I wouldn’t wonder if you had a logical question: why is it still so common that marriages are arranged? Why do people still find it so important to marry their children to someone they don’t know? Simply because of the way how society works.
I will try to explain this to you with an example. Let’s say there is an Indian family and their son is already above thirty years old. He was refusing to get married in a very Indian fashion, telling his parents that he had no interest in women and would never marry. His parents know however that this is just something he says and doesn’t really mean, that inside he also has the wish to get married. That is how they search and whenever they will have found a possible candidate, he will say ‘Okay, if you insist…’
They are of course looking within their own caste and sub-caste, which limits the number of women who can be considered. It can get quite difficult to find someone whom they really like. One girl is too dark-skinned, another one is too fat, a third one would be taller than their son and another one lisps. There may be some factors why the girls’ parents don’t want to marry their daughters to this boy either, like a lower income than their expectations for example or just not such a handsome facial expression, a slight overweight or that he is limping.
More frequently however it is the girl that gets rejected. The parents of both families keep on rejecting possible spouses and after seeing ‘what’s on the market’ and realizing that they just cannot get the completely right one, both sides start lowering their expectations a bit. Okay, now the girl doesn’t have to be very fair and if the boy isn’t fully thin, it might also work. The girl’s family is however still much more likely to accept even below their expectations. Why? Because it is so important to get a daughter married – without that, what will become of her?
It is very clear: the big majority of women nowadays still don’t work. If they do, they don’t get the same salary as men do and it is much more difficult for them to find a job that they can actually well live off. Again, I am not talking about the metro cities but of the common population in smaller towns and villages. The parents of a woman support her until she is married. If she doesn’t marry and one day the parents die, what is she going to live from? Be a burden for her brother’s family? Parents obviously don’t want this to happen and so they desperately try to find a husband for their daughter – so that she is taken care of, even if the man is finally not living up to their expectations.
Men have some more possibilities. Even if a man doesn’t seem to find a woman that he or his parents like, he won’t need to marry just anyone – even if he doesn’t marry, he has a job and will survive. There is only one problem in that case: the lineage would not be continued without children! It is getting late for men, too, so after a long time and many attempts, the parents of the boy, too, just take the best option: a girl who may be quite dark in complexion, could be a little bit overweight, is not as educated as their boy and comes from a not that reputed family as hoped for.
This case is not a product of my imagination! I have met mothers who have seen candidates and although they did not really like them, they say ‘Well, she is not very pretty, let’s see, if we don’t find a better girl, we will take this one.’ So from the start you don’t like her, imagine what will be this woman’s situation in your family! If she just has one small bad character trait, everybody will say ‘Oh, I knew it, we should not have chosen her!”
If you put it very clear this means that in the end, when everyone is desperate enough, nobody cares that much who is getting married, it has to be a man who can afford a woman and a woman who can bear and rear children. What is the woman supposed to do anyway? Cook, clean and have children.
Isn’t it a nice picture that the society shows here? How much value is given to a woman who is first again and again refused and then in the end married just for the children she may have in future because there was no other option! What a beautiful concept arranged marriage is, don’t you think?
If you have been following my blog, you may have read my post about the fairness lotion for vaginas which was sold here in India where many women believe the first sign of beauty is fair skin – obviously everywhere. I recently saw advertisement for another product which was similarly outrageous: vaginal tightening lotion!
The lotion is called ’18 again’, a name that already tells pretty well whom they want to attract: women who feel that they were attractive and beautiful when they were 18 and who would like to have this feeling again. But wait – because of her intimate area?
In the advertisement a woman of maybe thirty years dances around a man singing ‘I feel like a virgin’ and the people in their surrounding are shocked while her husband is visibly happy dancing with her, joining her: ‘Oh yes, it’s true, feels like the very first time!’ and in their advertising text you can read: ‘'18 Again', a vaginal rejuvenation & tightening gel is redefining the term women empowerment. It is a powerful and natural answer to intimate feminine concerns. A remarkable product to empower the new age women.’
You can only be astonished and wonder about this kind of product and the fact that they put it out onto the market where it will definitely sell. It may not get as popular as whitening lotions for the face do because it is a private issue but I am very sure that there will be women who buy it – and probably it will be considered a success by the selling company.
Their FAQ makes clear that it is not an immediate miracle solution as other lotions and products claim but that you need to use it for eight to ten weeks twice a day and additionally have to do recommended Kegel exercises. So you see, someone who really wants to use it to ‘tighten and rejuvenate’ her vagina, has to buy quite a lot of this lotion to use until an effect can be noticed – and she has to do pelvic floor exercises. Needless to say that the exercise on itself would also have an effect just on its own. How much the lotion adds is questionable to me.
The biggest problem I have with this is the message that you give women. You are presenting this as a tool for female empowerment but aren’t you doing exactly the opposite? Aren’t you telling women that they are only attractive for men and can only feel good as long as they have a vagina like an 18-year-old? Aren’t you reducing women only to her genitals with this product?
Really, it is a shame that anybody can even think of such a product! What will happen is that women who are unhappy in their partnership and with their sex life will start blaming themselves and the aging of their vagina and will buy this nonsense. In the end they will be simply crushed and disappointed when they realize it did not work or that this was definitely not the reason for the problems in their relationship.
Bleach your face with ‘fair and lovely’ cream, trim your body and get slim and tall with pills, make your vagina fair and in the end tighten and rejuvenate it – is this what makes you a beautiful woman? I don’t think so!
Get some self-confidence, realize that there is a unique beauty to all of us and that aging is a natural process that does not take any of your beauty. Any effect of childbirth is also natural. Real men understand this and who does not, should better learn it. Because we have to stop wanting to change our bodies to be loved by others.
Yesterday I wrote about the success of arranged marriages and mentioned that arranged marriages are a part of the culture and of Indian society. Some people say it is perfectly fine, others say it is a horrible concept. Whatever it is for the individual, I have experienced my whole life long how much stress, tension and pain this concept has caused the families and thought I explain you a bit more about it.
There are nowadays two popular ways of marriage. One is the love/arranged marriage which can happen in the following way: A boy likes or loves a girl and would like to marry her. If he knows that his parents are open and has the courage, he tells them about her. If his parents think in a modern way, they will contact the girl’s parents, tell them that their children are anyway already in love, so why should they not marry them. If they agree, they will ‘arrange’ the marriage and for the public it looks just as though it was properly arranged. I believe this is the way that includes the least of problems – unless the girl’s parents don’t agree.
The second method of marrying these days is an arranged/love marriage. In this situation, parents arrange the marriage and then let the boy and the girl meet. They begin talking to each other, dating sometimes, talking on phone and their love grows. This time can stretch up to years, for example because of one or the other studying before marriage. Both know whom they are going to marry, it is sure, so why not start loving each other?
This sounds great but it is actually the process of finding this partner with whom to arrange the marriage which causes problems. It is quite difficult, especially in a traditional family, to find a partner who is suitable. The boys and girls go to professional photo studios which advertise themselves as experts in pre-wedding pictures. There, in full make-up and in their best clothes, they have a photo session to find the perfect picture which the parents then send out to 10 or 20 other families. Then it is up to the picture to either convince or disappoint.
How much however can you get to know by a picture? They will reject boys and girls because of their colour, their features or their figure. You cannot see anything about their character in a picture! You may see outer beauty but not the beauty of the heart. Can you imagine how it hurts to have sent out twenty or thirty pictures and get no reply or maybe just one or two?
Those who like the picture get in touch and want to see ‘the subject’ live and in reality. They come to meet so that prospected parents-in-law can see the boy or girl. The girl will be made to get tea, so that they can see whether she walks nicely and is not limping or anything similar. A complete interview has to be passed in which the content of answers is just as important as speaking with a clear voice, not displaying any speech disorders or lisping. A popular reaction however is: ‘She/He looks different in the picture!’ They claim the girl – or boy – was fair and handsome in the picture but is not in reality. Another refusal, another insult, another injury. Girls suffer, boys suffer, parents suffer but they start the process again with the next family.
At this point, they saw the girl or boy in reality. They saw more than a picture but how much could they really get to know the boy or girl? In a meeting of twenty minutes? Acceptance and rejection usually depends on figure, colour and outer appearance. Or on money.
Sometimes the boy’s parents are fine with the girl, they like her and they would marry their son to her but then there is the issue of money: how much will she bring into the marriage? What? Only this small sum? – another refusal. Imagine the devastated situation of this family. Everything was good, they nearly saw their dreams fulfilled but then this! Rejected because they did not have enough money.
In older times, parents just fixed the marriage. Nowadays they think it is more modern to have a look to estimate whether it really fits. They cannot get to know the other one, they only judge. It is a big drama that causes pain to everyone involved. It is stress and a big burden on the parents. I have seen this process stretching over years because no partner could be found.
No, I believe arranged marriages cannot be right – they cause too much pain and sorrow!
Yesterday I saw an article in an online newspaper about an advertisement on TV. You may know that I don’t really watch TV and thus I had not seen this advertisement live but after reading the article, I watched it on YouTube and decided to write a blog entry about it, embedding the video below for you to see it. This advertisement has made me wonder how far the cosmetic industry will go in order to make profit.
What you can see in the advertisement is a woman who looks sad, sitting on the sofa next to her husband. The reason for her sad contemplations seems to be her husband, not giving her a single glance. Then, the solution to her problem: she washes herself with the ‘Clean and Dry Intimate Wash’ lotion with an immediate effect: laughing, she and her husband play teasingly in their living room.
This per se would be a normal – if a bit strange – advertisement. What makes this commercial controversial was the small extra in this washing lotion: it should make the washed intimate area fair. ‘Freshness and Fairness’ is the slogan of the company for this product. Seen with this information, the commercial is something to object to!
Let me tell everyone who may be confused as to the sense of such a lotion that in India the ideal of beauty is being fair. One of the most important criteria for beauty here is your skin colour. Are you fair and look rather white than brown, you are more easily considered a beauty. Young girls want to have fair skin and unfortunately many girls who have darker skin get inferiority complexes believing that they are not beautiful.
The sad reality is that they do get rejected more easily, at least in one field. Not only girls and women, boys and men, too, are facing bad discrimination in their search for a spouse if their skin has a darker tone. I already told about the cattle market of arranged marriages in which parents look at possible spouses and reject both boys and girls because they are too dark. If they are fair however, they are more wanted!
Can you imagine what kind of problems these young men and women have with their self-confidence? Knowing that they are seen as less beautiful, no matter what the rest of their body looks like! So they try in any way to look as light as possible. They don’t go out in direct sunlight for fear of getting darker. They apply make-up that makes them look fair. Or they buy whitening lotion.
Just as in Europe there are tanning lotions, whitening lotions and fairness creams are sold. In India they have become so popular that Ramona always says she has to take care not to accidentally buy a body lotion which says ‘fair and lovely’ or ‘with whitening extracts’ because so many products have this effect!
The thing that I believe is worst about this is that it is so heavily promoted by media and by celebrities. There are so many commercials that even I, who hardly ever watches TV, have seen several of them. At first those spots and the products were only for women and their beauty but then big celebrities started advertising lotions for men, too. Bollywood hero Shah Rukh Khan promotes in one advertisement how a young actor can boost his career – by using a whitening lotion! Virat Kohli, player of the National Indian Cricket Team, explains that he has to always look good – on and off the field – and that is why he uses one, too!
Now we have the high point of such advertisements – whitening soap for a woman’s intimate area! The next step will be the same product for men! Can’t we live the way that we are and accept that we all are different from each other? We all are beautiful, some of us lighter, some of us darker! And I want to ask the media and all celebrities to take some more responsibility and keep our youth in mind. If you teach them that only fair is lovely, you are responsible for their inferiority complexes, their depressions and whatever bad comes out of it! Teach them to treat their body well, to take care of it but without the wish to change it artificially!