Why body shaming Ayesha Takia is not acceptable

It is the system of unfair expectations that needs to be tackled -- not victims of it that need to broken.

Written by Nandini Rathi | New Delhi | Updated: February 27, 2017 5:36 pm
Ayesha takia Image credit: Ayesha Takia Instagram

Many members of the Twitterati – who slammed Shobha De a few days ago for taking a distasteful dig at an obese cop – are the same people who have trolled actor Ayesha Takia for her new appearance.

I personally am not thrilled about Takia’s makeover as I shared the general perception of her as someone who was already gorgeous with a delightfully expressive face – perhaps that’s why the new frozen countenance is jarring. I am also not comfortable watching cosmetic surgery become mainstream or normalised into the culture like it has in some countries and in Hollywood. It is tempting to speak against the latest public occurrence of it and I don’t expect a polite silence from people when an actor chooses to go under the knife. Throughout the history of cinema, bodies of actors have been contested terrains of symbolic as well as very real battles. But it is the system that deserves criticism, not its symptoms or its victims. That can be done without dissing the victim as stupid, dumb, ugly or spendthrift (paths opted by many trolls of Takia’s look).

It is well arguable that monetarily a ‘face job’ is no more a vanity indulgence than to buy a luxury car or a highly-valued, expensive work of art in order to ‘feel good’. Some people see it as a confidence booster. Maybe Takia doesn’t even believe she is a victim of anything. Maybe she wanted this – at least her Instagram post suggests that she is quite comfortable with her new look. “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be someone in the world who hates peaches,” is the quote embedded in Takia’s troll-shutting post. If so, it is indeed her body and her choice. In all likelihood, only she knows her motivations and the rest of us cannot expect to be privy to it.

Most women in showbiz and media spotlight cannot avoid their appearances being assessed and over-analysed from each and every angle, which makes the elusive “oomph factor” appear necessary for attracting opportunities. That could be one reason that encourages the option of a surgical fix. There is also at times some hypocrisy as we expect our beautiful people to look beautiful naturally, agelessly and effortlessly. The distaste for cosmetic surgery is also far more subdued when it seems to have gone ‘right’ as opposed to ‘wrong’. The hee haws are only pronounced when the knife is perceived to have gone wrong.

As film critic Manohla Dargis wrote in the context of Hollywood in the New York Times back in 2005: Clearly, part of the blame for the spectacle of [cosmetic surgical modifications] lies with the movie industry and its pernicious sexism; after all, Sean Penn wins awards with a face crosshatched with lines. But while it’s easy to blame the industry, the entertainment media, the satellite industries and the stars themselves, let’s face it: the other culprit, the faithful keeper of the cults of beauty and youth, is staring out at us in the mirror.

Lindy West writes in Jezebel that in an ideal world, nobody would feel pressured to go under the knife because they would grow up with unconditional self-love as opposed to paralysing self doubt and the idea of “correcting” a “flaw” would then carry no meaning. That, unfortunately, is not the world we live in.

Body shaming Takia (and the other actors before her) is not acceptable and it is in fact counterproductive. The critics, who rightly take offense by a culture that forces beauty standards on women, need to be careful not to end up as bedfellows with those who want to tell others — especially women — what they ought to do with their bodies. It is the system of unfair expectations that needs to be tackled — not victims of it that need to broken.

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