What Indians can learn from a mom who wants sons to see her naked

  • Abhishek Saha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Jul 21, 2015 15:32 IST

Usage of non-contextual sexualised images of women is a common practice in India. Women have spoken up against such sexualised imagery of women. (Shutterstock)


Rita Templeton, a mother of four sons and parenthood writer, wants her sons to see her naked.

Don't be shocked. In an attempt to tackle the problem of sexual objectification of women and so that her sons know "what a real female body looks like", Templeton came up with this idea.

"But before all that happens (her sons' exposure to magazines and porn sites) -- before they're exposed to boobs that are as round and firm as cantaloupes and pictures of taut, airbrushed, dimple-less butts -- I'm exposing them to a different kind of female body," wrote Templeton in Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked on the Huffington Post.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/7/Rita.jpg
Rita Templeton, a parenthood writer, has devised this new method to make her sons appreciate female body in all it's naturalness. (Twitter/ FightingFrumpy)

In her piece, which has registered more than 50,000 Facebook shares till now and has been reproduced on several websites, Templeton says she wants her sons to know that they should never compare a woman's body to those that they come across in movies, ads and pornographic material.

In an article in The Guardian last year, Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, succinctly explained the sexualised imagery of women that has nothing to do with real women.

"In a world obsessed with women's bodies, we are bombarded with images of them, usually undressed, often in dehumanised pieces, at every turn. But though we see women's bodies everywhere, it is only really one body that we're seeing, over and over again. Usually a young, thin, white, toned, large-breasted, long-legged, non-disabled body," she wrote.

From what Templeton and Bates have written about the objectification of women, Indians too have a lesson or two to learn. From the world of advertising to Bollywood, from music videos to 'reality' television, examples of usage of non-contextual sexualised images of women is simply numerous in India. On many occasions, Indian women and even celebrities have spoken up against such sexualised imagery of women.

A United Nations-sponsored study last year found that popular Indian films rank high in "sexualisation and stereotyping of women" – in terms of "sexually revealing clothing, nudity and attractiveness of women characters".

In another instance, the day India won the World Cup match against Pakistan earlier this year, a popular condom company put out an ad celebrating the victory— a model in a skimpy green bikini (the reference to Pakistan was obvious) lying on a couch in a seductive manner, with the words 'Nailed it!' stamped somewhere above.

"Most imagery of women we see in cinema, ads, and so on are highly sexualised," says Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association.

"I am not suggesting a deliberate desexualisation either. Women need to be seen whole, as human beings, not as sexualised or desexualised bodies."

The main premise of Templeton's arguments remains that the body imagery of the 'sexy' women is so commonplace and omnipresent that it fails to take into account the fact about the real bodies which we see in our everyday lives.

"I agree with what Templeton says about body image. I think one way you can take this issue is the question of fat-shaming which is a pervasive part of our cultures. Being fat is negatively viewed through the lens of laziness, sloth, lack of control etc," said Amit Rahul Baishya, an assistant professor at the department of English of the University of Oklahoma, US, after reading the piece.

"Think of the numerous jibes that people have to face in school and college about being fat. Besides this factor of negative objectification, the other factor is the low self-esteem that often occurs among heavier people," he adds.

Baishya also says he has a problem with Templeton's assumption that all her sons will grow up to be heterosexual men and all of them will get married.

Several studies have also found that consuming images of sexually objectified women in popular culture often affects relationships. A study conducted by the Washington State University last year established that men who read magazines that tend to objectify women "are less likely to seek their partners' consent or respect sexual boundaries".

Some believe that the problem of sexually objectifying women stems from how a society, especially in India, treats them or their bodies.

"Whenever we prohibit anything, in this case seeing an exposed female body, we make it something to get curious about or make it look like it is a treasured trophy," said Lucknow-based entrepreneur Nishtha Singh.

"And, I think, in a way, that is what leads to more objectification by the porn industry or Bollywood. A woman's body is like the most natural and beautiful form of nature. And I don't think there should be any curiosity or prohibition around it."

Mumbai-based photographer Anurag Banerjee, however, believes that Templeton's essay has a lesson or two for parents.

"Parenting has a lot to do with so much [going on] in society today, isn't it? Be it the prevalent sexism in our everyday lives, be it the subtle misogyny in daily conversations that go unnoticed," he said.

Regarding Templeton's concerns, he said, "I think what is absolutely essential, though is to realise that fashion et al is an industry and it has its requirements. That the woman in a lingerie ad is just as real as your dearest friend whom you just had dinner with. The only difference is their profession. Once we see these 'sexualised' images for what they are - work - I think we can get a balanced outlook at this".

 

also read

Is your kid bullying others at school? You should read this

blog comments powered by Disqus