Unless you have been living on another planet you will probably know that Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan became proud parents to a baby girl about six months ago. And many congratulations to them.
This is a deliriously happy time in any couple’s life, and why should the Rai-Bachchans be any different? This was their time to bond with their firstborn, memorise her every expression as she falls asleep, light up at her first smile, snuggle deep into her neck to get their fill of that delicious baby smell, kiss her pudgy little toes and marvel at how fast her nails grow.
Right? Well, I would certainly think so.But no, there seems to be a section of an increasingly misogynistic media which believes that Aishwarya has it completely wrong. Bonding with her baby? Staying at home to spend time with the little one? Focussing only on her daughter to the exclusion of all else? Enjoying motherhood without even a nod to personal vanity?What was she thinking?
She should be at the gym, working out twice a day to drop all that weight that she had piled on during her pregnancy. She should have consulted with a dietician to starve herself down to supermodel proportions even before she had weaned the wee mite.
After all, that’s what superstars are supposed to do. That’s how celebrity mothers are expected to behave. Because if they don’t collapse back into their pre-pregnancy shape in a matter of weeks, then how can they make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves? If they don’t make it out of the maternity ward in skinny jeans, then who on earth will take on the task of destroying our self-esteem (not to mention our self-image)?
Cue: obligatory mentions of such celebrities as Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie, who miraculously – or rather, mysteriously – seem to snap back into shape an hour or so after popping one (or two, in Jolie’s case) out.
In fact, such is the obsession with Aishwarya’s post-baby weight gain that if you type these magic words into the Google search engine, no less than 377,000 results pop up. The most popular of these links is a video which has been uploaded on YouTube showing before and after pictures of Aishwarya, who, we are told, has ‘shockingly’ put on five to six kilos (Oh! The horror; the horror!).
And in case you still didn’t get how awful this development is, the ‘fat’ images of Aishwarya are accompanied with the noise of an elephant trumpeting while a female voice-over asks in hectoring tones: “Isn’t it time she hired a trainer to sweat it out in a gym?” She has an obligation to her fans to look good, you know.
What complete and utter tosh!
The only obligation Aishwarya Rai has at the moment is to be a good and attentive mother to her baby girl. The only obligation she has is to remain healthy enough so that she can nurse her newborn. The only obligation she has is to spend time with her daughter to enjoy the joys of new motherhood.
Her body, her weight, her BMI, her diet, her exercise regime – how she deals with it, or even how she feels about it, is no concern of ours. Her body is her own; her shape is her own business; and we need to lay off her and mind our own business (and our own bodies).
And yet, the commentary just goes on and on. Even the British tabloid, the Daily Mail, which generally restricts itself to keeping a strict watch on the cellulite count of international stars, was concerned enough to run a long article on Aishwarya’s weight gain, which it claimed had ‘sparked outrage’ in India. The headline said it all: Aishwarya Rai “accused of betraying her country for failing to lose weight”.
Yeah, right. That’s what millions of Indians were outraged about. That’s why they felt betrayed. Because Aishwarya Rai was still carrying a few post-baby pounds on her frame. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up!
Well, so far, so sexist. But then, nobody expects much better from the Daily Mail, which has made a fetish out of focussing on the wobbly bits of celebrities.
But there is something seriously wrong with the world when even an otherwise ‘worthy’ newspaper like The Guardian jumps into the fray with an article titled “Aishwarya Rai’s post-baby body forces India to confront its attitude to women”, faithfully rehashing all the commentary on Aishwarya’s weight gain, albeit in a suitably po-faced manner. Well played, indeed.
I don’t know about you, but I find it vastly depressing to see how even pregnancy and early motherhood are now discussed and dissected through the prism of weight gain. It’s like we have a new variation on “Does my bum look big in this?” Now it’s all about “Do I look fat in this baby?”
So, full marks to Aishwarya Rai for refusing to give in to this body fascism. She’s a new mother; she’s put on a few pounds; and she refuses to shed them according to some media-mandated timetable. More power to her. May her tribe increase – and not just figuratively.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
From HT Brunch, May 27
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