It’s 2016, so can we stop body shaming women already?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have seen the new Nike Da Da Ding advertisement featuring Deepika Padukone. Doesn’t it give you an instant energy high? Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Deepika Padukone—the woman exudes confidence and looks too good for words. The ad itself is full of energy and the music is fiery! It makes you want to get off your rear end and just get moving. Frankly, that ad does motivate me to definitely hit the gym in the evening; or at least resolve that I will hit the gym in the evening, hehe.

But even with my all my admiration for Padukone and for the ad, I have a bone to pick with the ad-makers. Throughout the ad of nearly 3 minutes, we are shown various visuals of women sweating it out—in the gym, on a track, in the court, in the ring, on the roads and pushing their limits, doing their thing. Women dancing their hearts out, running and playing hard, women doing their best, presumably to get fit, to enhance their talent or to reach the peak of their capabilities. It’s all good, but why oh why, are only extremely toned and fit women doing this?

My question is this—are only fit women allowed to push their limits or do lesser mortals—those who are still on the path of fitness and might not have washboard abs yet, not have the energy or guts to sweat it out too? Or is it just that Nike does not think that such women are worth featuring in their ad, or that such bodies might not be attractive to look at, let alone feature in an ad that has had crores of rupees invested into? Is it because Nike belives women who don’t have ripped, toned, slender bodies can’t really be bothered to work out or play hard, that they are generally lazy and can’t be fitness enthusiasts?

I am pretty sure that in reality, there are actually thousands of not-so-toned women who are in fact at this very moment, pushing their limits and sweating through their t-shirts to get healthier and fitter. Does Nike then, not cater to that demographic?

Let’s just call a spade a spade and please realise that this is just subtle body shaming once again. The idea set by the media and the glamour industry that women can only be attractive if they are a certain size, is once again being thrown in the faces of us lesser toned women, in a newer, peppy package. Nike definitely knows that there are women in India who are just as passionate about fitness, who are just as high on energy, who are regular-sized women. It’s just that Nike chooses to ignore them. They are not models or sportswomen, they don’t have athletically toned legs, but they still run every day. And guess what? I am one of those women—I with my post-partum jiggly wiggly abs, manage to hit the gym after coming back home from a long day at work, playing with my bub and somehow managing to put him to bed. Sometimes, I can’t get to the gym before 9 PM, knowing fully well that it is not an ideal time to exercise, but I still do it because it makes me happy and energises me. Blame it on the endorphins, it makes me feel good just to sweat it out even though I have made peace with the fact that I may not get back to my earlier body.

But according to that highly charged ad, I am not the consumer that Nike is selling its fitness gear to. I shouldn’t aspire to buy Nike gear, because frankly, I just don’t look like the people who are wearing their gear. I don’t make the cut.

Done to death

Advertising constantly uses only tall, thin, fair women to sell anything and everything (I’m looking at you JK Cements). I understand, it’s great to look at people with fit bodies. But where is it written that only fair & slim means beautiful? Why doesn’t the advertising industry ever acknowledge the fact that the average woman/man does not necessarily fit into this specific unreal prototype that they have created? Why is it that we get to see beauty in other shapes and sizes only when certain photographers decide to capture the world in its unedited, unpolished form? Such works almost always end up being shared widely on social media because they resonate with a lot of people out there. Why does the industry then, still refuse to take a hint?

Few days ago a Playboy model faced massive social media backlash after she tried to publically body shame a fellow gym user, because she just could not unsee the less than perfect body of another person. And this is not a one-off case, we come across such things every single day, though these incidents are mostly hidden under a different type of caption. Think of all those paparazzi pictures with the headline, “embarrasing photo of so and so celebrity. Celebrity caught in awkward pose.” First you shoot a celebrity from an unflattering angle, then splash the pictures on media and then have a laugh. It’s blatant body shaming, people!

People have curves

You know what Nike? Women can love to dance, love to run, play squash, listen to hip hop and do a mean step and they don’t need a given hip to waist ration to do those things. Are push-ups the only measurement for strength? How much strength does it take to push a baby out? 10 push-ups? 20? 100?? I might not have rock-hard abs but nevertheless I am strong and I don’t doubt that. I have been various sizes at various times but guess what, I have always been strong. Your standards of size do not and cannot dictate that. My body is not a slave to your measurements.

For the time being though, I will put my strong, awesome-as-hell and jiggly body in a Reebok track pant and go do my thing.

#iambeautiful #iamstrong #bodyshaming

Smita Pal

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