Motherhood divides feminists. It shouldn’t, but that’s the popular belief. One recent incident when a model’s baby bump made it as a show stopper at a Lakme Fashion Week, it united the ones who are pro-motherhood, and who are feminists (they are not mutually exclusive) under the shared belief of body positivity, or healthy body image issues.
Model Carol Gracias, while being heavily pregnant, walked the ramp for the Lakme Fashion week in April as a show stopper— and she was hailed for “celebrating pregnancy at a platform where body image is everything.”
Body shaming in the Indian fashion industry is not uncommon. A fashion blogger recounts a brutally honest brand manager who told her on being asked why they don’t have clothes for plus-sized women, “… we don’t want fat people to be seen in our clothes. That wouldn’t go down well with our core audience.”
Each instance of body shaming, online or in the real world, briefly inflates the need for seeing more real women of real sizes and styles, beyond the tall, thin and fair in the fashion industry. Girls of all age groups look for their role models — on covers of fashion magazines, on ramps, in TV and movie stars, who is accepted, appreciated, and considered beautiful, despite several demarcations from the stereotypical beautiful body.
Clearly, a baby bump (or anything other than a flat stomach) does not fit well with the body image standards bombasted on young girls and women from billboards, TV advertisements, and fashion magazines all the time.
Fashion police spares no one. But it is easier for it to go softer on a pregnant woman, than a plus sized woman who have no plans of bearing children any time soon.
Since motherhood is mistakenly considered to be a woman’s soul purpose in life— a woman with a baby bump may be excused from the critical eye; but not a plus-sized woman who has no logical reason to be anything other than a mannequin-like figure.
Hence, in celebration of motherhood, several to-be-mothers from the entertainment and fashion industry proudly sported their baby bumps in public, and were appreciated for it. Shweta Salve made several headlines recently– for sporting a pregnant bikini body, for The Blooming photoshoot, and for walking the ramp with Carol and 10 other expecting women on Mother’s Day.
Carol’s LFW run-way walk was covered by major media publications in positive words: “Breaks convention”, “busting stereotypes”, “sashays”, “flaunts”.
Is such a soft treatment imaginable to be meted out to anyone who did not fit neither the tough beauty standards of tall, thin, and fair; nor the patriarchal standards of marriage and motherhood for women?
Richa Chadha recently disclosed Bollywood’s culture of body shaming in her recent Ted talk. She said: “I was told to gain weight. Then lose weight. Fix my nose, fix my lips. Get a boob job.” Pariniti Chopra gave in to Bollywood’s obsession with being skinny.
But it is one thing to celebrate pregnancy, and entirely another to celebrate the various changes the female body undergoes during and after it.
Can you celebrate a baby bump before the baby has arrived, without celebrating the stretch marks on the abdomen, the dark circles because of sleepless nights, and the sagging breasts post-pregnancy which require rigorous exercise routine to do away with?
It seems the fashion and entertainment industries might just be ready to accept both- the likeable and the unlikeable parts of it.
Shweta Salve recently admitted to feeling “very fat” due to her pregnancy.
Gaurang Shah, the designer, said he agreed for Carol to walk the ramp, despite knowing she was pregnant, because he thought, “what’s the big deal? It’s a natural thing.” He was later surprised to know how far into pregnancy she was.
Carol decided to take on the assignment when she “realised that the clothes to be showcased are meant for all kinds of women. (Emphasis mine)”.
Maybe what we need is for some women to break the narrow definitions of beauty before it becomes easier for everybody else to jump in and do the same.
Clearly, motherhood could be a starting place to champion for body positivity for all women in India.
Featured Image Credit: Lakme Fashion Week 2016