I am a fat, 31 year old, single, anti-right, feminist woman in India. Just about everything in that sentence is far from perfect in the conventional idiom. I have had questions tail me, like “It is getting late, find yourself a boy na”, or “Hey, fatty, everybody else is already settled, I wonder when you will settle down” or “Look at you, already 31, no man to marry, and fat! How do we even begin to find you a match! Lose weight so that we can find a boy! He’ll want a perfect wife.” And so on.
What is wrong with that, you ask? The focus, as always, is the man – his expectations, his requirements, his definitions of what he finds perfect. And patriarchy, that celebrates all his expectations as perfectly legitimate, ahem, demands. And the unspoken expectation from the ‘potential’ wife, to follow and fulfil them.
Also Read: Dear World, Thank You. Sincerely, A Fat Girl
This, though, is just one part of the conversation. Look around us – in the ocean of manufactured, consumerist similarities, it has always been a sin to stand out. An aberration, an oddity, if you will. So walk into any of the stores that create aspiration with trends that they announce, and you’ll find XLs tucked away, shamed, in corners that will be hard to find. Staff that tries hard to hide a smirk as they say, “Ma’am, I am sorry, this isn’t available in your size”. Or worst still “Ma’am, are you sure? I mean, it may not be ideal for your body type”.
When you enter stores that are meant for larger body sizes, you meet rather unimaginative cuts – aiming to hide your “imperfections” rather than excite you with new trends. Why this disdain for people who are fat? And I insist on using the word ‘fat’ instead of large. Why be ashamed of your body type?
Should weight be lost for health reasons? Yes. But to conform to a body image, because centuries of conditioning has drilled it into our heads that a ‘slim, fair girl’ is the epitome of beauty, is what I call out, trash and burn. Perfect is who you are, how you choose to be.
For years I told myself that thunder thighs couldn’t wear shorts.
For several years, I wished I could wear shorts. And t-shirts. Despite loving Indian wear- for its heritage, beauty, comfort, and a genuine choice, I had limited myself to it. Maybe, because it eased the pressure of being the oddity? Clothes were easier to find, the world was less judgmental about what I wore.
For years I told myself that thunder thighs couldn’t wear shorts. That my arms are the size of other people’s thighs, and would look repulsive in sleeveless wear. That the flab that hangs is something to be ashamed of. That my tyres, and bulges in my body were meant to be hidden. That I had to find clothes that would hide them effectively. So effectively that they’d hide all the ‘imperfections’, all the under-confidence that is shoved down our throats in the name of quest for perfection and body image conformity. That would hide the fact that people different from the expected body norm exist. That my glorious body and I, existed too!
I’d seek dresses that were elusive, try some on if I could find them, and then reject them. I wasn’t prepared to see my body the way it appeared in them. I would look in the mirror for days, imagining how different, and as many people tell me till date, more beautiful I would look if I was thin. I had mastered the art of hiding my double-chin in photo faces and selfies! I knew how to sit to appear thinner. I realized I was steadily denying myself, the truth of my body. The fact that I believed I was beautiful. And I didn’t want fashion, people, cinema & advertising, to convince me otherwise.
So one day, I dug out my pair of shorts. That were relegated the role of being a night-suit. Maybe because the night isn’t judgmental either. You are on your own, in your rawest, most vulnerable form. Willing to celebrate your own existence every minute. But now, maybe, it was time enter the daylight. Willing to accept, embrace and celebrate myself, completely.
It is time to reclaim our bodies each curve at a time
So out came the shorts, and off I decided to go wearing them in the metro. I saw gazes that followed me well past the eye would see effortlessly. I found women hiding behind their raised palms, whispering and laughing, as they couldn’t tear their eyes away from my legs. I saw some older women take a rather horrified look at me, turn their heads, repulsed, finding the lack of conformity, undignified. And what were these shorts? They were 4 inches above the knee.
That is how unwelcoming, unforgiving, unrelenting we are in our conventional expectations of body conformity. Where we expect women, of certain shapes and sizes to first accept that they are imperfect, and then proceed to hide themselves. When these traditional, conformists meet defiance, their silent intolerance, curbed violence, all threaten to consume you, destroy you, in an unrelenting, angry gaze. Or complete dismissal.
I smiled as I took pride in my choice. My body, my right. As I looked around me, I saw several potbellied men, wearing shirts that were threatening to have their buttons blown off by the pressure that was being exerted on them. Perhaps come flying in a comical Home Alone-esque manner at my very nose. I saw men idly staring into their screens, some oblivious to my existence, some deliberately averting glances to not meet my defiant stare. And I also saw, how no judgmental glares were piled on them. Why? Well, they are men of course. More privileged to live as they please.
Who decided the aesthetic of the female human form? And who then allowed others to shame the different? It is time to reclaim our bodies each curve at a time, embrace our choices and love ourselves for who we are. That, probably, is the greatest form of defiance.
And, maybe, wear shorts in public spaces. Who said, clothing was meant to judge body types? Tame your clothing. Enjoy your life. And while you are it, maybe let your fight, inspire the next!