Posted by Aanchal Seema Khulbe
This is something that’s been sitting on my mind, for long. On days like these, it raises its head, making its presence felt. It shows up every time she uploads a picture and she feels a sense of gloom and helplessness.
It shows up every time that she uploads a picture, on this unicorn monster of an app. And not just any picture: a sexy one. One in which her hot sexy-legs reflect back all light, of jawlines sharpened by a Nataraj sharpener, of hair all black; nails all shiny, fingers all thin. That sense of betrayal and cheating.
I am not sure if that is who I am. If the thin hot sexy-legs girl in the picture is this. And this? This extremely messed up, crumbled, all-over-the-place ladki that second guesses every word she has spoken, whose mental health is flowing like unmanaged milk on high flame and who looks like a real almond most of the time. Is she the hot sexy-legs?
I refuse to believe it. Although I know it’s true. The hot sexy-legs does have a certain body and it shows like that on camera. Of course it shows many other things on the camera as well, but she chooses a lump-sum average and uploads a medium, to balance both her need for exposing her hottest, sharpest and gleamy-est, but also her concrete, real, bleeding-at-the-edges self. She does not edit much, she stays away from new kinds of digi-airbrushing, and relies on the ancient, convenient, Bollywood-esque kind.
Also she has a need to be real, to be true to her self. And so, that is quite a catch you know. To balance the real and the hot. An Instagram feed of the extremes. That you follow two hot sexy-legs (or sneak-look) pictures with one extremely conventionally ugly one. Lips all parched, gaze fixed. One that hits the viewer like a stone. Is that hot sexy-legs girl capable of such gloom, such groundedness?
Unreal, swipe next jaldi jaldi.
And that brings us to the next problem: this body is given to her because she is an upper-caste, middle-class, thin, able bodied, cis gendered woman and she will always, ALWAYS have an upper hand on the Internet. She always will, even if she fails, even if she uploads pictures of her crying, ugly, “bad hair” days, have an undue advantage always already. The playing field was never plain; it is tilted in her favour. She can be happy and flourishing, or sad and real, or maybe write an article like this one and she WILL receive validation, because this is where she comes from and this is what people love seeing on the Internet. This is how our sense of seeing bodies on a screen is manufactured: with thin, able, cis-gendered bodies in the centre. We do not like other kinds of bodies much. We reject it. We don’t “double tap” on those the way we do on hot sexy-legs. It is theirs, that’s fine, but ooh-lala look, the Jenners uploaded this in plain yellow pants! Must hit like…
And while I’m being super, creepily vulnerable here, I’ll also say this.
This one feels like an imposter every time she uploads hot sexy-legs pictures. An actual trust-breaker, a cheater. To her body, to her principles. Is it feminist enough to only upload your sleek little parts? Do we not accept and fight for all kinds of bodies, for all kinds of faces? What will she say to those un-screen-worthy parts of her body, that she has so carefully cherished and loved and nourished through the years? To those parts of the self, that she has learnt to love even when the entire world wanted her to hate them. To those people, who don’t love themselves yet, who don’t see how every kind of elbow, every kind of chin, every kind of hair are the most beautiful thing there is: because it nurtures life: their life. That each body is beautiful and valid because it is someone’s. Because it is the source of health and the lack of it, because to ever live, you need a body to live in and without that, it is just point black death. That bodies keep you alive. That all chins, Insta-ugly or Insta-pretty, are the thin line between life and death.
She chooses. She chooses every time to go with the celebration of who she is. But to somehow never negate who someone else is too. Who she is, and is capable of being too. She fears and trembles and decides that she will also send another kind of energy on the Internet, if she sent this one. One that initiates conversation, dilutes her own image as a normalised one, decentres it, talks of an absolute whole that comprises of all kinds of bodies, uniquely, not playing centre-margin but just present, equally there, equally important. She choses celebration also in the hope that others will chose celebration too. Of their beings, of their bodies. That the ideal is to celebrate it, not to hide it.
And thus the dilemma rests a bit, until the next picture goes up.