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Is Inequality To Blame For Outrage Over Aishwarya Rai’s Post-Baby Body?

This is the first article on my blog completely unrelated to my experiences and life in Bangalore, I hope you will indulge me as I just can’t help myself.  Certain so-called “news” today has me a bit fired up.

Now, in my opinion, I’ve been dealing really well with and have accepted the issues of inequality between men and women in India.  As a liberal native of Los Angeles, California, I don’t love these realities and I don’t promote them but I respect the fact that they are part of Indian culture and my new life and something that I can do absolutely nothing about.  So I roll with it.  From the double standards in the “dress code” between the sexes, to the appropriate way that men can socialize but women can’t, and more…I know that I’m the odd duck out as a visitor to this country.  So I write about things from time to time that ‘get my goat’ but I try not to cause waves based on my personal beliefs and lifestyle…and I try to conform.

But today I’m hopping up on the soap box to complain a bit.  It turns out that Aishwarya Rai has been under attack by the industry and the media because she has yet to regain the physique she had prior to having her baby six months ago.  This woman, a beloved treasure in India and an appointed campaign ambassador for the United Nations’ girl child awareness project, is being harassed because some people feel she’s not representing Bollywood as she should be since gaining some weight.  The various articles I read cite concern over her baby weight as the industry ramps up for next week’s Cannes Film Festival, where she will represent Bollywood, even though she’s not promoting a film this year.  No one talks about how she’s been to Cannes for the Festival 10 times now, drawing mainstream attention to Bollywood better than almost anyone else to date (at least I believe this to be true because in the US and Europe where I’ve lived we see her more than anyone else in the press and she’s a household name).

For me, Aishwarya is the first Indian woman I personally can recall to so successfully open up my eyes to Bollywood.  While I was living in Spain, my daughter and I first discovered her when we rented her Hollywood film (debut I think) ‘The Mistress of Spices’ in 2005 or 2006 and fell mesmerized by those eyes and her beauty like virtually every other man and woman from Bangalore to Los Angeles. 

Yet at the end of the day, although she’s exquisitely beautiful and successful, she is still just a real 38 year old woman…three years younger than me and much thinner at the moment I’m sure since I’ve gained some weight the past few weeks (like real women do from time to time).  Real women definitely put on weight when pregnant.  It takes the most disciplined and determined woman on the planet not to.  Hell, it’s the one time in life when us girls are given carte blanche to crave and eat anything, at any hour and gain weight because “we’re eating for two” and that’s what’s healthy for the baby.  I remember going on holiday to Istanbul when I was three months pregnant with my daughter and I was still wearing 28” or 29” Levis, which I have never been able to squeeze into since that trip.  Like lots of Indian girls, I’m curvy, and try as I might I could never fit into them again because my body changed.  It happens!

Depending on an array of factors and conditions and feelings…those of us who care to lose the weight DO.  But every woman does it in her own time.  It is shameful that the media is creating “news” out of something so natural as a few extra pounds after having a baby.  I guess this wouldn’t be bothering me so much if I could remember the media doing the same for one of the Bollywood male heros.  But for the life of me I can’t remember reading so much trashy news about any of the male actors or sports stars.  I even went onto Google to try and dig something up but in the first few pages I DID find several articles about how a few Bollywood actresses were putting on weight (getting fat, not putting on weight for a film) but I found ZERO for the guys.

Are men off limits and have less pressure placed upon them when it comes to weight?  Although there is always a hunky leading man, every Indian film (Bollywood, Sandalwood…doesn’t matter) is chock-a-block full of male actors sporting their little or big bellies without seemingly a care in the world.  They also generally stay covered up in most scenes as well, in contrast to the ladies who bare their midriff, backs, shoulders and arms.

At the moment, the media uses concern over what the international community will think about Aishwarya at Cannes in order to push this news to the mass public.  But in my book that doesn’t make it right.  I’m looking at it from MY perspective now and to me it looks like this supposed “news” brings to light another nationwide double standard between men and women.  However, given the massively high number of married women I work with or acquaintances I know from around town who have gained weight after they married or after their children were born and their “duty to procreate” was done, it makes me think that this isn’t a general double standard but perhaps just a double standard for the entertainment industry?  If I had found even one or two trashy articles about a male lead being ridiculed for looking fat when I Googled it I would feel differently but I didn’t.  Just negative articles about women.

Perhaps I’m overreaching and the issue is as simple as insensitive cruelty by the media to capitalize at the expense of a new mom who is simply living her life…and her number one priority is not her weight at the moment?

That still doesn’t make it right.  I close my eyes and try to imagine what it must be like to have someone snap a completely unfavourable photo of me (you know, the ones we all immediately delete from our cameras because we look like we have a double chin, or bucky beaver teeth, or a big buddha belly or an arm looking so fat that it looks like a thigh).  Then to take that photo and tag it for malicious reasons and ill intent, parade it around to any willing newspaper and website instead of just deleting it because it’s a crap photo.  This might be the wine and 2am talking but it would be nice to see the tables turn one day on unethical paparazzi and media so they get a taste of their own medicine.

XOXO Angela

© 2012 Angela Carson  All rights reserved.  Do not publish or repost without author’s permission.

I started Angela's Bangalore from my hotel room on the very first day I moved to India in 2011, while struck with jet lag! It was my very first blog, the country's very 1st luxury travel blog. Now I'm rocking YouTube as @ExpatAngela, hope you'll subscribe.

This article has 22 comments

  1. Animes

    Well I support your thoughts about this matter, to be honest this issue about how Aishwarya should maintain her body or her fats bugs me and I am happy that someone wrote about it…And You hit the bull’s eye in this matter.
    As you may have known the media in India does highlight every little fact about any Stars it may be a Sportsperson by which I mean Cricketers or Movie stars. Seriously I just hate the way people here get so paranoid about things which wont affect their own lives. It’s ok to gossip well who doesn’t, but to make it an issue which even comes up on news channels….its Bad and worse when they circle around in social networking websites getting tagged.
    And whatever you said about that you being a visitor (and an odd duck lol) honestly many people think the same way you do in here atleast the sensible people in the society. Its totally weird and I never believe in the difference about men and women
    dress code…but yeah Its so prevalent over here….I dont know if i belong to a different era or something…or my parents adopted me from the west lol. I always wanted to cry out loud on these matters it totally makes me nauseated.
    And Thanks to you for writing out everything I have ever rebelled around in my life.
    Well I love everything about India… but all those things you have brought up are all true…and I seriously agree to all of them because i have faced them too But here you just can’t complain because this is How life goes on here…
    Ok i have to stop typing its almost 4.10am Well Love your Blog and your writings really make me feel good…ya spent like a whole night yesterday reading you blog its just gets interesting with every post. And I will be more than happy to contribute in anyway or facts for your articles. One last thing, love your gossip girl xoxo haha yeah i confess i love GG.
    So keep hitting the keyboard more..Will wait for the next article!!
    take care
    xoxo Animes!!

    • angela_carson

      hehe, I did TOTALLY steal that from GG 🙂 One of my best friends used to fly down from London to visit me in Barcelona and on our quiet nights we’d watch GG that we had both avoided and saved up to watch together… it is a homage to Michael 🙂

      Thanks so much for the overly generous comment. I’m a bit worried about this article because I’ve never written about a star or something that “gets my goat” but I have no direct experience with so let’s see… I really appreciate your encouraging words and the fact that my blog engaged you enough to take a chunk out of your afternoon to go through some of it is wonderful! Glad you can relate to it and that you get my jokes (odd duck, etc).

      Thanks again, please do continue to comment and share your two cents whenever you wish … you are very welcome here! –angela

      • Animes

        Wow you are really a vampire….Welcome to the league of People in India who sleep with European time zone hehe….
        I actually came to your blog from Google News Sports section with your Cheergirls Article in IPL…which really intrigued me to read more from your blog and i got addicted to it…I always wanted to clear my head about that matter of cheergirls because most of my friends did believe they were white chicks who wud do anything for money….But i did had a chance to have a talk with one of the girls in the event…But no one believed me that they were charming and warm hearted girls next door kind…. Well now I just Slam your Article on my friend’s face lol….

        • angela_carson

          You rock! I love it. Glad you had a chance to meet one of the cheer girls. There are genuinely sweet, outgoing, caring girls. …and yeah, I can’t sleep lately from stress. But I write happily at night so it’s good 🙂

  2. American Punjaban PI

    I agree completely. It’s just wrong to expect a womans body to go back to the way it was before a baby. It may or may not but given the emphasis this country puts on having babies, they have no reason to chastise her. I hear Indians here all the time talking about once a woman has babies she’s supposed to have a little extra weight. It’s acceptable in the community. I’ve even had Indians tell me that if uncles and aunties are overweight it doesn’t count. Ash is no different. She had a baby, I think these losers need to get over what she weighs. She’s not some sex goddess they can farm out for marketing purposes. This is just as bad as the crap Hollywood pulls. I hope Ash goes all Selma Hayek on them and refuses to disrespect her body by starving, etc. It would be good for Indian women everywhere just like Selma changed things for Latino women.

  3. shatranj

    here here! It’s sounds most idiot to me that when you are taking 24 hour 7 days a week to care for an infant that anyone should place expectations on you to run out and do anything else. If she had lost the baby weight they would have called her unhealthy! There is an old Hindi song, which translated means “People will always say something, the work of people is to comment on things!”

  4. yogi

    ash is just a victim of MEDIAIZATION ,i think putting on weight is a person’s own decision,on the other hand the question is ,”will it b acceptable for us if hrithik puts on a belly?i don’t think so.
    down south, it might b acceptable for an actor to have a belly but not in bollywood,irrespective of male or female.a big belly is unattractive and unhealthy ,doesn’t matter who has it?(m or f).for ash though c is a brand here,c never was a good actress.

  5. angela_carson

    For one, you just left a very lengthly comment 😉 So you are 😉

    I adore her, been a huge fan since 2006. She’s a household name all around the world.

    My issue is not her popularity but the inequality between expectations between men and women. Do you have anything you’d like to share about the actual article topic 🙂 ??????

    • angela_carson

      please check your mail… I sent you a heartfelt and very lengthy mail … you have been reading and commenting on my blog since Sept 2011 but lately you have been quite insulting to ME personally (not about the topic at hand) and I just sweetly reached out to you offline to explain why I deleted this one, out of respect for you as a long standing reader of my blog. –angela

  6. Angela

    Hello Angela..Im glad I found you..:) Well about the Aishwarya’s “weight” issue which the media seem to be obsessed with…Its enlightening to read a totally different opinion. I totally support you and i think people/media should try and see the larger picture…And be happy for her for having a beautiful baby girl rather than brood over the fact that she didnt lose the baby weight..So what if she didn’t, its her life not yours, her body not yours. And what disgust me most is how the media tends to highlight the most unflattering news of whatever comes to their plate, whether it be about Bollywood stars or any such famous person. If a girl (not only the famous ones) loses weight she’s unhealthy and termed anorexic and is a bad example for young girls ,if she gains weight she’s fat and that is unhealthy too..:D
    In my opinion media should turn its focus on news as in “real issues” such as child abuse, issues on girl child discrimination, molestations, rapes etc. I dont think anyone with the right mind would feel Aishwarya’s weight is more important than such disturbing issues which seem to be happening in every corner of the country. Inequality between men and women in India?? Gosh..!! I dont even wanna go there..:(
    Best regards and a pleasant day ahead..:)

    • angela_carson

      I couldn’t agree more 🙂 Thanks for the kind words about ‘finding me’…I hope you will continue to read the blog in the future. –angela

  7. Animes

    @Anil Sir with all respect I found your Comment totally out of topic..and Actually on the contrary your observations about “The Aishwarya Rai Bachan” is totally wrong. I am not writing this to contradict your point of view but I just wanted to clear the air about How Popular She is? even if this is out of topic…..first of all Angela the writer herself knows her from 2006…..damn she was in Spain if I am not wrong and she is American. And If you talk about the article it was nearly published in all the magazines and very well known tabloids….just google Aishwarya rai and you will find it on the main page……
    And about South India….hmmm I agree they are not fans of bollywood but they are great fans of Aishwarya Rai…FYI Her first movie was a Tamil movie and her second released movie was a Blockbuster that too was in Tamil “Jeans” … and recently her movie with the South Indian “MegaStar Rajnikant” Enthiran was a blockbuster too….So yeah She is damn popular in south India…. And for other regions like Bengal…haha She is a Bengali by birth..how do you think she wont be popular there……..
    Ok I rest my case But for God’s sake She was a former Miss World….how cud’nt she be popular….even my friend in brazil fans about her even if she speaks only Portuguese…. no offence I love Angela’s Article about this…which concentrates about the inequality about women in our beautiful country…we should all support her………lots of love for A.
    xoxo
    Animes!!

    • angela_carson

      I love the XOXO, made me giggle (go Gossip Girl) 🙂

      Thanks for chiming in. Yes, I was in Spain when I fell coo coo for her. Virtually everyone in the US knows who she is as well as western Europe (I can’t speak for the rest of EU, my friends were mostly from around The Med Sea and UK. Anyway, I just wish I could find even 10% of the trashy articles written about MEN. But sadly no… the media likes picking on the girls. XOXO

      • Animes

        hehe….go GG!! I was just watching the Finale of this season 😉 #chuck&blairforever…i feel quiet feminishh using xoxo but who cares loveGG…hehe

        And yeah Ash is popular like no other actress or woman in India is…so she is down in south america there is a clan and also in japan and korea…well i love making friends all over the world kinda awesome right!! 😉
        I will definitely inform you when i find one article about men hehe…poor girls always the soft target 🙁
        waiting for your next article:) xoxo

    • Animes

      hmmm… ok what should we call it then equality..idk why you have so much optimism about the fact that women should stay in the kitchen and the men should grow facial hair….may be you are talking about some other century and i am talking about some other….And Who really defined traditional Indian men and women..I dont see where is the text book about that if you dont believe in internet or its gossip columns….I am an Indian and I never have been traditional till now so I am less Indian… but yeah there is a vast or huge huge population which is not literate here…but atleast the literate ones can put their views…..And its no gossip anymore when it comes to our stars…..if you have not known, Aishwarya’s marraige was being telecasted live on our Main Indian News networks and you say its gossip…..Its India where people can make difference but they just ease off saying they are indian and we cant do this…….I hate this attitude of ours…we have our own Indian standard time which is half an hour late bcoz we made it this way…..ok i am sorry if i being aggressive but yeah I see my country in a different way…where women have same power as men…and where west meets east……Atleast in a 100 years it will be…i will wait for it

    • Jake Varghese

      @Animes sorry to contradict you but Aishwarya is not Bengali. She belongs to the Bunt community from the Mangalore region in Karnataka. So she is actually a south Indian. Shilpa Shetty is another Bollywood actress from the same community.

  8. Animes

    Blair shows up at the casino at the end of the episode where chuck was with jack….then yeah it was the finale of season 5 🙂

    • angela_carson

      ahhhhh that explains the Serena train drama, the annulment drama, etc… had no idea it was finale 🙁 Thanks 🙂 “Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore…your one source for all the news on GG” hehe

      • Animes

        “Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore…your one source for all the news on GG” hehe you are just awesome!! ? wow i found a new partner for GG in you 😉
        kinda sad that its over..will have to wait till Fall..:( And i hate that Annulment issue and serena going back to being a b…:(
        sorry for making this to a GG portal now 🙂

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