The women of India are striking, the luster of their dark eyes, the smooth polish of their skin. The way they carry themselves – with strength, steadiness, implying inner resources (which it seems evident they use, considering their outer resources are often few).
I may be generalizing, but so do they. Every woman I talk to (whether they are at my guesthouse or asking me to pose for a photo with them on the street) tells me how beautiful I am. The first time, I was flattered. As it continued, I realized, it’s because I am white.
The business of super-toxic, endocrine-disrupting Michael-Jackson-style skin whitening cream here is booming.
They can’t see their unique beauty.
Once a palace guard in the glowing city of Jaisalmer told me he would gun George Bush down if he could find him. Aside from that exception, Indian people are thrilled by the fact that I am American. Many have not heard of Germany, France or New Zealand, but they know America. Television provides dreams to the impoverished, and an American seems like a possible ticket out of their nightmare.
Media is infecting the minds of more than American women, dreaming of emaciation and unattainable perfection. It’s angering to see American’s adolescent girls striving for sexiness over everything else, but it’s almost worse to watch people who have so little wasting their money and time trying to be light-skinned and Western.
It’s not surprising to me that we equate goodness with beauty. I do it all the time. (Here’s a study if you doubt.)
What has struck me on this trip, is how loosely beauty is defined. I inherited light skin from the Hungarian side of my family, and I spend lots of time outside making sure I am always brown. Here, my natural pale state is beautiful. (Blows my mind, actually.)
Also (and this is a big one), being curvy is the standard of perfection here. Hollywood hasn’t yet infiltrated that national beauty standard.
Not skeletons, but round. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely paradigm-shifting.
I must bow here to the hero of women’s bodies everywhere – Eve Ensler, the guru of channeling our collective body-hating thoughts into a river of eventual self-love. She chooses the stomach as the example of her own body self-hate in The Good Body.
When a group of ethnically diverse, economicallydisadvantaged women in the United States wasrecently asked about the one thing they would change in their lives if they could, the majority of these women said they would lose weight. Maybe I identify with these women because I have bought into the idea that if my stomach were flat, then I would be good, and I would be safe. I would be protected. I would be accepted, admired, important, loved.
Here’s the week’s new mantra, also from Sainted Eve:
I am stepping off the capitalist treadmill. I am going to take a deep breath and find a way to survive not being flat or perfect. I am inviting you to join me, to stop trying to be anything, anyone other than who you are. I was moved by women in Africa who lived close to the earth and didn’t understand what it meant to not love their body. I was lifted by older women in India who celebrated their roundness. I was inspired by Marion Woodman, a great Jungian analyst, who gave me confidence to trust what I know. She has said that “instead of transcending ourselves, we must move into ourselves.” Tell the image makers and magazine sellers and the plastic surgeons that you are not afraid. That what you fear the most is the death of imagination and originality and metaphor and passion.
Then be bold and LOVE YOUR BODY. STOP FIXING IT.
IT WAS NEVER BROKEN.