Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Woman's Worth

Even as a teenager, the best thing I liked about my grandmother was her soft, squishy, plump lap. She would groan under my weight as I settled in and leaned back onto her bulky stomach, but as she wrapped her chubby arms around me, I would feel the loose flesh of her neck on the side of my face. I cannot remember a time when my grandma was not big and soft.

It never occurred to me that she was not beautiful or that she should have had non-flabby arms or slender thighs.

To me, she was someone who made yummy things to eat (the best coconut obbattu in the whole world) and beautiful art out of cotton and shiny paper; braided young girls' hair with intricately set flowers (moggina jade) for portraits or dance recitals; had the gumption to yell at my mother and my aunts and uncles; someone who never addressed her husband by name; never ever took off her mangalasutra (even when it needed to be repaired, she held on to it while the goldsmith fixed a loose hook); who was proud that she and her husband had managed to bring up five children on a shoestring budget and found good spouses for all of them; someone who took joy in the fact that she was a grandmother many times over.

There is something absolutely calming in staring at the face of someone that has been through a whole life and has come out at the other end of it without frayed edges and with the center intact.

By the time I'm her age when she passed away, I shall count myself incredibly lucky if I could achieve a semblance of the kind of relationships she had with her children and the comfort she felt in her skin.

But this is not the message girls growing up get these days. We've all heard and read about (and can see for ourselves) how the media is inundated with ads exhorting women to become fairer, put on fewer wrinkles, have sticks for arms and legs, banish gray hair and have flat stomachs but full breasts. The engines of the $200 billion cosmetics industry run on these aspirations.

Which is why it was somewhat shocking and gratifying to see this ad for Dove in Time Magazine yesterday. True, Dove still sells shampoos and conditioners, and face and body lotions, but the message of this pro-age campaign and the message of their Campaign for Real Beauty effort are ones that resonate.

A woman's worth measured by the number of wrikles she has earned, not by the number of wrinkles masked; a woman's worth measured by flab acquired by years of living, not flab supressed by years of poor eating; a woman's worth measured by the streaks of gray in her hair collected over a lifetime of ups and downs, not by how successfully they are covered up.

One can hope.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Sujatha, Thanks for sharing the dove proage campaign links. Ironic how a campaign that is basically targetting its potential customer(like all advertising does) is really helping to bust the myth that all women must look like barbie to be considered beautiful. What a shame it was taken off the air.Thank God for the internet...

Cindy said...

Beautifully said!!

Tharini said...

The ad was beautiful. And so rightly said about growing older. Yes, there's hope..

Sridevi said...

Beautifully said Sujatha!Iam with you on growing old gracefully and being happy with your body as you age.

bird's eye view said...

This was a lovely post, as always. The first blog I ever wrote was about my ajji ( still up at we-are-like-this-only.blogspot.com), and really, it is amazing to see someone go through so many changes in life and come out values and morale intact.

iamyuva said...

woman or men- worth is measured by #people they acquired during their life...

interesting you mentioned about dove's pro-age ad-- did you know its banned.. some media analysts have accused the company of pandering to women in an attempt to sell products.

Dove's global survey--"only 2% of the 3000 women surveyed believe they are beautiful. Nine percent describe themselves as "attractive" while 29% described themselves as "average." Sixty-three percent of respondents felt that women were expected to be more attractive than women of their mothers' generation." and now Dove launched the Self-Esteem Fund to provide money to programs and companies that seek to boost the self-esteem among women.

Pradeep said...

Hi Sujatha, returning to your blog after quite some time. It looks a lot different now. How have you been doing? By the way you are in the US now?
What you say in this post is so true. Ads create a desire in our subliminal consciousness, which slowly works to change our priorities itself. By nature, I take all ads with lots of salt.

Gauri said...

Beautiful post !!

aging gracefully - is something I totally believe in too.

It is a favourite dictum of mine - Don't fight it, go with the flow and go gracefully.

Hira said...

loved it....

enfoured said...

beautifully said.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Hi Sujatha - Nice post. I saw these huge billboards around Times Square with the pictures from the Dove campaign, but only put 2&2 after reading your post.

Those billboards have disappeared for the past few months, so I am not sure if Dove decided to change advertising agencies or something.

Btw, I am sure you must have seen the recent brouhaha over Shah Rukh's commercials for men's whitening cream (? Fair & Handsome) Another post-worthy story, for sure.

BPSK

Sujatha said...

Anon, I wonder what the controversy was. The site just says, here's the ad we could not show on TV.

Cindy, Tharini, Sridevi, Gauri, Hira, N, thanks. :)

Yuva, thanks for the info. Wonder how this can be construed as "pandering".

Hi Pradeep! Yes, back in the US now. Sorry, I tried to get to as many people as I could before I left, but all of a sudden there seemed to be no time left at all in the end. Good to see you here. Will send you mail.

BPSK, thanks and welcome to my blog. You have a really funny blog. Enjoyed reading some of your posts. :)

Taz Snow said...

Wonderful...! And it's time people woke and figured out that they are the ones to decide their own worth!
My granmom always used to say that if you are comfortable with who and what you are, and you are going about Life doing and being right and good, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or says. She used to liken "social commentary" to the barking of street dogs...you just learn to ignore! ;o) Man, I sure miss her...

Sujatha said...

M, Wise woman, your ajji. :)

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