We were always obsessed with Aishwarya’s weight

Published: May 14, 2012

This media hype concerning celebrities’ appearance is far from new, and similar attacks have been made on male actors too. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Ever since Aishwarya Rai-Bachan appeared in public having retained some of her pregnancy weight, the internet has been ablaze with unflattering and intrusive comments for the actress:

Fit babe to fat aunty.

Hot chick to mother hen.

Beti-B flab.

Aishwarya shocks us with her double chin.

These are just some of the remarks floating around about the former Miss World.

The web is inundated with such news about the extra pounds this glamour goddess has put on. For a quick preview of the sort of thing circulating on the web, watch the video below:

Amongst all this criticism, NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted a different perspective:

barkha dutt ‏ @BDUTT

Utterly gross & sexist commentary in sections of the media on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Makes me sick with anger at how we deconstruct women

barkha dutt ‏ @BDUTT

Many asking how it’s sexist if women are the ones remarking on Aishwarya. My answer: Some women are sexist just as some men are Feminists

barkha dutt ‏ @BDUTT

Mean scrutiny on Aishwarya makes me think about false constructs of beauty. Now its about the Emaciated woman instead of an Emancipated one

In my opinion, however, while media coverage might be infringing on Aishwarya’s privacy, it is far from sexist. Aishwarya is a former beauty queen and is often hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world. She has always conformed to the weight standards dictated by media gurus and molded by public opinion – which is borderline anorexic.

Why should we look at the earlier commentary on her weight as acceptable if mentioning her pregnancy weight now makes us “sexist”?

The talented and intelligent Aishwarya has often been described as merely “beautiful”. Please recall that she is a former beauty queen. One can even go as far as to say that she has built her fame on a sort of beauty that conformed to the weight standards that society has dictated. If she is no longer the same, is it unfair to comment?

Are beauty pageants that disqualify women when they are overweight, short, married or pregnant a good example for gender rights activists? If objectifying women is a concern for feminists the world over, my question is, is the model on the billboard or ramp not being objectified?

Most of Aishwarya’s movies were commercial flicks that utilised her charm for publicity, and much of her achievement is sadly a consequence of her extraordinary attractiveness.

Bollywood’s mainstream actresses have to do item numbers, wear revealing outfits, and perform ‘bold’ scenes simply for their movies to sell. This skin show seems to have become acceptable but it does come with its consequences.

If super thin actresses are ‘sexy’, why is declaring a fat actress as ‘unappealing’ an issue? Doesn’t this reek of double standards? If we want to get rid of the latter, doesn’t it make sense to first get rid of the former?

Barkha Dutt retorted to my arguments:

barkha dutt ‏ @BDUTT

@AmmaraTiger @LaHaq sexuality issues raises complex questions of male gaze or empowerment. But these comments are hideous

Firstly, Dutt confused sexuality with gender issues. Secondly, it is not just the male gaze that detects body fat as unattractive. Thirdly, Aishwarya isn’t disempowered by her body fat. Can fat people not be powerful?

In fact, she is a perfect example of someone gaining wealth, influence and fame through her physical appeal and hard work. There is a reason why Mamata Bannerjee, Lata Mangeshkar or Kiran Bedi don’t get scrutinised for their sinking sex appeal. Even actresses like Konkona Sen, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das are free of such scrutiny.

Former supermodel Aminah Haq also joined the Twitter discussion:

Aaminah Haq ‏ @LaHaq

@BDUTT @ammaratiger seen so many ppl post that article about Ash lately that I find it despicable how obsessed we are about her weight???

Aaminah Haq ‏ @LaHaq

@AmmaraTiger @bdutt yes but does not mean that she should be flogged if she’s taken some time off to be a normal person & enjoy her child.

This media hype concerning celebrities’ appearance is far from new, and similar attacks have been made on male actors too; Salman Khan’s receding hairline, Aamir Khan’s forehead botox, Himesh Reshammiya’s reported hair transplant and so on are all examples of how people have attacked the appearance of those in the limelight. But sadly it is usually women who suffer harsher critique.

A predatory media assault recently was unleashed upon Manisha Koirala a few months back.  The A-list star of the 90s, with thorny relationships and protracted alcoholism, was seen drunk in unbecoming attire after a party. No sympathetic nudge came from the so-called feminists then, perhaps because post-natal weight is common, whereas an ugly, drunken stupor isn’t.

Aishwariya’s chubbiness has strung a sensitive chord among empathetic (read chubby) mothers. Her’s may not just be pregnancy weight as she has been gradually gaining weight over the last few months.

While public opinion should be no hurdle in Aishwariya’s ascent to being a super mom, this recent attention she is getting isn’t due to motherhood, but rather due to super stardom. Aishwariya’s weight and looks have always been a big part of her career – why should critics stay silent now?

Follow Ammara on Twitter @AmmaraTiger

Ammara Ahmad

Ammara Ahmad

The editor of Viewpoint Online. She enjoys blogging and tweets @ammarawrites (twitter.com/ammarawrites)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Aishwariya who ??????????Recommend

  • YLQ

    The title should be ” Pakistanis were always obsessed with Indian stars ”

    Please do not try to cash in on Barkha dutt’s name. No one knows you Author, so using Dutt’s name here and reproducing her tweets to you only comes across as opportunistic.

    Lame article !Recommend

  • SAJ!

    how many minutes of your life did you waste writing this article??Recommend

  • Tamreez

    “Aishwariya’s weight and looks have always been a big part of her career – why should critics stay silent now?”

    Ammara, this is definitely a thoughtprovoking question. My response would be that pregnancy and motherhood are really difficult phases in a woman’s life (helped somewhat by having money and support, but still). 1 in 5 women suffer from postnatal depression (while 2 in 3 suffer from short term postnatal blues). While this may not seem like a big deal, many women suffer in silence and I would assume celebrities even more so because they are under the media’s harsh gaze. This sort of harsh commentary is particularly damaging and unfair. Young mothers need society’s empathy and support, regardless of whether they were previously thin celebrities or not.

    So critics should stay silent now because the harm they can cause to a woman’s emotional health and self esteem in her postnatal period can potentially be very damaging.Recommend

  • http://blog.asimandtamreez.co.uk Tamreez

    @YLQ you may be overly impressed with Barkha Dutt if you think the author is cashing in on her name. Oh and you missed Aminah Haq. Isn’t she also famous?? To me it just seemed relevant to bring in the tweets to showcase the social media discourse on the issue.

    @SAJ! it would have been better to back up your harsh comment with critique of the content of the article. While I may disagree with the writer’s viewpoint, I think she raises valid questions about judging (or not judging) those who adhere to beauty ideals, what constitutes sexism, our celebrity obsessed culture and so forth.Recommend

  • Zamir Malik

    Bla Bla Bla…………and more Bla Bla Bla……………………………Recommend

  • Ataullah

    I haven’t seen anyone tweeting about fatherinlaw amitabhs looks. Definitely sexist. It makes the woman into a statistic. I expect more from desi people who have had respect for the woman traditionally. As the ancient sanskrit saying prescribes: Yatra naryastu pujyanta, tatra ramantay devataha.” or, where the women are held in high respect there resides divinity.

    No wonder we are in an unholy mess.Recommend

  • purple pada

    aur bhi gham hein zamanay mein aishwarya k wazan k siwa!Recommend

  • donku

    seriously, who care?? Recommend

  • sana Choudhry

    really who has time for thinking about Ash’s weight………Recommend

  • Thanks

    Thanks for highlighting such an important issue. In Pakistan useless issues are being given lime light while most important issues like this one are ignored.

    This is the first and foremost important issue of whole Pakistani nation. Thanks for giving it the attention it deserved.Recommend

  • http://pakistan101@gmail.com Bollywood lover

    Funny- everyone thinks it is a non-issue and waste of time, while everyone is taking out the time and commenting on the post – ha! And if you didnt read it cuz it is a waste of time- WHY THE HECK ARE U COMMENTING!Recommend

  • http://Omerkhalid007@yahoo.com Welcome

    Nice, entertaining blog. Bollywood stars, their looks and gossip are given too much importance in Pak. We need to critically analyze our public opinion …Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/#!/iQuoteWhateverr toobahatif

    guys guys guys.. not every article is for a purpose there is something known as “Entertainment” ever heard of that.. Yes thats what this article was meant for..
    i am a regular critique of ETribune but its not right to kill every article they post cause not all are stupid.. some are good..
    Plus there is no harm in Pakistanis writing bout Indian.. accept it they are celebrities and dont make it a shame to discuss ..
    I am sure all of you have watched those dramas they air and those 3 ghantay ki movies so dont act all classy on this articleRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/007Zone Habibies

    Pakistan ka pehla aur aakhri masla: Aishwarya ka weight ! :)Recommend

  • Bam Margera

    This was a useless article, most of Pakistanis don’t watch Bollywood a few do.

    This article gives the impression to Indians that we’re obsessed with Indian movies.

    I just watched the Avengers and it was an epic movie, I haven’t seen an Indian movie in maybe 4 or more years, and I know many of my compatriots who haven’t either( at least teenagers).

    P.S Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba gave birth to more children than Ashwarya Rai yet they still look hot.

    Heck even Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen are mothers as well and they’re really hot.

    I guess it’s a cultural thing.Recommend

  • Ammar

    People saying its a non issue and waste of article should calm down.
    First of all nothing is a NON ISSUE. Blogging/reporting is not always about Politics and social problems. There is always a thing called ENTERTAINMENT SECTION in every newspaper/website.
    Just read this article in ENTERTAINMENT section sense and give author a break.
    If you think its a non issue why have you clicked on it in first place ? even after reading its title which is quite obvious.

    To the article,

    Great article and yes you raised some great points. Commenting on a public figure’s attire etc , first of all is not breach of privacy. Hello? he/she is a public figure. When she can come in front of the camera/public all the time then people have the right to comment as well. This is not sexism. Recommend

  • Ammar

    plus Pakistanis are so obsessed with social/political discussion that they think anyone reporting/blogging about something else is a NON Issue.
    FYI Pakistanis, you can write down a 1000 blogs about a social problem and it won’t be solved unless and until you actually do something about it.
    (but having said that I don’t undermine the power of blogging and social media, so don’t get me wrong here)Recommend

  • tdragonrashdi

    @Bollywood lover:
    Omg omg were you just conceived? It’s called trolling .Go back to your caveRecommend

  • Gary Robinson

    An excellent and thought-provoking article! In my own opinion actors and actresses know full well what they are getting into when they begin their careers in the film industry, which is all about money and profit! A certain image has always been promoted in the movies. I find it odd that feminists deride criticism of actresses rather than the industry itself. Is it really sexism or a kind of commercial exploitation that is the norm and always has been. Many of these people are very wealthy having attained fortunes far beyond the average worker. I feel no pity for them. As for privacy I have long suspected they secretly crave the attention: the greater the buzz the more money they make. The dominant mythology of our times is the cinema industry. Anyone who profits from it is fair game in my opinion. Great article!!!Recommend

  • http://Amir786@hotmail.com Amir Khan

    Good one! Btw did I just hear smone say Indian flicks r nt popular in Pak!? Hillarious joke! Bollywood is as popular in Pak as India! Way more than Hollywood… Just check the amount of press coverage Indian films get… Nd don’t pee in ur pants at everything Indian…Recommend

  • http://Amna_Anwar@rocketmail.com Truth

    Why do all you trolls think only general Kiyani, suicide bombings and load-shedding makes a gud read- ths is a blog- save ur rants fr the op-Ed… Wana read smthing serious? Go to the foreign policy association website…….bahRecommend

  • Taha zaki

    Pakistan ka pehla aur aakhri masla: Aishwarya ka weight !Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/kamrankhan Kamran Khan

    There is a difference between media reporting and media bullying. Of course, magazines and tabloids use that latter form of marketing to reel in people like you. To say that it’s “okay” to bully a woman because it was apparently “okay” to objectify her is probably the worst logical argument I’ve ever heard.

    Female celebrities aren’t immortal, eternal objects of beauty. Aishwarya might have banked on her looks, but that doesn’t give the media a free ticket to now bully her.Recommend

  • Hira Z

    When 140 characters are cognitive content to write article . Twitter WINS!Recommend

  • BRUISED INDIAN

    Barkha Dutt; Seriously? ee gads!Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    It must be fun having everyone going crazy about you due to ur looks but when it goes away (which is eventually does) you better have something else to offer!Recommend

  • Amjad

    @Parvez: What Ashwariya ? Is she some Indian actress- what do I care about her weight when I’m Pakistani?Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    Well, when she got married, a leading newspaper in Pakistan printed the picture on the front page, giving the matter utmost importance. Couldn’t it be fixed somewhere on the entertainment pages? When her child was born, everyone was going ga-ga over seeing the baby (come on it was only a human baby, not a Martian), now that she has gained weight, she has become the talk of the town again. I simply hate this frenzied fanaticism for celebrities. We have better things in life, don’t we?Recommend

  • http://khan-baba707@yahoo.com Good One

    info-tainmentRecommend

  • Nobody

    @sana Choudhry:
    Apparently you do if you clicked on the link. Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    Bla Bla Bla …

    What a waste of time and space … !Recommend

  • Parvez

    I confess, that now I have read the article but ….. Ammara Ahmad…. why O why ?????
    I think Ash is fabulous and if it wasn’t for her this blog would be completely meaningless. Recommend

  • http://anamkhan1@yahoo.com Anam

    Everyone using blah blah needs to improve his/her vocab… the blog is about weight issues, motherhood, stardom and those showing attitude here must be over-weight enuf to lose interest in everything about thinness… stay fat all u losers…Recommend

  • http://Nadeemrocks@hotmail.com Nadeem Bajwa

    I think Ash is a huge star and her motherhood and new weight has generated a very interesting debate… now lets see if Reema or Meera cn get rid of the baby fat faster…the competition is on!Recommend

  • http://Nadeemrocks@hotmail.com Nadeem Bajwa

    @Parvez: I agree… but the blog is constructively debating her newly founded weight… not dismissing her statureRecommend

  • http://AbdullahHabbib@hotmail.com Habib

    @Ahmed HM: Get a life now- will u- its Page 3 stuff-stay out if u dislike it…Recommend

  • sunflower

    ugh ugh ugh ok i admit i read da whole article simply to see whts da end :PPRecommend

  • Ahmed HM

    @Habib:
    And more bla bla bla …

    So what pissed you off so much? :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Nadeem Bajwa:
    ….construcively debating her newly found weight. I still shake my head and ask…… but why??? Thanks for trying to help me out. One thing for sure if ET didn’t come up with stuff like this, it would be no fun at all. Recommend

  • http://AbhimanyamSingh67@yahoo.com Hello Pakistan

    everyone who thought ths isnt big
    the reputed little Guardian
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/15/aishwarya-rai-body-india-women

    And the Indians are talking bout it
    and this is the top blog here
    shame on u all fr reading lolRecommend

  • http://AbhimanyamSingh67@yahoo.com Hello Pakistan

    @Parvez: she is an important beauty standard in south asia…women look upto here i guess…Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Hello Pakistan:
    Then why not Nandita Dass, she is amazingly beautiful, can act and is inteligent as well.Recommend

  • Faizan

    Having good writing skills alone is nothing, it should be blended with intellectualism, you waste 5 minutes of my life seriously! Recommend

  • http://Amna_Anwar@rocketmail.com Truth

    Nandita DaS preety? Ws that a joke… Conventional beauty standards dictate a fairer , blue eyed , tall , thin lass prety nt sm good actress wid brains.. .. In fact nandas brains render her unappealing…Recommend

  • http://AbhimanyamSingh67@yahoo.com Hello Pakistan

    @Faizan:
    I was waiting for this blog to die but seems like its immortal cuz of ur interest levels… reading the headline on Ash and her weight…did u actually expect smthing intellectual or just got drawn in by the pictures…? Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Truth:
    Someone said : Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. While my grandmother, bless her, said ‘ Beta, today beauty comes out of a bottle’, worth thinking about.Recommend

  • Z

    Lamest article ever!Recommend

  • http://AbdullahHabbib@hotmail.com Habib
  • wise counsel

    she delivered a baby, and has taken a time out from her busy shcedule and has put up her feet for some quiet and peace and relxation and baby and family and in the process some weight has been addded.give her tme to regain her stature for her second stint.come now..everyone needs a break.Why should one discuss this?Recommend

  • Dumbledore

    You’re making this issue way more complex than it has to be. No feminist will tell you that it’s okay if remarks towards a woman appearance in a positive light are OK, but that when they get critical that they’re suddenly sexist. What they will say is that neither is OK. Why do men, and even woman who buy into patriarchy have any right to comment on a woman’s appearance, positive or not? They DON’T. Deep rooted cultural and religious notions of women being treated as objects makes it so and it’s not okay. That’s what makes it acceptable for people to go out of their way and casually offer judgement on whether or not so-and-so woman is hot or not. Recommend