Recently a tweet by Buzzfeed India editor Rega Jha took the internet by storm, for all the right reasons. I thought it was my moral obligation to take to Facebook to voice my opinion. After careful deliberation and putting up the following status on Facebook, I want to try and be more precise when I write you this letter.
The original status was:
Although it’s great to give Pakistan some sort of consolation for not winning the World Cup, I don’t think that consolation should have come in the form of selling out our girls. I read your tweet and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why you or anyone would make such a statement. I think its safe to say that in your line of work as an editor for Buzzfeed India you are made to curate enough pieces to know a little more about the world. Its honestly a shame that you think you are one to set beauty standards but I would just like you to speak for yourself. You don’t know me and I don’t know you and I’m not saying I’m prettier than a Pakistani girl but all I am saying is that you are no one to decide that. The next time you want to go around making statements that are both sexist and superficial, I suggest you proofread your own post. Also on a day when patriotism bleeds blue, thanks for calling us ugly.
The amended letter is:
I wasn’t bothered by the fact that you called India ugly, I am patriotic but I promise this is more selfish than it actually should be. See, humans have this tendency of reacting more when things are made personal and I have a feeling that the only reason your Tweet blew out of proportion was because it wasn’t really about India, it was about me and her. Yes, you targetted me personally when you took it upon yourself to decide whether I was ugly or not and I just want to tell you that I do not think I’m ugly (at the risk of sounding conceited, don’t we spend our entire lives trying to love ourselves in order to be able to say this? So there, I said it). What bothered me was that your statement would have been absolutely insignificant if you did not hold some sort of online presence but sadly for all of us, you do. You misused your power and that’s what’s worrying. I understand that what you said might have been a joke or just written in the spur of the moment but it was wrong on more levels than one.
Mothers spend endless hours to ensure that their daughters don’t grow up with body image issues. They spend all this time telling their daughters that they are beautiful, that their body is beautiful, that their complexion — dark, fair or the myriad hues in between — is beautiful, and most importantly, they tell their daughters that how they appear on the outside is insignificant because it is what’s on the inside that actually counts.
You know why your comment hit so close to home in a country like India? It wasn’t because of the age old love-hate relationship between India and Pakistan, it wasn’t the fact that you were “one of our own” and it most definitely wasn’t because its true and that’s why it hurt so much.
The only reason it hit so close to home is because this idealised scenario of what a mother says to their daughter growing up isn’t true in our country. The picture perfect mother daughter scenario mentioned above isn’t true at all, at least not for the girls in our country. Girls in India are made to believe that fairness creams are the way forward or no one is going to marry you. They are made to lose that extra pound and drop-out of school and look their best all the time even though all that house-work and husband devotion can get pretty exhausting.
So the real reason your comment was taken out of context was because we have this deep rooted issue which is that we as a country are not strong or “modern” enough to take such comments lightly at the moment. We have not yet reached that level of development which would allow your comment to be taken lightly and that’s not your fault or mine or hers.
On a day when India won one battle, the over reaction to your comment ensured the expose of a body image issue that India is struggling with. From one girl to another… In a country where it is both a curse and a necessity to be beautiful, the importance of aesthetics is an issue that we are still yet to conquer, till then it’s too soon to joke about this.
Ria Sharma is the founder of Make Love Not Scars, a youth driven NGO that works in all aspects of rehabilitation in the field of acid attacks in India. Ria finished her schooling from pathways World School in Gurgaon and has a BA (Hons) degree in fashion from Leeds College Of Art in the United Kingdom. A young individual that believes in the power of justice, the strength of the human spirit and the next generation that is ready to help eradicate social stigma. Determined to bring about change, the term impossible is just another opportunity in her opinion.