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Debunking Kashmiri Beauty Standards: Rosy Cheeks, Good Height

Debunking Kashmiri Beauty Standards; For a long time now the portrayal of Kashmiri women through Indian cinema has been that of desirable

By Babra Wani
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Debunking Kashmiri Beauty Standards: Rosy Cheeks, Good Height

Ground Report | New Delhi: Debunking Kashmiri Beauty Standards; For a long time now the portrayal of Kashmiri women through Indian cinema has been that of desirable, innocent and having irresistible beauty. Women are shown clad in pherans, wearing beautiful jewellery carrying flowers in a basket and dancing on shikaras. Movies like "Kashmir ki Kali" and "Mission Kashmir" have romanticised the stereotype of rosy cheeks, fair skin and lean body associated with Kashmiri women.

Having these characteristics, good height, lean body, fair complexion, is how beauty is defined here. Whenever the manzinmyour (matchmaker) brings prospective Rishtaas to Kashmiri households, they look for a sajwuin koor, which means a girl who looks good. And by looking good they mean the ones who fit into these beauty standards. Unfortunately for Kashmiri women folk and girls conforming to these beauty standards becomes mandatory, because of the obvious societal and cultural pressures.

Young girls are introduced to the world of unrealistic beauty standards, making them question their own appearance. Consequently, they fall prey to absurd body shaming and eventually their self-esteem is affected, making them vulnerable, emotionally and mentally.

" I am not beautiful."

19 years old Saba ( name changed) is in the third year of her college. She admits, she has always been insecure about her looks, " I think I'm not beautiful" says Saba, " People make fun of me because I am skinny. They tell me to do overeating to gain some weight, otherwise the wind will carry me away." Despite being "fair" enough and "rosy-cheeked" Saba is low on confidence because of how people treat her. " I look at beautiful girls and I feel I shouldn't exist," says a visibly dejected Saba.

This is not just the story of one Saba, there are countless women and young girls who experience it every day. In Kashmir in particular the beauty standards and the definition of beauty is biased. Rafi Ahmed Wani, 55, is a father to two young girls and he says, " I always see people, men and women alike, looking for a perfect girl,", he adds," I have seen men who themselves are not perfect, looking for fair, tall and healthy girls,". He says the way people look at girls and women through fake beauty standards, is unacceptable. "As if having big eyes and red cheeks define those girls," he says.

"I'm criticised for being dusky."

22 years old Ifra (name changed), who is pursuing her master's degree, told MERC Times, " I've always been told that I'm dusky and I cannot wear certain colours because they won't suit me." She explains, " My friends and other people around me tell me if you were a little fair every colour would look good on you," she adds, " But since I am dusky and fat, I have to wear loose-fitting and bright coloured clothes."

Ifra says that in Kashmir only fair skin is considered beautiful, " I often think if Allah had made me blonde and thin, no one would have shamed me," she confesses. Ifra says she receives a lot of criticism from "manzinmyours" because of her complexion.

These beauty standards have created an image, which is somehow comparing Kashmiri women with the "hoors". Ironically most of the time these beauty standards change very conveniently. For fat people, the beauty standard is to loose weight, for thin people beauty it is to gain weight. For dark complexion, it is a light skin tone and for white-skinned, it is to have a bit tanned skin. These beauty standards are endlessly demanding, and most of the times no one fits in them. This whole process of beauty and its standards is exhausting and frustrating, mentally, emotionally and physically.

Hudaiba Jeelani, 23, a student of Islamic University has her own experience to share," I'm skinny and short in height so according to people I can neither wear heels nor jeans because they won't suit me ." She adds, " It is so disturbing and frustrating you know, people call me unhealthy just because I'm thin. They question my every choice and dictate to me what to do, what to wear and what not to."

According to her the beauty standards in Kashmir are unpredictable and unexplainable. In Kashmir ironically it is the women of the older generation who talk about the paradigm of beauty. They keep defining some superficial beauty which puts girls under tremendous pressure and they start having body image issues. Adding to the misery is social media, which has these beauty filters and models, who make young girls more insecure and questionable about their appearance.

"Don't trade your authenticity for approval."

26 years old Insha Rashid has faced the pressure of fitting into these beauty standards almost all her age. And her experiences have made her so strong that nothing affects her anymore. " Someone very close, asked me to loose weight, to look beautiful," says Insha, "I was always told weird stuff about my colour my body. It took a serious toll on my mental health."

According to her, these beauty standards are equally subjective to both genders. " Even boys are subjected to these. Tallboys are considered good looking," she explains. She says that she was always told to dress a certain way," Because of my size I look older than my age. I have been often judged for that." Adding further she says," All those comments and judgements do not matter anymore. Those so-called beauty standards and people cannot define me."

" I feel beauty is not objective and people should understand that, especially our generation," she concludes, " Don't trade your authenticity for approval."

But who creates these standards, and why? What people need to understand is that dark complexion, fat body, short height, acne face, facial hair is as beautiful as a lean body , rosy cheeks, good height. What people need to understand is that Kashmiri beauty is not a stereotype. And there is a place for everyone.

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