BY Ayesha Babar

We live in a world today where we are constantly surrounded by images. Whether it is Kim Kardashian’s 59 million followers on the social-networking site Instagram, or magazines and newspapers bombarding us with visuals, it truly is the age of pictures speaking more than a thousand words!

It is little surprise then that we look towards the constant stream of images coming from the worlds of fashion and entertainment to seek inspiration and validation of our own self-worth. These images also play a pivotal part in creating and nurturing our perceptions of what is beautiful and what is not, and this is where the problem lies.

Following last weekend’s London Fashion Week, the biannual highlight of the fashion calendar in the Capital, it has become apparent that the industry continues with its strong sense of ‘skinny is beautiful’. A legion of young girls and women have looked at photos from the ramps and the after-parties of supermodels dressed up in the top names in fashion, showing off their ‘size-zero’ figures.

For over a decade now, this expectation of and acceptance that these anorexic-like bodies are normal and achievable for all women has been perpetrated year after year, fashion week after fashion week. While some of these models are naturally born with this body type, far more have to starve themselves or be on unhealthy diets and drugs to achieve the ‘flat’ body. This month’s London Fashion week was no different. Modelling agencies and industry insiders alike openly talked about designers wanting models on whom the clothes just flow, and that the focus on being waif-like and twiggy is part of the business of fashion.

In times like these, it is critical that we come up with more normal role-models for young girls to aspire to, as this psychological pressure to remain thin has been pointed out as one of the leading causes of the increasing incidence of disorders like Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia within this impressionable age group.

Are super thin actresses like Anusha Sharma setting a bad example for young girls?
Are super thin actresses like Anusha Sharma setting a bad example for young girls?

Sooner or later, top design houses (where this push for the perfect body mainly comes from) will have to realise what they are doing, and hopefully will encourage the use of models of different physiques. The unrealistic stick-thin body is not only unachievable for most female consumers but is typically unhealthy and might lead to serious health issues in later life.

Campaign groups who support this move towards a more positive body-image argue that the clothes are being designed for and eventually sold to women with all kinds of body types. Why is it then that the producers do not want to show what the outfits will actually look like when worn by their end consumers?

It is not only fashion that is guilty of this though. Everywhere you look on television and films, the same stereotype is propagated. Gone are the days of curvaceous actresses like Madhuri, Sridevi and Kajol being celebrated for their girl-next-door image. Now it is all about having the best body and being as lean as possible. While Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma, girls with naturally gifted athletic bodies, look great on the screen, they are setting an example for millions of others looking up to them. The responsibility then lies with them as well to have an open conversation about being healthy. It is equally imperative for other actresses like Kareena Kapoor and Alia Bhatt who have struggled with weight issues in the past to not talk about body image and weight gain like it is a disorder but for what it is – a normal part of every individual’s life.

A world where people are happy with their bodies is still many years or possibly decades away but the conversation needs to start now. Each one of us has to start loving our own selves and be comfortable in our own skin. Here’s to a healthier us!