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A weighty issue: The Hindustan Times edition

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on April 5, 2012 4 Comments

Should Kareena Kapoor lose weight?” screamed a headline on my Hindustan Times app. For those of you unfamiliar with Bollywood cinema, Ms. Kareena Kapoor is a top actress, and hails from one of the most famous and powerful film khandaans (families). I’m not a fan of hers: but I had to read the article. Who would ask such a question? Was she asking this? The writer of the piece? Having just seen pictures of Ms. Kapoor in the recent IPL (Indian Premier League) opening ceremony (a picture from her performance is below)-which, somewhat oddly, I thought, also featured Ms. Katy Perry-I was baffled as to why or how anyone would/could ask this question.

The Hindustan Times, the second-biggest English-language daily in India, did actually-unbelievably-print an article with that title. You can read it here; it’s in the Fashion section. The article, written by Ms. Aditi Caroli, begins by covering some background. Ms. Kapoor is indeed the person who gave rise to the “size zero” phenomenon in India; we are also reminded of Ms. Kapoor’s endorsement of the “size zero” Sony Vaio (2009) laptop model, stating: “I only lend my name to a brand that is suitable to my personality type. Vaio X is slim, stylish and sexy, something that I easily relate with.” Now, Ms. Kapoor, the article notes, “is back to her old plump avatar.” “In fact,” at a recent event, she even copped to “feeling good” about no longer being a size zero; and her superstar actor beau, Mr. Saif Ali Khan, is happy: he likes her “voluptuous” but “fit.” “However,” groans the writer: “ditching her near skeletal frame, now she has become flabby.” Is the implication then that “skeletal” is preferable to “flabby” (the latter we’ll get to in a second)? The last section of Ms. Caroli’s article is stunning in its unprofessionalism, insensitivity, and tabloidism:

Her latest appearance at the IPL ceremony enthralled one and all but more than her act, the flab on her body screamed for attention. Clad in a halter red-silver top, fat was oozing out from all over. In fact, we tracked down her appearances in the last two months (see gallery on top right) and all you can notice in every picture is her fat arms.
We think she has passed the size zero torch to her sister Karisma who has started looking awkwardly skinny.
There is a difference between thin, fit and fat. Guess Kareena just missed the fit part!

How did the Hindustan Times, a newspaper with not little respectability in India, decide to print a piece that sends such a terribly skewed and dangerous message about body image to Indian women and girls about what desirable weight is (apparently, skeletality)?  How did this article pass editorial screening? It is irresponsible journalism-if indeed this could even be called journalism-to print something offensive to basic human sensibilities, and to women. And, how does a woman, facing some of the same pressures, say this about another woman?

Is the Hindustan Times becoming the…shudder….Daily Mail?

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4 Responses to “A weighty issue: The Hindustan Times edition”

  1. Youki on: 6 April 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Very interesting. What do you think the general public reaction is to such a headline? I’d be curious how the relationship between the public and the media differs when comparing India to the U.S.

    I’d love to browse through a Hindi magazine and see how advertisements differ from U.S. ones, if you have any.

    The tone of the article belongs more in a tabloid than in a professional news source.

    Usree Bhattacharya Reply:

    The comments below the headline are split: some are shocked at the writer’s comments, and others defend her position. The problem is, this appeared in the print version too, and it’s difficult to have a sense of how people responded. I would not generally be this surprised if this were a tabloid piece: but in a newspaper that’s got some respectability, this was a mind-boggling article.

    To get you started with some ads, here is a post from 2009 on FIT: http://foundintranslation.berkeley.edu/?p=2095

    Unfortunately, fairness ads abound still, one more shocking than the other.

  2. Youki on: 7 April 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Interesting excerpt from an article on CNN yesterday:

    Marium Soomro parents’ are from Pakistan, and even before she hit the teen years, her mom brought home the skin lightening cream Fair and Lovely. Women in her family used it in Pakistan, and carried on the practice in the United States, she said – even her fairer-skinned mothers and sisters.

    “‘Hey, put this on, you’ll get whiter,’” she remembers her mom saying. “Or, ‘Put yogurt on your face at night and your skin will get lighter.’”


    Usree Bhattacharya Reply:

    Yeah, these kinds of creams continue to be of concern. They contain extremely hazardous chemicals, but there is too much of a premium on the idea of “fairness.”

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