Impossible Beauty Standards

One of the best new interpretations of the ancient epic tale of Ramayan is the animated movie Sita Sings the Blues. I recently saw this movie, and I was immensely amused by the way Sita is drawn. She has large, plate-like eyes which made her look oh-so innocent and gullible; she has large hips and is quite buxom, with her breasts almost falling out of her teeny-tiny blouse; her waist is very small and it was so hilarious when she moved it side to side when she started her song.

Imagine my surprise when I chanced to read this description of Sita in a book about Indian women.

Sita surpassed all beings of the three worlds. Her complexion was of gold, and she wore a garland of lotus petals. Her teeth were all even with the tips resembling Kunda flowers. She had clear expansive eyes of a pinkish tint, with black pupils. Her hips were large and rounded, and thighs tapering like the trunk of an elephant. She had full, elevated breasts with pointed nipples, which captivated like plumb, luscious fruits. Her hair was extensively fine, and waist so thin that it could be measured by the thumb and index finger.
Indian Women Through the Ages – P. Thomas
It looks like the cartoonists for the movie followed the ancient description of Sita pretty closely. No wonder we have highly demanding ideas of beauty in India. A tiny waist, full bosom and large hips. How did she stand up?
Impossible standards of beauty aside, another thing that surprised me about Sita was what the book says about her personality. The writer says that “Sita’s greatness is in the annihilation of her individuality” and how she always followed what her husband decided without ever questioning him. In spite of which, Sita, as known, is terribly mistreated by Ram and abandoned. So even though she was the perfect combination of beauty and no opinions of her own, she wasn’t really lucky in the marriage department. What does that spell out for the rest of us mortals? Hmm.

You can watch the movie here –

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6 Responses to Impossible Beauty Standards

  1. hyacie says:

    I’ve not watched this, but will. 🙂 I’ve heard a lot about it.
    Beauty standards differ everywhere. In this part of the world (which is now my world), the women are supposed to be petite, skinny as hell (size 0 is in their genes, so i dont envy them), and well, fair. The Asian market is the largest for fairness products. And I thought India was obsessed!
    🙂 Somehow, it does not really bother me anymore. What does is that I’m inching towards size zero (because of the crazy stress), and I hate it.
    And the loving wife-following-husband wherever is now a myth. I know of couples who are married and live on different continents furthering their careers, meeting like, twice a year or some such.
    Everything is possible.

  2. jina says:

    I cant believe you watched it only now.If I knew, I would have initiated you into the hilarity merging subaltern history bonanza.
    The most disconcerting part of it is the cartoonist herself being a woman while attempting to deconstruct a lot of other male dominated memes in it, failed to do the obvious-on the so called physical perfection. But then, maybe the depiction in itself is a caricature and her way of mocking it.

  3. sampada says:

    @hyacie, it’s definitely a good thing that women are much more independent today, but that doesn’t mean that we’re still not falling prey to other, more complicated forms of demands from the world. I mean, like you said, being a certain size, or a certain complexion, or being able to manage a real career as well as a family. Everything *is* possible, but at what cost?

    @jina, I saw it a few months ago. The book I was reading just triggered the memory. I do think the cartoonist was being tongue-in-cheek about Sita’s appearance. It was totally exaggerated!

  4. Purba says:

    She looks like an Indian version of Barbie with her 13 inch waist.

  5. Sherri says:

    Hey 🙂 Mind if I link this in my blog?

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