********UPDATE 1am Jan 22, 2013********* The MAXIM Magazine cover for Janaury’s 7th Anniversary Issue will not feature the original cover, the magazine announced tonight.
Their official statement included with the announcement is, “While we’re sure most of you have already seen what was going to be our original cover for our 7th Anniversary special this month, we believe that this is a more appropriate cover keeping in mind the current scenario for women in our society!” Personally, I don’t believe that their wonderfully artistic cover has anything to do with the heightened awareness of violence against women. To me it seems like ‘apples & oranges’ but I respect their choice to do what they feel is most appropriate for their magazine.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again … I don’t understand the massive double standard of life in India that exists between men and women. I have written about it time and again but today I was pretty shocked by something so …here we go again!
I know that not everyone reads English language ‘lads mags’ here in India and that the popular international magazines like FHM, Men’s Health and Maxim are read by a small minority of the population. Well, MAXIM, a magazine that I really enjoy and admire for their creativity and surprising editorials and content for guys, is causing quite a stir at the moment. And really indirectly pissing me off. Their January cover features seven of India’s top models in a lovely, artistic manner – nude. These beautiful women are not exposing too much (in my opinion). In fact, there really is nothing exposed except for some skin here and there on each of them. It is reminiscent of the covers shot by Vanity Fair with Scarlet Johansen and Keira Knightley with fashion designer Tom Ford or the historic cover of Demi Moore when she was pregnant. They are all lovely magazine covers.
But the Maxim cover is a real first for India and people are talking. More to the point, people are vehemently judging the models. But not because of the theme of the cover exactly. The problem that some people have is that the models on the cover are WOMEN. A friend here who is a former Miss India commented on the cover, “Not everybody has bodies like these to show off. So if you work on yourself and have an amazing body why not ? Nudity is one thing and vulgarity is another. We have seen pictures of women clad in sarees that can look vulgar. In my opinion it is a great cover that bares it all and yet shows you nothing.” But she is not in the majority according to all the opinions I – sadly – read. See below in the screen capture from Facebook … there are some mind blowing CRAZY negative and seemingly insane comments all over the net!
If the cover was shot with male models, history dictates that society wouldn’t really be upset because – from the outside looking in – men can do as they wish. Indian men – especially those sexy actors in Bollywood – can pose in whatever saucy positions they wish. And not-so-sexy religious followers and priests can run around with their manly-bits exposed for the world to see. From toes to forehead, they are displaying it all and no one says anything about it because either A) they are men or B) it is a religious tradition.
- Wear whatever clothing they want to from International fashion designers
- Dance to the latest music someplace other than a wedding or house party
- Work if they want to, in whatever profession or trade that floats their boat
- Go out for chai with their buddies
- Eat out late night with just the guys
- Walk around town showing everything from their toes to their thighs or – scandal – their shoulders
- Walk down the runway at a fashion show in underwear
Women, on the other hand, seem to have this completely archaic, antiquated and demeaning set of rules placed on them (often camouflaged as “for their own good and safety” but it is men who make the world unsafe for women so that mentality needs to shift and some men need to stop being a threat to innocent women). In 2013, Indian women CAN NOT:
- Wear whatever clothing they want to from International fashion designers – because IF SOME WOMEN DO then their neighbours will judge them, they would be blamed for being raped and society would ‘justifiably’ call them sluts
- Dance to the latest music someplace other than a wedding or house party – because those girls are talked about and generally won’t be able to marry as well if they frequent bars or clubs so they have to suppress their impulse to dance to music at a club
- Work if they want to, in whatever profession or trade that floats their boat – because there are laws that FORBID it. Women can’t work as bartenders, waitresses, rickshaw drivers, etc etc…
- Go out for chai with their buddies – because men make it unsafe and society would judge them
- Eat out late night with just the girls – for some reason, only men get to have fun eating a midnight biryani alone if they want to street-side (or if women do they need to be accompanied by a man)
- Walk around town showing everything from their toes to their thighs or, heaven forbid, their shoulders – because if they do then they are sluts, will be judged, the neighbours will talk … and in my personal case, women in burkas will hiss at me and men will think it’s an invitation to touch and grope me
- Walk down the runway at a fashion show in underwear – because they will be judged. Period. Men can do it all the time but not the ladies. People will say horrible things about them for no reason that I comprehend. They will become the demise of this country, bring shame to people by their actions and so much more
Seriously, I love so many of the cultural differences that I experience here as a foreigner living in this exotic, wonderful land. There is so much that the western world can learn from India – which explains our fascination with traveling here. But the inequality between men and women in 2013 is just ridiculous to me. That may sound harsh but … come on! Women run major tech companies. They rule nations. They are astronauts and athletes and film directors. Women may not be the physical equals of men but we are the intellectual and spiritual equal of men … and we can go out every day to work, bring home an equal salary (if the company doesn’t discriminate against women on the basis of sex) and then take care of our husbands and children and home on top of everything else.
So why can’t a woman show her shoulders, her back, her legs … just like a man? Why can lungi-guy show me everything he’s ‘got to flaunt’ but a woman is called a slut or a bitch or a shameful person if she does it? I can’t get my head around that. I’ve tried so many times and just don’t understand. If anyone could tell me a rational ‘2013’ reason for all of this I would love it. But all the reasons I hear seem so old-fashioned and “20 or 30 or 50 years ago” that they don’t resonate with life as it is today – especially here in Bangalore, the world’s 2nd Silicon Valley and home to some of the most amazing global innovations.
And let me tell you the saddest thing for me. The people repressing Indian women and snickering and talking behind their backs aren’t just some conservative men. I grew to realise recently from an amazing article on the topic (by a man) that more often than not it is actually some Indian women helping to repress women. Not the educated, younger girls so much but the “Aunties” who gossip and put down any girl or woman whose behaviour falls outside of the norm of what they themselves deem normal and acceptable. Crazy! But it does appear to be that some Indian women are in the first row of this show trying to keep Indian women from becoming equals.
I love the MAXIM cover. I find it soft and vulnerable yet powerful. The ladies look natural and … like real woman. Why can’t we just celebrate that beauty?
© 2012 Angela Carson. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce any part of this article without the author’s permission.