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No, It's Not Anti-Feminist To Want To Be Fit, And Look Good

Written by Prachi Gangwani

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If you place a mirror beside an Australian budgie, it will prance around in front of it, admiring its reflection, and then plant loving pecks on the mirror. Australian budgies are known to thrive in pairs, and they spend hours grooming their partner. Yes, these tiny birds love themselves, care about their appearance, spend copious amounts of time making sure they look presentable, and are not ashamed or embarrassed about it. 

Compare this to humans - especially women - who place judgements, fears, ideologies, insecurities, morality and a lot more into the simple pleasures of wanting to be fit and look good. From “needless” to “privilege”, from “escapism” to “narcissism”, the desire to take care of one’s physical body is met with many labels that are uncalled for. The latest in this barrage against paying attention to one’s body is the accusation that it is anti-feminist. It is anti-feminist to want to be fit, and to look good. 

The argument begins with the idea that in trying to trim your waistline and balloon your butt, one is subconsciously (or consciously) succumbing to the social pressure for a woman to look a certain way, in order to serve the male gaze. There is merit in this, and certainly, a lot of women feel the pressure to achieve some often unrealistic body shape and size in order to be considered attractive. An integral dynamic this argument fails to recognise is that patriarchal ideals also have a way of immobilising a woman’s body, and making it invisible. Especially in countries like ours, where a woman’s body is regarded as a repository of her honour, where female sexuality is shamed, and menstruation is considered a curse, we see more women who succumb to being docile, fragile and meek, shrinking themselves, and embodying the delicateness that is expected of them. We see more women shunning fitness than embracing it. The argument that fitness is anti-feminist, in a country where young girls are discouraged from playing sports and are expected to not move around too much when they start menstruating, seems ridiculous. In a country like ours, fitness is not only feminist, but also revolutionary for women. 

 

 

I came across a recent article talking about Lena Dunham defending her fitness lifestyle: “There’s nothing anti-feminist about being healthy,” she said in an interview with People magazine. She continues, “I’m just exercising to be a person who will live beyond 50. I’m not like on a crazy diet or something.”

One can’t miss how she’s being attacked for wanting to take care of herself. Even if somebody were to exercise to look a certain way, or have a certain body, what is wrong with that? As long as they don’t injure themselves, or starve themselves, or otherwise cause harm to themselves, and find a balanced and healthy way of achieving their goal, who is anybody to say that a certain body size is compliant to what society expects of women? The irony is, it is most often women who fit-shame other women. 

So, tell us - who’s really being anti-feminist here? The woman who flips a finger at the world order that would like to keep her restrained within the bounds of her home, or opt for dance lessons or yoga because they are appropriate for women, and lifts those Goddamn weights or runs marathons? Or, the woman who shames other women for taking ownership over their body? 

Image Source: Pexels

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