Policing Women’s Bodies

“This is reality. This is who I am. I am a mother. This [weight gain] can happen and it happened with me and it’s fine!” In this video from 2012, months after giving birth, actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan addresses “the haters” who criticised her body. She dismisses the critique but also notes her body has been under constant surveillance for not conforming to “size zero.” She notes that the criticism is part of living in the public eye but that the positive experiences of fame outweigh the bad . While Rai Bachchan’s job partly rests on her looks, this does not justify the public scrutiny over women’s bodies

The public policing of women is damaging not just to celebrities who are targeted, but also to other women. New mothers are fed contradictory media images of actresses who seem to lose weight swiftly after giving birth (thanks to heavy dieting and exercise and teams of experts). Women who dare to go in public without having lost weight are either praised for being “natural” or condemned. Either way, the message is that motherhood is yet another area for body anxiety.