The notion that India as a country is, shall we say...critical of the female appearance is hardly newsworthy. What does astound us every minute of the livelong day, is the number of ways there are to be utterly repugnant. Whether it’s the idea that the path to success necessitates white skin or that the hint of a bra strap will guarantee you a spot on the sinner-train, each revelation serves to make women just a little less confident about their appearance. The newest addition to this happy little list comes from none other than the Indian government, more specifically the CBSE education board.
The book in question - the Health and Physical Education Textbook by Dr. VK Sharma and published by New Saraswati House - is here to educate 12th standard students on everything they need to know about the female form. According to Dr. Sharma the “perfect female body” comes with exact measurements, he claims that the 36-24-36 “shape of females is considered the best” referencing the contestants of Miss Universe and Miss World pageants as clear examples.
It goes on to gently remind you that “The 36-24-36 figure does not come up by chance,” and “If we perform regular exercise, we will be able to make our bodies beautiful.” Because naturally, what is life worth if you don’t live up to Beauty Queen standards. It’s also mentioned that due to ‘long vertebrae’, ‘comparatively shorter limbs’ and ‘wide hipbones’, women are not able to run properly. Too bad Jessica Ennis, better luck next reincarnation, hope you win a penis! Men, never fear there are some other choice inputs from the good Doctor for you too. The ideal body for you is the ‘V-shape’, so set aside your goals, aim to be a letter of the alphabet and you’ll have it made.
Though ludicrous, mere fact that the concept of a ‘perfect body’ is being taught to girls between the ages of 16-18 is problematic. Societal and peer pressure to live up to such unrealistic standards is often the catalyst for psychological and eating disorders that have the potential to become lifelong ailments. The ultimate goal is to teach childen that any shape, any colour, any size is perfect. But for now we’ll settle for the removal of such a blatantly ignorant statement from the textbooks that fill our classrooms. The multi-billion dollar beauty industry has always specialised in conjuring up insecurities to tackle but perhaps erroneously, we expected more from our school systems.