Early this morning, the internet awoke to the picture of a fit-bodied man against the backdrop of a beautiful beach, his salt-and-pepper locks caught in flowing motion as he sprinted forward, stark naked. And collectively, jaws dropped everywhere. Milind Soman – supermodel, fitness freak, and eternal heartthrob – turned 55 today, marking the milestone with the said picture that has set the internet ablaze. The only thing more spectacular than the picture, perhaps, is the reaction it has received. Tongues are wagging, eyes are roving, and minds are being lost, albeit for a multitude of reasons. While one section swoons over his sculpted frame, another is outraged to no end. I, on the other hand, am feeling insanely envious of Soman.

Envious, not because of how glorious his hair looks or how healthy his body appears. But because of the nonchalance with which Soman must have taken that run on the beach without clothes, and the even greater casualness with which he just slipped a picture of it on social media. In a world, where I have to double-check my swimsuit for unwarranted skin show on the beach and regularly delete random ‘send nudes’ messages, Soman’s picture seems like a utopia unattainable for me in this lifetime. Can a woman even dream of walking nude on an Indian beach, let alone upload a picture of herself doing that? The thought itself is enough to make one shudder.

Also Read: Why The No Nut November Challenge Isn’t As Funny As You Think It Is

Why I’m Jealous Of Milind Soman

It’s not like the audience has taken too kindly to Soman’s nudity as well, surmisable by the comments beneath it. “I prefer putting a shorts first,” one user wrote. “Keep motivating everyone! But do wear nice shorts while going for a run next time. This pic looks very weird,” wrote another. But that’s about it. That’s the extent of his picture’s critique more or less, ranging between unnecessary memes, jokes, and tired one-liners. Fun is being poked at his nudity, not his nudity as a man.

In a world, where I have to double-check my swimsuit for unwarranted skin show on the beach and regularly delete random ‘send nudes’ messages, Soman’s picture seems like a utopia unattainable for me in this lifetime.

What’s the difference you might ask?

Visualise a woman uploading a similar picture of herself at the beach. To begin with, social media wouldn’t have permitted her nipples to float around with so much liberty (because even our nipples don’t have half the privilege that Soman’s do). Even if she were to go ahead and upload the “corrected” image, her comments section would have been flooded with rape/death threats, lessons in ethics and sanskaar, and calls to boycott such vulgarity. She would have been told that as a woman, nudity is neither expected of her nor does it suit her.

The treatment being meted out to Soman for uploading a nude picture is condemnable, but very mild in comparison to what women face for uploading pictures fully-clothed. Because as women, our cyber safety is compromised either way. And if you ask me, to choose a preference between the two, I’d readily take what Soman is getting online.

Also Read: “I Retire”: PV Sindhu’s Cryptic Post Creates A Social Media Storm

Milind Soman And Nudity, An Old History

When I first saw the picture, it honestly didn’t jolt me. Because if you have lived with a lifelong crush on this man, as I have, you’d know of his infamous 1995 photoshoot with co-model Madhu Sapre, in which the three of them (Soman, Sapre, and a snake) had posed with their nude, intertwined bodies. So if there’s anyone you could have trusted to embrace nudity in full glory, it was Soman.

The real jolt, however, is that not much has changed in these 25 years. Even in 2020, people are still as disapproving of Soman’s nudity as they were back when his photoshoot had drawn wide flak. One would think that in a country where centuries-old naked figurines and nude statues are held high as the pride of the land, India would be comfortable with the concept of nudity by now. But no. Soman’s nudity has sparked off a debate on morality that shouldn’t exist in the first place. What’s more, either through sleazy comments by men or tasteless comments by women, he is in more ways than one, being objectified.

There’s no harm in appreciating the human body, especially when the person owning the body, permits you to. Soman, by sharing his birthday photo with us, did that. But did he permit us to misconstrue it into something unpleasant? Does anyone ever? To upload a nude of himself was his choice. To cherish it without ill will should be ours. Despite the envy.

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.