Of Chutney And Tiny Dresses: The Stereotypes Women Must Fit Into
Renowned leading nutrition and exercise science expert Rujuta Diwekar’s tweet on using the sil batta to grind chutney yesterday left netizens stumped.
Her exact tweet was, “When you grow up around women who worry about how finely the chutney is crushed and not how tiny they can get to squeeze into a dress, you grow up to be a liberated woman.” Attached to it were pics of her grinding chutney on a sil batta.
Twitterati, especially women, were quick to point out to her, “What has liberation got to do with chutney making business? I never ever made a chutney like this, or even tried to. Is it time for me to reassess my liberation now? This post does nothing but reinforce some dumb stereotypes that should be long left behind.” (Sic)
Now, the first part I don’t agree with while the second part one can accept. Why for god’s sake, in today’s world, emphasise on a stereotypical mould that we’ve been trying to break? Maybe our mothers and grandmothers were worried about how fine the chutney was ground. Maybe that’s what mattered in their times. Today when we have modern conveniences like a grinder and our careers to look after, to go back and glorify times when women were housebound and their work only involved serving up delicious meals for the family seems a little out of place coming from someone like Diwekar.
I do accept that traditional methods of cooking often bring out the best results, but today when women are running around all day long, to fulfil their responsibilities both inside and outside their homes, I think it’s unfair to bring out the standard for what is ‘good’ or ‘should be done’ so to say.
I find it ironical, that second part of the concerned tweet is coming from someone who started the ‘size-0’ craze in Bollywood. If Diwekar is trying to break her earlier perception and embracing a natural fuller figure for women, then that’s a welcome change, and she should say so upfront.
But what bothers me about this tweet is that it seems to suggest that a woman must always fit into a mould.
Is traditional always good?
The traditional way of doing things was good maybe when women had time on their hands. Today to expect women to follow traditional methods on a day-to-day basis is uncalled for. Surprisingly, most men who responded to her tweet agreed with her point of view. One user commented, “My Nani used to make this chutney super fine. That benchmark of taste has never been matched until now in her lineage. The compressed thickened Chutney, a Silbatti makes I think Mixer cannot achieve that”. While another said, “Benefits. 1) Rawness has its own flavour. 2) Easier to wash the stone than the mixie 3) Nutrients remains intact (read somewhere)”. Yet another wrote, “My mom still grinds idli batter on this. Tastes good then mixie or electrical grinder. Don’t know d reason but she too enjoys doing it.”
Women, who supported her view, I am assuming they follow traditional methods while cooking, well good for them. As for the male supporters, I would like to ask how many of them enter the kitchen, have helped with chores like washing the stone or even an electric grinder. Have they really asked their moms or wives if they really enjoy this or just do it to please their families at their own inconvenience? I am not saying women don’t like going the extra mile to cook for their family, some do, but not all, believe me. It’s all well to say “my mom or my grandmother made it the best” and then expect your sister or wife to keep trying to perfect it. Well, I say, learn it and make it forever for yourself and your family.
Embracing a natural fuller body
The second part of Diwekar’s tweet, where she writes “and not how tiny they can get to squeeze into a dress, you grow up to be a liberated woman,” is something I agree with. Coming from a fitness and diet expert it really means a lot. Especially because Diwekar was the one who gave female actresses and women all over India a new body size to achieve; the proverbial Size-0.
These days dieticians and health experts world over give more importance to a healthy body and not just a skinny body. Skinny is not always healthy they say.
But then if women are sweating it out at a gym and are trying to lose weight to look and feel good then why deny them that pleasure. Why can’t they aspire to squeeze into a dress? It’s their body, their agency, let them decide for themselves.
In the end, I would like to say, I can never tell a woman you are not liberated because you cannot make fine chutney (read doing household chores) just because my mom could. One can become liberated only when she/he breaks stereotypes that suffocate them.
Image Credit: misskyra.com
Smita Singh is a freelance writer. The views expressed are the author’s own.