“Tall, slim and fair,” for most Indian women and their families, the process of matchmaking starts with these three words. Look up the matrimony ads in a newspaper, visit any matrimonial site or talk to a matchmaker, and these three words are plastered across as moulds that every girl needs to fit into. What happens to a woman who is short, plus-sized or has a dusky skin tone? More often than not, she is rejected because she doesn’t fit into the narrow definition of what society deems as 'classically beautiful’.
This is backed by Dove's latest report that revealed that 9 out of 10 single women in India feel they are rejected based on their looks during the matchmaking process. If this sounds concerning, the same report also states that 94% of women have been asked to work on their appearance for better marriage proposals. Shocking, right?
To show you an unfiltered, real portrayal of unjust beauty expectations from women, we spoke to five women who have gone through, or are currently going through, the matchmaking process. Scroll down to read their story on India’s unjust beauty test and what they wish to change about the Indian matchmaking process.
- Anjana Bapat, Plus-size model and belly dancer
- Bhavika Ramchandani, Proprietor
- Elvina Fernandes, Sr. Content Specialist
- Saritha Iyer, Digital marketing consultant
- Sana Kurawadwala, Brand strategy manager
Anjana Bapat, Plus-size model and belly dancer
Anjana is a girl with many talents, but when it comes to finding rishtas, neighbours, relatives and society, in general, never look beyond her weight. They always try to fix her up with a guy who has the same body structure as hers. Because according to them, likes, dislikes, political views do not matter; “you’re both healthy (fat), so you will look good together” is all that it comes down to.
“Someone like me, who is very independent, assertive, fat and a belly dancer and shows off her fat stomach on a public profile for everyone to see, is at the bottom of the barrel and is expected to just be grateful to anyone showing interest. It makes me sad to see that it makes my parents so insecure, when I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. I want my parents to break the shackles and not feel the pressure, but that’s something I don’t think I’ll be able to achieve. However, I have managed to not take the guilt upon myself anymore,” says Anjana.
Bhavika Ramchandani, Proprietor
Bhavika’s parents reached out to a matchmaker to find prospective grooms for her. But the first and probably only thing this matchmaker noticed about Bhavika was that she looked different from her pictures (read: fatter and shorter). She was outrightly told that tall guys would not prefer someone like her.
“The whole matchmaking process takes a toll on your mental and physical health. This statement may sound a little extreme, but it is the harsh truth. When you are asked to fill in your weight and height, and get rejected merely on the basis of that, it is shocking. I think the glitch is not in the matchmaking process; it is much more deep-rooted than that, and I wish people didn’t define me by how much I weigh on the scale,” says Bhavika.
Elvina Fernandes, Sr. Content Specialist
Elvina has always been a confident girl, who is comfortable in her skin. While she didn’t have to go through the matchmaking process, a few days before the engagement, Elvina’s in-laws commented on her skin colour, which shook her confidence.
“Right before the engagement, my mother-in-law commented on my weight. And that’s not all; she and my sister-in-law were also overheard discussing how dark I am. They were so concerned about what I'd be wearing for the engagement that they kept asking me about the colour of my outfit. I mean, how does that matter? It’s 2021! Can't I wear something that makes me happy and not something that will ‘complement’ my skin colour? What has skin colour to do with one's personality? #StopTheBeautyTest!” says Elvina.
Saritha Iyer, Digital marketing consultant
Saritha’s experience with the whole matchmaking process has been quite bitter so far. Being on, what society calls, the ‘healthy’ side of the scale, body shaming has been part and parcel of her journey.
“I vividly remember a prospective match stating that we wouldn't look good in the frame, indirectly calling me fat. I laughed it off initially, but come to think of it now, I feel that it is not cool to label someone simply based on their physical appearance. Being overweight is not a disease, and I wish people stopped treating it as one. It’s high time people start acknowledging the fact that I’m beautiful, regardless of my size.”
Sana Kurawadwala, Brand strategy manager
If you think the beauty test and unrealistic beauty expectations stop when you find a match, wait till you read Sana’s story. All she wanted to be was a tension-free, chirpy bride, but a relative passed a remark on the acne on her face, which added to the stress she was already going through.
“I was getting married in Udaipur, and because of all the wedding stress and my period cycle just around the corner, my skin was acting up. I had acne, and I constantly looked tired because of the stress. One day, I was out doing some last-minute shopping and ran into one of my relatives. My face was covered with a scarf, which I removed to greet her. The moment I did that, they said, ‘Arey itne pimples, pimple wali dulhan kaise chalegi? [You have too many pimples. A bride with so many pimples won’t do]. I love my skin irrespective of how it looks right now; my fiance doesn’t care about a few pimples on my face, so why should she? That is all I wanted to ask her, but instead, I just smiled. I wish society stopped putting their unrealistic beauty expectations on to-be brides and women, in general, and accepted us just the way we are!”
We are in 2021, and it's high time we uproot and banish these unjust beauty tests that women are put through during the matchmaking process. And that’s exactly what Dove, as a brand, hopes to achieve with its #StopTheBeautyTest campaign.
If these stories struck a chord with you, we urge you to read all about the campaign here and share your story with us on Instagram. Tag @bebeautiful_india and use the hashtags #StopTheBeautyTest #DoveIndia. It’s time to put an end to these unrealistic expectations, NOW!