A fair-skinned woman in a body-hugging dress, high heels, and perfect hair and makeup strides across the basketball court. She dribbles the ball and shoots a basket without so much as breaking into a sweat.
This, as players in the court look on in awe. A player who brushes against her arm later compliments the woman. "So smooth." "Not just smooth, but perfect," comes the response. They both high-five.
This scene plays out in a recent commercial for Veet's hair-removal cream. Two identical commercials, one for India and the other for Pakistan, feature Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor and Mahira Khan respectively.
What has smooth skin got to do with basketball, you ask?
Apart from it being ridiculous in the practical sense, the commercial more dangerously promotes unrealistic beauty standards. In a field that is still male dominated and is still deeply patriarchal, the last thing young girls need to hear is to have smoother arms, fairer skin or thinner legs in order to play or excel in sports.
When Sana Mir, a cricketer and the former captain of the Pakistani women's cricket team, came across the commercial, she raised these very questions.
In a scathing post on Facebook, the sportsperson writes, "To all young girls out there who aspire to take up sports. 'Make no mistake: you need strong arms, not smooth arms, on a sports field'."
Sana's post which slams the rampant objectification of women's bodies is being shared widely, with her views resonating with many.
"We – corporate sponsors and celebrities – always talk about our concern regarding the objectification of women in different professional settings. It infuriates us most of the time," she writes. "We see endless posts and statuses on social media expressing our anger. But when it’s time to walk the talk, I have seen very few sponsors or celebrities actually take a stand to support women being comfortable in their own skin."
Talking about the commercial, she goes on to state, "I have come to know that it’s a campaign for both Pakistan and India. It’s magnifying a girl’s concern about how she looks on a basketball court. The worst thing is that instead of sending a message to young girls that the colour or texture of their skin does not matter, we are promoting body shaming and objectification."
"Are the talent, passion and skill of a girl not enough for her to play sports?" she asks. "There are female sports icons around the world who have made their way to the top because of their skill, talent and hard work, not because of the colour or texture of their skin."
Sana says that over her 12-year-long career, she has rejected several such offers to endorse beauty products for one reason, i.e. "I want young girls with a passion for sports to know that all they need for a practice session are the will to succeed, comfortable shoes and clothes, a water bottle and a cap if it’s hot."
She ends her post by urging celebrities and sponsors to encourage young women to achieve their dreams instead of disabling them by making them self-conscious.
To all young girls out there who aspire to take up sports. “Make no mistake: you need strong arms, not smooth arms, on...Posted by Sana Mir on Sunday, 22 April 2018