While it all appears well and progressive at face value, there are many problems with it.

TOIs matrimonial ads to put education before looks but its only a very small startImage for representation/PTI
Voices Opinion Monday, April 24, 2017 - 12:48

Remember Bollywood actor Abhay Deol’s recent naming and shaming of Bollywood celebrities who endorse fairness products? He earned many thanks and appreciation in the media for it. And it appears that a major publication has also taken a leaf out of his book and wants to change the emphasis on appearance in the matrimonial ads they host.

Times of India recently published an announcement titled “Apologies to a country that only wants beautiful, fair girls.”

Calling out the bias towards these physical attributes, something that women have no control over, TOI appealed that the emphasis be on her achievements, like education and profession, in matrimonial advertisements.

The full appeal reads:

“Don’t you think it’s unfair to ask a girl to be fair and beautiful? Asking her to be things that she has no control over, but never once asking her to be proud of what she has achieved? Like her education and profession? Unfortunately, this unfair practice has been rampant in our country for decades. A practice, thanks to which educating the girl child is still not a priority. Unknowingly, we too have been privy to this through our matrimonial ads, where brides, grooms and their families highlight the beauty of women over their educational qualifications.  

But from today, we suggest changing the format of matrimonial ads to highlight a girl’s educational qualifications, by beginning matrimonial ads with the qualifications of the girl. Henceforth, we hope that matrimonial ads will inspire people to choose girls based on their education rather than only their looks.”

While it all appears well and progressive at face value, here’s the problem with the announcement: It merely asks to shift the emphasis by placing ‘achievements’ and ‘educational’ qualifications at the beginning of the ad. For the ‘girls’ only.

So essentially, you could still declare that the woman is a ‘tall’, ‘fair’ and ‘beautiful’ girl, but that should be the second point, instead of the first. Also, going by the wording of the announcement, it says nothing about the groom’s ad - so men are still allowed to ask for the tall, fair and beautiful girl.

Well played, TOI, well played.

The write up also suggests that we have been ‘unknowingly’ contributing to the scrutiny on a woman’s looks than anything else. Really? Were you not aware of the fact that you were laughing at jokes made at the expense of the fat girl? Or did you not know that thousands of women across the country are trying to lighten their skin colour to conform to the ‘fair is beautiful’ mentality?

Or perhaps, prospective grooms and parents-in-law are the real victims when they 'unknowingly' reject women for having a gap between her teeth.

Or being too qualified, perhaps, but that’s another argument altogether.

Also, what’s with ‘choosing’ women based on their educational qualification? Never mind that matrimonial ads have very little to say about compatibility and temperament, which are what make the relationship work ultimately. But replacing one criterion on the basis of which prospective brides are 'showcased', with another criterion, is hardly the solution.

There’s also nothing here about caste and religion being on most checklists in the arranged marriage industry, but perhaps TOI can be discounted for that in terms of discretion.

And while promoting girls’ education is a commendable thing for the country’s most popular newspaper to do, the problem is, they are promoting it for the same reason parents pray for their daughters to be fair and beautiful: The best possible, society approved, ‘qualified’ groom.

Views expressed are personal opinions of the author.

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