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  • Writer's pictureThe Probe

Representation Matters

Stigmatized identities, ones seen as lying on the outskirts of desirability whether it be in terms of physical, mental, romantic interests and/or capabilities, are always expected to perform their identities in ways that align exactly with societal expectations. When they are seen breaking out of stereotypical roles assigned by societal standards, instilled in the audience’s subconscious mind by media consumption, it challenges internalized prejudices. Seeing a fat person flaunt their physical appearance challenges the societal expectation around non straight body types, that is one of self-degradation, the constant desire for achieving a mainstream ideal. Lizzo , one of the biggest popstars on the planet still cannot practice autonomy over how she wants to dress without regularly encountering comments targeting her self-esteem , unlike her skinny counterparts in the industry . The ability to self-validate is one that is indispensable in this world, however it is only possessed by few, one of the most important components of developing it are being able to visualize one’s identity in innumerable ways in the visual mediums around oneself. this is precisely why representation matters, because media has the power to affect the decades to come .How often is it that we get to see fat bodies in our aesthetic cottage core Pinterest boards , or even something like fat hands in a ring commercial seem like an anamoly. low self-esteem is not an isolated issue , it is not something that impacts just one human being , this phenomenon has the potential to effect several people in a community . The world has been successful in recognising that beauty is a social construct yet we are an eventual epiphany away from realising that beauty can also be used as a political weapon. ”She only does it for a man’s attention”, one of the most common insults women receive in regards to makeup, but to what extent is it true? If men stop existing tomorrow, hardly any women would stop dressing up . Women in prisons are known to perform skills of incredible resourcefulness in making lip shades and eye shadows from magazine colours.Are we to believe that in a place with hardly any men around , women still go through all of this trouble to get their attention?  The harshest critique a well educated , liberated  women can receive is not one surrounding her achievements in a personal or professional sphere ,it is one related to beauty or rather conventional ideas of it “You seem to have gained weight since the last time I saw you “, why is it that the least interesting part of our being is the one that is the most scrutinised , why is it that we are willing to expend thousands of rupees and hours of our time on it , why do these words daunt us more than we’d like to admit.

Could it be that political liberation of women posed a threat on existing institutions of power? Is it  because legal hinderances and obstacles take comparatively less time to eradicate than societal ones . This is why the more politically liberated , financially independent and socially included we become , the more we are taught to derive value from the way we look , these ideals become harsher for more ostracised members of society such as the members of the LGBTQ+ community . Queer expression is not only mocked it is seen as less than mostly because of the heteronormative nature of society . The stigmatisation of these identities begins the minute we are exposed to media , from using this identity as a caricature to delegitimising queer love with tropes ranging from the token gay best friend to the predator . What we need to recognise is that the development of a large number of internalised prejudices against one’s own identity can be credited to representation , queer kids and people are at a much higher rate of being harassed online . The key is not to vilify social media, it is to have a nuanced approach to its usage . This level of accessibility can always become a leverage to educate a large number of people from varying backgrounds. Hence like most things in life It is not a black and white issue , it exists in the grey and should be treated as such .

Writer's bio

Tanaya tank is a high school student from Jayshree Periwal High School in Jaipur. She is interested to exploring the intersections of digital media and various social phenomenons. Few of her interests include writing and the performing arts.


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