“God! How drunk were you?” Amyra exclaimed as she tossed her clutch when she entered the room. “Look at that poor hand. Are you happy now that you can’t move it?” She commented as she closely inspected my fractured arm and the bruises on my face. I cringed and groaned in pain as she stroked the bluish lump over my left eye gently.
“Oh my god, Aza! Why do you have to be in a hurry all the time? Do you know how worried we all got when Kahil told Dad that you fell from the stairs? Mom broke into tears. I am so relieved she didn’t have to see you like this. Her joint pain has made it difficult to move nowadays. I don’t know what she would’ve done had she seen you in this condition.” Amyra started to choke on her words, and I hated myself for inflicting this on her.
“I…I am fine, Di. I am sorry you had to leave everything just to come here.” It took all the strength inside my body to utter these words. “I know you were busy celebrating Shoib’s graduation. I’m sorry, I ruined it.” I paused to recollect my breath.
“You better shut that mouth before I break the other arm.” Not another syllable escaped my lips as I spotted the angst in her expression. “Do you think there’s anything that matters more to me than you? You have no idea how heart-wrenching it is for me to see you like this. Why do you do this, huh? Last month you burnt your hand while ironing the clothes and now this! Why can’t you be a little careful, my love? You know you’re like my child more than a sister. How would your didi live peacefully if you keep fumbling with things like this? I worry about you, Aza. You can’t act like a child forever.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but only tears rolled down. I hated lying to her but managed to say I was going to be fine, even though I knew I wouldn’t.
“Tea, ladies?” Kahil interrupted as he entered the room. “Oh, it seems like I barged into a sister’s moment. Shall I come in later?” He quipped as he took a close look at our tears-smeared faces.
“Oh no, come in. Else we might flood your house with our tears.” Didi attempted to reduce the tension in the air. We chuckled faintly. Kahil came to sit at the bedside next to me. He stroked my hair with one hand and gently squeezed my palm with the other. “I am never leaving you in the house alone, ever.”
I closed my eyes when I felt his breath near me as he converged to kiss my forehead. I didn’t open my eyes at all…
“The only relief I have is that she married you. I worry a little less, knowing you are there with her. God knows I would’ve died of hypertension if it weren’t for you by now. She’s lucky to have you as her partner in life. May God bless you both!” She muttered happily.
I still had my eyes closed as I recollected the memory of that night- my arm twisted behind my back, Kahil’s warm breath near my right ear as he said the words “W-H-O W-A-S H-E?”. I was constantly begging him to spare my life, that I didn’t know who that man was, and then, the blow, the sudden blow right on my left eye. Everything went dark. For a minute, I felt relieved because I thought it was the end — the last I’d have to go through that agonizing pain, his repulsive face and two-faced personality.
But God had other plans. I lived, and the next moment I knew, he was at the bedside, begging for my forgiveness. His only defense was that had he not been inebriated so heavily. He would’ve never done that. He swore on god for, god knows how many times, that this was the last time. It will not happen again, ever. But I knew I wasn’t that naive Aza anymore who was once madly in love with this man, who’d blindly believe his lies. I wouldn’t fool myself again into giving him another chance. Giving myself another chance.
“I sure am lucky, Di,” I spoke through my tightened jaw as I told her that her little child did grow up, but not for the best reasons.
It is a widely accepted norm that rainwater is a safe source of drinking water, as it supplies many of our water bodies. But the latest studies demonstrate novel insights into persistent chemical pollution and rainwater contamination. Researchers claim rainwater is not right for consumption due to alarming levels of toxic compounds like PFAS (Poly-FluroAlkyl Substances). Other major pollutants include acidic pollutants, characterized by hazardous oxides of sulphur and nitrogen due to industrial emissions. These harmful oxides combine with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to cause acid rain with low pH levels, which makes it unsafe for drinking purposes. . Furthermore, it was substantiated by the latest US guidelines for PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) in drinking water which examined rainwater from diverse parts of the world and was judged as unsafe to drink.
PFAS or the ‘forever chemicals’
PFAS or The per- and Poly-FluroAlkyl Substances are a huge class of industrial chemicals which have been widely used in manufacturing of various products and equipments since the time of industrial boom. There are numerous sorts of PFAS, for instance, Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)that constitute some of the extensively employed chemicals in the PFAS group. They are commonly referred to as the ‘forever chemicals’ because of its lack of disintegration due to strong carbon- fluorine bonds with the elements. Henceforth, they don’t break down over time and are persistent, and get easily transported via air and water, causing major environmental concerns and health issues. PFAS are pervasive and can be traced everywhere like our water, soil, air, and food as well as in materials found in our homes or workplace.
According to the health advisories for four PFAS publicised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2022, the updated non-regulatory lifetime drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS were 4 pg/L and 20 pg/L, respectively. There has been a shocking decline in PFAS drinking water guidelines over the last 22 years. For instance, if we are taking the case of the US, the PFOA drinking water guidelines for West Virginia was 150000 ng/L, which exceeds the US EPA drinking water lifetime advisory for PFOA of 4pg/L, by a factor of 37.5 million. The risk assessment study about the population exposed to the PFAS revealed that the constant contact with these chemicals develop a variety of health risks. The most common non-cancer effect included the suppression of vaccine response, which can have an adverse effect in the recent scenario of the pandemic.
The latest studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to adverse effects like poor reproductive health , fertility problems or recurrent high blood pressure in pregnant women. These oncogenic substances also lead to amplified threats of some cancers, such as prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers. It further leads to a poor immunity system, reduced vaccine response and frequent risks of infection. It hinders development and growth in children leading to an array of issues like behavioural anomalies, accelerated puberty, delayed growth rate and low birth weight etc. It also causes detrimental effects on hormones, causing hormone imbalance and disorders, increased cholesterol levels and magnified chances of obesity.
The Acid Rain Program
According to the Acid Rain Program run by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the drastic effects of Acid rain can be countered through regulations like Clean Air Markets, Clean Air Act, Clean Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNET), National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) and Long-term Monitoring (LTM) Network. The acid rain program aimed at a two million ton drop in the emissions of nitrogen and sulphur oxides below the levels of the 1980 by the year 2000. These cutbacks have been attained through the incorporation of coal-fired utility boilers, equipped with low-NOx burner technologies. The program was executed in two phases, the Phase I ran from 1996 to 1999 and concentrated on Group 1 boilers, whereas the Phase II began in 2000 and focused on Group 1 and Group 2 boilers.
Although the levels of PFAS are universally present all across the globe, the levels are relatively low in the thinly populated areas like Antarctica and the Tibetan Plateau. The global restrictions and regulatory acts on PFAS and regulations on industries producing these toxic substances can help in decreasing the more harmful and long-term impacts. The Global leaders and environmental agencies must spread awareness about the rising levels of hazardous chemicals in the atmosphere which further paves its way to the food chain and leads to health threats. The usage of PFAS must be firmly restricted in all possible ways through treaties, taxes and legal contracts, reducing the production, emissions and persistence of these chemicals.
To reiterate the depth of rainwater toxicity, it must be noted that many tropical and arid countries employ rainwater harvesting systems and depend on rainwater as a major source of drinking water. One of the practical solutions to rainwater toxicity is the incorporation of a well planned treatment plant to get rid of the hazardous chemicals. For instance, the use of a filtration tank with a combination of gravel, mollusk sand and activated carbon, further followed by UV rays treatment that will aid in reducing the pollutant levels in rainwater. The Global organizations must collaborate in spreading awareness about the chemical toxicity to the public and propose possible preventive measures like delivering safe drinking water and avoiding the exposure to contaminated water. Moreover, environmental agencies must invest in research programmes focusing on the mitigation of the ever-increasing chemical pollutants and its harmful outcomes.The increasing level of toxicity must be viewed as an issue of environmental justice violation which must be voiced out at a global and grassroot level.
Three figures, drenched from head to toe burst into a house to escape from the storm – Belle and her two sisters. They had fled from their village to escape the wrath of the beast who had set its sights on Belle and would surely be on their trail by now. Hopefully, they had gained enough of a head start. They had just arrived at the neighbouring town seeking momentary refuge from the beast and hopefully a place to stay the night while the storm passed. With its small moat and large gates, the next town was known to be a haven/ safehouse against the beast’s wrath and regular hunting expeditions. But when they got there, the drawbridge was down, and the gate was open with no guards in sight. As they walked through the dark, unlit, deserted town, they were faced with dark shadows of the houses and the trees wildly swaying in the torrential rain. At first, they hoped that, as unusual as it was, everyone must’ve been asleep, hence the complete darkness. It was upon entering the mayor’s residence that they realised something was wrong as the door was ajar and inside, not a soul was in sight. Everything seemed to be in place, but it felt unnatural/ sinister. The group cautiously entered the bleak house hoping to find a sign of human presence but all they got back was eerie silence. Stepping further into the house, they checked all the rooms, from the kitchen to the mayor’s study but found no one. An uneasy feeling settled upon them as they took stock of the situation they were in. “What are the odds that the beast got here before us? It could’ve come here via the woods instead of the road like we did. After all, it does know the woods better than anyone else.” her sister speculated. A tense silence ensued until Belle’s eldest sister broke it “We don’t leave this house until the storm calms down. Lock up the house. Go get something to eat and find beds for yourselves but be alert. It could still be in the town.” As her sisters got to work, Belle was dealing with her own demons in her mind. Everything went as she had initially planned when she was first taken hostage. She had planned to gain the beast’s trust enough to request a visit to her family during which they could flee and move to a place where the beast wouldn’t be able to find her. After three long months, he trusted her enough to let her visit her family. She had learnt early on during her stay that if she behaved well, she would be subjected to less pain. But through all the torture, manipulation, starvation, and fear she had experienced during her time at the castle, she had come to form an attachment to the creature. She couldn’t understand why she felt the way she did despite the fact that it murdered her father and snatched her away from her family to keep as a trophy of sorts. She couldn’t understand why she felt like she was betraying the beast. She felt ashamed of her thoughts, ashamed that she wanted to go back to the castle after everything her sisters were doing to keep her safe from the beast. As she watched them scout the house and search for food and bedding, she felt guilty towards them for feeling the way she did. No doubt, she had missed them immensely, but she felt a sort of loyalty towards the beast as well. She saw it as a broken lonely creature that needed her. But she also recognised that living with it would only cause more emotional damage to her. She hoped the beast would understand and let her go. And if she was to never see the beast again, she wished to at least say her last goodbyes. Her mind chaotic and clouded with guilt and shame, she took her cloak and sneakily headed to the main door of the house, deciding to return to the castle and make the journey on foot if necessary. But as she opened the door, she came face to face with the beast. Eyes glowing red and large teeth bared and glimmering in the dim light of the lantern. Sensing her absence and feeling the sudden gust of the freezing wind from outside, Belle’s sisters rushed to the foyer. The beast paid them no heed as it stood at the door, unmoving, with disappointment, betrayal, and hurt clear in its eyes. Her heart tugged painfully but before she could utter a single word, she heard a loud bang from behind her and the next thing she knew, the beast fell on its back. Belle froze as she stared at the beast’s lifeless body with blood splattered across her face for several long moments. Eventually, one of her sisters gently guided her inside the house relieved that their cause for fear and the reason they even set out was no more. The same couldn’t be said for Belle who was in turmoil over the fact that she could not say her last goodbyes to the beast.
During my junior year of college, I had to pass through the settlement of workers and gardeners to reach the railway station. Every day without a break, I used to look at a familiar sight of a young boy through the curtains of my Auto Rickshaw. The boy, paler and more fragile than his age, had a leg deformity. He was accompanied by his father, who helped him walk without support aid. The boy hailed from an economically weak section of society and had no financial support to get walking aids like Canes, Crutches, Walkers, Wheelchairs or Mobility scooters. His father was the only support and his only walking aid.
Like the young boy, the latest statistics estimate that around 2.2 percent of the Indian population has physical or mental disabilities. This population is rarely seen in public spaces because they are highly marginalized. In India, disability has been treated as a taboo. A person in a wheelchair is looked down upon and subjected to social stigma. Their access to basic facilities such as sidewalks and transportation is limited, and due to the prevailing discrimination, they do not acquire the liberty to enjoy the rights which a non-disabled person gets without any struggle.
Prof. Mohamed Jemni, at TED2013, said, “The disability is not the problem. The accessibility is the problem.” disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure. An activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action. A participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in a life situation. accessibility is the design of products, devices, services, vehicles or environment, so as to be used by the people with disabilities. it ensures compatible direct and indirect access with assistive technology. There are so many accessibility issues that may arise, based on the disable person trying to access your product or service.
accessibility of built environment :- Many government buildings do not have wheelchair ramps with hand-rails and specially designed toilets for disabled. People with visual or mental disabilities can’t access these facilities. step-free and leveled access to buildings, comfortable non-slippery ramps with hand-rails, wider doors, colour contrast, bright signages, fire & emergency system, audio visual information system, presence of security personnel, liftman, instruction boards with larger font, drinking water fountains, sufficient illumination etc. are require for better accessibility in a building.
Accessibility of transportation system :- disabled people suffer most in transportation. Public transport for disabled is either not accessible or not enough or irregular in nature. The roads are not properly maintained which creates difficulty for cane and wheelchair users. To make the transportation system disabled friendly, we need more low-floor buses with foldable ramps. Bus stops should have ramps and audio-visual information systems for easy understanding to disabled persons. railway stations must have lifts and escalators. a barrier or sounding object should be provided at change in levels and cutouts. proper headroom is required for walkways, corridors and aisles. guiding braille indicators at railways & airports, braille maps and informative booklets at enquiry counters, signboards with bigger fonts, bright lighting, reserve seats for disabled, discount in ticket rates are some means for increased accessibility.
information & communication technology (ict) accessibility :- Living in the 21st century, the disabled in India still lack the accessibility to information and technology. The barrier between disabled and ICT adversely affects their participation in all aspects of social life.
To overcome these issues and create a better living for disabled, the government of India has implemented certain schemes and regulations. The right of persons with disability act 2016, identifies 21 types of disabilities. The act has increased the quantum of reservation for people suffering with disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutions. Disabled students have the right of free education in government funded institutions. Stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings in stipulated time frame, alongwith accessible india campaign. The government has taken up measures to use of ict in the field of e-learning and make education accessible for everyone. This has increased the capabilities and independence of a disabled person. itc opens up various fields for disabled assistance e-learning, reading digital and audio libraries, internet and web for persons with special needs, winning communication, empowerment of a disabled person through social groups & network.
Accessible india campaign:- Its aim is to create an accessible environment for people with disabilities. a nationwide campaign for achieving universal accessibility, that will enable persons with disabilities to get access to equal opportunity and live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, in an inclusive society. The campaign targets at enhancing the accessibility of the built environment, transportation system and information & communication system. But these campaigns require the backing from the privileged and abled people of India. Only then, the aim of integration of disabled with the society would be fulfilled.
It has been almost 3 years since I last saw the young boy. It has been almost 3 years of wondering if the boy got any assistance and funds that he needed to lead a comfortable life. But with the efforts of the center and awareness of the general public, there is still hope. Every night when I rest my head on the soft mattress, I like to believe that the young boy with his turtle speed has surpassed all the obstacles that came his way. I like to believe that the young boy along with his father has still won the race of life.
Language is a mode of communication through which feelings are expressed and messages are delivered verbally. Every country across the globe has its official language while some countries have regional and local languages, which make them multilingual. From the 16th century, the Britishers started making their moves to expand their kingdom overseas. Capturing the territories of countries like Hong Kong, Africa, Canada, North America, Barbados, Singapore, Malaysia and India, they established their influence and became a superpower. Over the years, the political dynamics gradually altered, and the colonized countries gained freedom. But the influence of the British government in certain areas of life remained the same. Native languages became a minority and the speakers of these languages had to adjust their style of speech, behaviour and appearance to survive in the regions outside their vicinity. This shift of spoken language and alterations in behaviour according to social context is called ‘code-switching’.
The population of countries like Africa, Canada, India, Singapore and the USA is multilingual. The citizens speak two or more languages While conversing with their peers and associates, they consciously or subconsciously switch between two languages according to the need of communication. This code- switching proves to be useful for elaborating the true essence of sentences. It generates a sense of coexistence among different communities and protects the distinguished identity of every individual. People who tend to switch languages are likely to be more open in their approach to intercultural relations and grow to be compassionate members of an enlarged society. A social environment or an institution that supports code-switching, helps in the eradication of cultural barriers. Ideas are freely put forward and bilingual people feel at ease while interacting within diverse communities. The speakers get a wide range of choices of words and the minority languages get preserved and widely protected. Code-switching provides representation to people of colour and minority language-speaking citizens, and helps to convey thoughts beyond the first languages. In the USA, 14.4 percent of the population comprises international migrants. If educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities support code switching, the students that hail from minority communities would get a chance to express their ideas and thoughts freely. While doing the school work, projects and assignments or answering any question, they won’t feel the pressure of sticking to the language of majority. This exercise of code switching will prove beneficial to the secondary language speaking students and encourage them to protect their individuality. It would make them feel included and their linguistic recognition would be celebrated.
As the old saying preaches, every coin has two sides. This applies to code-switching as well because it too has some drawbacks. The bilingual community faces a dilemma while sharing space with people belonging to the majority population. They are conditioned to believe that, if they don’t switch from their mother tongue or spoken language to the language of the majority, they would be outcast. To fit with the dominant language-speaking people, they modify their behaviour and switch their language. This code-switching sends a message among the masses in order to fit into the certain criteria of the community, you must cover your true self. The African American, Latin American and Asian communities are forced to code-switch because the social environment makes them believe that only “being white” makes any race superior. This code-switching is the by-product of colonization that leads the minority to shift into survival mode in the white supremacist society. In the USA, African American women deliberately code-switch and change their appearance, dressing and way of speaking. They have been oppressed for centuries so long, which makes them change themselves around the majority community. Their existence in the communities outside their own has a border of fear which drives them away from their own culture and identification.
In a world where countries are divided by borders and wars are at a constant stake, code-switching creates solidarity between different social groups. But at occasions, it encourages discrimination of communities that has been oppressed since the colonial period. It is the right of every human being to live the way he or she desires . At the same time, no person shall claim superiority over himself/herself by depriving others of their basic rights. Every cultural and individual identity needs to be celebrated and safe space must be created where citizens would be no one but unapologetically themselves.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dil Chahta hai and so many great movies have one significant conclusion — follow your heart. Our heart and instincts are much more reliable than our brain and experience. Technically, that’s true because life doesn’t follow a plan. There is no “ultimate purpose” to fulfill. If we had a path, we could just always know what to follow and when. There would be no reason to go into this whole thing about choosing between our head and heart.
Personally, I have terrible instincts. Everytime I have listened to my heart, I have completely messed up. And I’m not talking about just relationships and career choices, it’s everything. The worst example of my life, ordering food, I once thought soya chaap would taste like chicken, clothes, movies and so on. Simple decisions that seem to come so instinctively to everyone about what could and could not be right give me a short glimpse of hell.
It’s not that I do better when I think about things, but at least I have better excuses when I mess up.
This miscommunication and a dire lack of coordination between these two very important parts of my life causes so much confusion and indecision for me.
I have never been good at academics. In fact, I have such severe anxiety issues that I have had to drop out of two colleges but this year in my course I had a new subject that dealt with literary theories and for the first time in my life there was something I could actually completely connect to. I got so thorough, even when anyone had confusions even the professors would advise to consult me.
On the contrary growing up, I had a huge passion for cinema. Storytelling and cinematography have always deeply fascinated me. I thought storytelling was cool before Tamasha. I had decided to study film studies since class 6th and be this big-shot script writer that is all I have dreamed of with all my heart for as long as I can remember.
Now I am soon going to graduate and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do. My head and my heart absolutely refuse to have a civil conversation. My head is sure pursuing theory and doctorate would be the best option, and it’s most definitely right. But my heart…says, “Well, you’re going to Mumbai.”
It’s like talking to my parents. Noone is actually listening to the other or making sense and you don’t even remember what the actual topic was supposed to be.
These problems seem small in the big scheme of things, a very nihilistic view,but this matters, because I matter, and you matter. With all our supposedly inconsequential little troubles, we all matter.
I have made a lot of questionable judgments in my life and made a lot of effort to work on appropriate decision making. From that experience I have learnt there are two paths people take for stuff in their lives.We either listen to our innermost instincts or rely on our analytic judgements, I’m constantly torn between the two.
There is your heart, who knows you. Your dreams, what you love and what you hate, what makes you ecstatic, what breaks you basically everything that makes you “you”. But your brain, it’s filled with experiences, ambitions, drive, capacity and your capabilities.
Who’s to say who’s right? Different situations seem to call for different approaches to deal with. Until then this war goes on and on. Does it end? Unlike real life wars, will this war ever bring peace?
The dangers of global warming have been spreading like wildfire. To slow down the inevitable from happening, people from all over the world have been inculcating habits that are environment friendly. Plastic straws are replaced with paper straws, reusable glasses have been in the making. Restaurants, arcades, tourist places, and so many more places are implementing nature friendly services. Every area is making improvements, including the fashion industry.
The concept of “sustainable fashion” has expeditiously become famous. Although, the question arises — what exactly falls under the term ‘sustainable fashion?’ All kinds of clothing labeled as ‘sustainable fashion’ are highly environmentally friendly. They are designed, created, produced, and distributed in a very eco-friendly manner. It is also known as ‘ethical fashion.’ Producing sustainable clothing is a guaranteed way to keep the industry going on for many more years to come. Moreover, its primary focus is to maintain a flourishing community.
The fashion industry has been known to be harmful to the environment since the industrial revolution began in England. This is mainly because factories worked on coal, traditionally referred to as ‘sweatshops.’ They were basically manufacturing facilities that employed workers with preposterously low wages, higher working hours, poor and threatening surroundings. In today’s world, the concept of fast fashion has been having a similar negative impact on the environment. Fast fashion is nothing but producing fashion in bulk and putting it up on the market for over consumption. Since the prices are cheaper and the quality is immense, people tend to buy the products in masses. Consumption in bulk is precisely why fast fashion is damaging. Large-scale fashion brands like H&M, Zara, GAP, have been using an endless cycle of overproduction and overconsumption.
H&M’s claim to producing sustainable fashion caused an uproar wherein they were also sued with several lawsuits. On the 19th of April in 2014, rumors of conspiracies began to spread and H&M was met with its first lawsuit for being racially insensitive and for copyright purposes. Subsequently, few inspections also took place to introspect the sustainable fashion claims that the company made. The research’s findings were quite shocking and disappointing.
Despite claiming that they are environmentally friendly, research and investigation stated the complete opposite. It was later discovered that H&M had been greenwashing their customers all along. Greenwashing is a malpractice in which brands claim to have “ethical,” “sustainable,” and “friendly” products. However, it is just a mere incorporation of labels. In reality, they continue to overproduce clothing and sell it inexpensively for mass consumption. H&M put up green scorecards, to indicate their use of eco-friendly clothes, and it was anything but. They reportedly said that one of the dresses was made of 20% less water. But the research proved that they had in fact used 20% more water. They just conveniently presented the negative results as positive ones – and this was just the beginning of calling out H&M. Most of their materials are made up of polyester (instead of organic cotton) which is widely known to shed more microfibres and cannot be called biodegradable. They even used an inviting and bright color scheme in their display to attract customers. The Commodore dived deeper and found out that they just reuse the old, discarded clothes and turn it into new fashion. H&M does not stand for sustainable fashion, and only claims to do so in order to attract more consumers. Nonetheless, it still stands that their way of producing fashion is very environmentally harmful. The Commodore is only trying to keep the company accountable by filing the lawsuit.
Upon questioning, H&M could not come up with a strong counterpoint and chose to stay silent. With the ALDI case and increasingly growing lawsuits, H&M owned up to its mistake and faced the consequences. The brand exploits materials that are harmful for nature and sells it under the label of it being “sustainable.” Considering the never ending pollution, it is high time we genuinely prompt sustainable fashion instead of it just being show and not tell.
Gen-Z says not at all. From the plethora of tutorials available on social media to the profusion of brands offering gender-neutral makeup, the stride of the current generation seems to be on the path of making beauty everyone’s business.
It’s interesting to see that makeup has come to represent a blurring of the gender binary since for a good chunk of the 20th Century, it was just another means to cause a divide in the gender spectrum. However, to all our surprise, this change can be perceived as a return to history as opposed to a break from it. Since antiquity, people have used makeup to showcase their riches, social standing, and even virility, in addition to their desire to look beautiful. As ancient Incan and Babylonian troops would ceremonially paint their nails prior to battle, Egyptian males would dramatically line their eyes with green and black kohl, while Roman soldiers favoured rouge. Male members of Louis XIV’s court in France painted on beauty marks, while Elizabethan men powdered their faces with ceruse, a poisonous concoction of vinegar and white lead. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria I that makeup for both men and women went out of favour as she, driven by the Church of England, deemed it vulgar. The traditional conceptions of masculinity became especially constrained as English religious values spread throughout societies around the world. Facial beautification for men eventually went out of style around the turn of the 19th Century, while other cosmetic enhancements for males, such as hair products, gained mainstream momentum. Little of this is logically sound. Why couldn’t a modern man make up his face without encountering any stigma if it is socially acceptable for him to style his hair and bathe himself in body spray?
Evidently, the history of makeup has always been as much an archive of gender norms as it has been a record of beauty standards. Only in the last decade or so has makeup become more gender-inclusive, and the concept of “metrosexuality” infiltrated the cultural consciousness, thanks to globally influential figures like Harry Styles, Jared Leto and the numerous K-pop artists. By incorporating jewellery, nail paint, and makeup into their styling routine, they have significantly helped in subverting conventional beauty norms. If you think that men’s makeup is exclusively a fad among celebrities, you’re wrong. While more and more women toned down to natural makeup during the pandemic, ordinary men, who may have always been curious about cosmetics but were wary of being labelled effete, on the other hand, dabbled with makeup to conceal blemishes, wrinkles, or razor bumps as they hopped from one Zoom meeting to another. It has now become common to hear young men share their daily grooming and skincare routines on social media without feeling self-conscious about their favourite applicator brush or serum. As a result, the new attitude toward makeup is less concerned with attractiveness and femininity than self-improvement.
For years, harbingers of the industry have paved the way for others to follow, sadly without ever succeeding in denaturalizing makeup as a feminine endeavour. But why is it happening now? Most likely because toxic masculinity has never been more volatile, and the timing is culturally and technologically favourable to change, driven by Gen Z’s determination to reject labels and pigeonholes. Additionally, with the rapid growth of social media sites, beauty gurus like Manny Gutierrez, Jeffree Starr, and James Charles have found a global platform to showcase their artistic expression and dispel long-standing stereotypes. Makeup has always been an important tool of expression and resistance for the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be drag queens or marginalized queer youth. However, they are no longer compelled to keep their true and creative selves hidden from the world for fear of judgement. Today, their presence dominates the beauty industry. Even on Indian soil, there has been a surge of male (straight and LGBTQ+) content creators trying to normalize makeup for all. From Ankush Bahuguna’s subtle touch-ups to Deep Pathare’s vibrant creations and Shantanu Dhope’s glamorous eye looks, influencer content has played a pivotal role in motivating an entire generation to embrace their inner creativity regardless of constrictive social stereotypes. But as would be expected, success brought with it a wave of online hate. “Is your masculinity so fragile that it gets hidden by translucent powder?” is the only question Bahuguna, like the rest of the beauty community, has for these haters.
One might wonder, does an embrace of makeup represent an expansion of beauty norms or a narrowing of them? While pondering on it, we must always remember that on its most superficial level, makeup erases scars and blemishes. However, for some, wearing makeup is a simple and affordable means of self-expression and metamorphosis into a more refined and confident version of themselves. This could go a long way toward self-acceptance in a world of relentless judgement.
In short, makeup is a method of self-expression/improvement for all and is no longer merely a question of gender or sexuality. Although men wearing makeup may not yet be an everyday sight, there’s no doubting that makeup is gradually making its way into their lives- not necessarily in the over-the-top designs of YouTube and Insta beauty gurus, but occasionally in subtle and natural ways. Beauty trendsetters like L’Oréal, by revamping its tagline “Because You’re Worth It” to “Because We’re All Worth It”, have inspired the world to wake up to the promising fact that not only women are interested in skincare and makeup.