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Isha Singh Sawhney

Isha Singh Sawhney is a writer, musafir and obsessive people watcher. She loves seeing new places and hates leaving them.

The Spanx Effect: Pioneer feminism or a bow to the patriarchy?

've been having a difficult relationship with Spanx. Even before ever meeting a pair of this new age girdle/corset, I feel strangely drawn and equally repelled by everything Spanx represents. Even Adele and the four pairs she wore for the Grammy's two years ago did nothing to clear up my dilemma.

A week or so ago, the former editor of a fashion magazine proclaimed (in brackets), that "Delhi gals, should make Spanx their best friends". After I got over the word "gal" being used by an editor of some repute, in a publication of even more repute, I mulled over what it means to wear Spanx.

Madame Fashion Editor had mentioned Spanx as she vented about Delhi girls and their affinity towards figure suffocating bandage dresses, dissecting a subject favourite to many — the Dilli-Mumbai sartorial debate. This pet topic usually veers towards the Dilliwalli being overdressed, often times inappropriately, and even more regularly inappropriately under dressed, with the Mumbaikar having a much stronger bohemian, palazzo pant-kurta sheath kind of ubiquitous-ness, almost to the point of apathy.

By now, the battle of cities should have been less #firstworldproblems and more who is banning which bikini clad mannequin. Anyway, so Spanx at the centre of this debate took on a whole other avatar, for me, especially when I remember the many hours I have spent in front of mirrors while getting ready, agonising over which bulge is kosher and which looks absolutely obscene. I don't think I am fat, but I'm equally a victim of the body issues that plague most women.

Movie stars, politicians and people in the limelight, who aren’t enthused about landing up on worst dressed lists, have all chosen the nip and tuck of Spanx.

e look at ourselves in mirrors, after workouts, sex, a full meal, or even a juice-cleanse and we're constantly judging. Constantly feeling like your arms, stomachs, thighs and butts don't size up. Too small, too big. It's one unending circle of judgement. And Sara Blakely, the woman who invented Spanx has made billions out of just this insecurity. Body issues are reinforced every day by women when we tell friends they've lost weight, or they look so skinny in that dress or when someone tells you, you've lost weight and you still insist you look, oh, soooo fat. Body image issues are what make it lethal for a man to tell a woman, she looks fat, or something looks unflattering on her.

But like Spanx's patron, it's not simple enough to say that only the superficial wear Spanx. Movie stars, politicians and people in the limelight, who aren't enthused about landing up on worst dressed lists, have all chosen the nip and tuck of Spanx. It's better many would say, than the actual nip and tuck of a surgeon's scalpel. But after losing the girdle and the corset, how did this tight-ass lycra undergarment, that's been linked to all kinds of horrifying illnesses like, constricted breathing, UTI's and fainting spells Scarlet O' Hara is being diagnosed with, become THE fashion secret of the 21st century? And how did it come armed with a message of empowerment? Their tag line of "body shapers" is never going to let me feel good about my body, until I've stepped into a spandex tube that squeezes every stray bulge right into its place, which is obviously the perfect hourglass figure.

The funny thing is, I still can't get myself to hate the idea of Spanx. When women like the Kardarshian sisters can adopt the trend and embrace curves the proportions of which are ™ only by them, I wonder if worn in moderation, it isn't actually an easier solution than 50 push-ups and body shattering juice diets. Or when Tina Fey says, "Spanx, it's my dream come true," I wonder about the power hidden in these modern day torture devices. At least In-Power™ Line Super Higher Power promises to "Tame your tummy and create an hourglass silhouette," to give you "the power!" What if Spanx was what the women's lib movement was waiting for all this time? Freedom from jiggling body parts! Then Blakely and fashion magazine editor are pioneer feminists, I'd say.

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