Monday, April 23, 2007

Better health through impoverishment!

India's Ministry of Health has just debuted a Web site promoting awareness about health. While I applaud them for providing information on disease prevention, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles, I'm a bit disturbed by some of the content I found in a section entitled "Indian values."

Next to a picture of women carrying earthen urns on their heads, text reads: "The glory in carrying an urn, Health through carrying an urn These women rarely developed cervical spondylosis. They were physically active and many of today's diseases were thus prevented."

Then, by a woman grinding wheat on a millstone, comes this reproach: "Health through grinding your own flour in glorious India. These glorious Indian women never developed a frozen shoulder. They were physically active and home ground pure whole grains were being consumed which are very healthy to the body. Health was through eating whole grains, health through physical activity through their daily chores."

The key message seems to be right on -- physical activity is good. But the subtext seems to be that women, in embracing urban lifestyles, are dooming themselves to unspoken tragedy. This wouldn't bother me so much if there was also a section on how men should return to the agrarian life, say, urging them to embrace manually sowing fields, but there isn't. Instead, it is presumed that women should stay in their traditional places, shunning convenience for the sake of slaving over an open fire to provide the family endless freshly made rotis (and, of course, waiting until the men finish their meals before serving themselves leftovers).


ggop said...

Heh. Maybe the men are supposed to dance :-)
I agree, this whole eating after the men eat/ "serving the men" bit really bugs me.

Arvind said...

To glorify or to condemn, that's always the dilemma, isn't it? I wish our 'subjects' also got the chance to make judgemental and prescriptive comments about priviliged outsiders like us!