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Are Events Like ‘Beauty Contests’ An Insult To Womanhood?

By Supriya Routray

“Globalization today means exploitation of natural and human resources from a third country like India by translational corporation to reap huge profits when it enters our daily life and seeks to capture our personal values and gender perceptions into commodities.”

A few years ago, when the ABCL and Godrej Limited arranged ‘Miss World’ contest in Bengaluru, much controversy was ignited in the name of our traditional and ethical values. Our respect for women was reportedly going to winds with the holding of such contests in India. The moot question was “Do such events constitute an insult to womanhood?”

There were not less than 28 organizations, opposing the event. The matter was heard by the court and the plea that such events are against our culture, was dismissed by the Karnataka High Court.

The ABCL and Godrej Limited questioned the propriety of such hullabaloo over the pageant, when Indian girls have been participating in international beauty contests since mid sixties? Why after two years, when Sushmita and Aishwarya won the crowns representing Indian women to the world, were welcomed? Why, when every other metro city, college and school, locally conducts, a ‘Miss’ or so and so contest is not opposed by any organization? What can India and Indian women lose if we hold pageants in the country? Why all the organizations and other opponents keep silence, when still greater obscenities and vulgarities are dished out in commercial films, and duly certificated by the Censor board? What of the Konark and Khajuraho sculptures and all other explicit temple cravings, where dance competitions displaying similar poses are periodically organized?

The organizers of Beauty contests all over the world have intermingled the beauty with brain. The girls are reportedly selected Miss World, Miss Asia, Miss Universe etc., not only in reference to their beauty parameters, but also regarding their intelligence by way of answering some tough questions to judge their IQ. They are given several crowns with specific features like Miss Beautiful Hair, Miss Photogenic, Miss Beautiful Smile etc. to sell the multitude of products spewed out of the beauty industry.

It can’t be taken as a mere coincidence that most of the beauty queens now a days are discovered in the developing countries with vast population and a good market potential to sell the products meant for females.

The women are being publicly exposed and judged on the basis of their vital statistics, which amount to an insult to womanhood to some extent. Several women’s organizations and feminist groups opposed the holding of such a pageant in Bengaluru on several grounds, not all related with women.

Politics, morality and nationality are intermingled in a pot-pourri of hysteria. These women groups never opposed the holding of such contests out of India, but made much hue and cry when the same kind of events are held in India. How and why could they hold Indian woman more pure and their dignity such a big issue if a bunch of adolescents were paraded in the country?

It was also argued that such semi-nude dressed girls, could also be seen at sea beaches, e.g., in Goa, Cochin, etc.

The point of holding such contests is not of culture, but it is more of promoting cosmetics, in this commercial world. The corporates dealing in cosmetics are always in search of markets to enhance their profits. Nothing can facilitate their market expansion more than fashion parades, fashion shows and beauty pageants.

Beauty pageants are an exercise to dovetail the female behaviour with the liking of males, so a premium is placed on a synthetic smile, smooth movements of body, made up faces and moisturised skins with beautiful hair.

The present boom in electronic media, the vast coverage of such contests have accelerated the commercial viability of such pageants. A beauty product is acceptable only, if the demands of a particular product in the market is good, if the packaging is proper and its promotion is up to the mark. Beauty, in short, is what the beauty business defines. Crowning girls from developing countries as Miss World, Miss Asia, Miss Photogenic etc. is all part of this commercial game.

All the violent protests and the destructive approach taken by the opponents of the beauty pageant, do more harm than good to the feminist caused by giving an impression that these protestors are restricted to a reactionary and lunatic frenzy.

There were feminists who argue that beauty contests provide an opportunity for women to express their feminity for which they are entitled as human beings. Some people argue that opposing the holding of such contests in India, is like chaining the Indian women in the old traditional values and ethics which are not at all acceptable to the modern Indian girls, because the old traditions and values were imposed on the women forcibly under the threats of so called kings and foreign rulers.

Since our country is a democracy, which guarantees several Fundamental Rights to the citizens, so opponents of the events have a right to oppose, the organizers have a right to organize and the contestants have a right to contest. In brief, holding such events, does not constitute an insult to the womanhood. The ill is not in holding such contests but is in the minds and thoughts of an individual or group.

By Supriya Routray

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