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Beauty and the Beast of Consumerism

She exposed pink underwear worn under a short black leather kimono. Japan’s finalist for the Miss Universe, Emiri Miyasaka, caused a bit of a storm in the preliminaries. Is the reaction prudish? I think not.

I am often amused by how these beauty pageant winners are termed ambassadors of nations. We send a young woman from our country after she has won the title at home, she is trained and trimmed and pruned to fit into what is considered international requirements. Requirements for what?

We fall for this standardised idea of beauty, and these days of humaneness and larger concern for social development as well. Do we realise that for many it means altering their identity besides their bodies? What sort of independence is this that the woman becomes a puppet who has to learn to walk and talk in a particular manner? Where is the individuality? And on what grounds do they represent national culture?

The kimono has specific connotations to convey myriad values and nuances. The lady is made to wear a leather one – fine, and I can hear some people call this a feminist statement of power, as though horse or cow hide can make anyone powerful. It would make better sense if she just wore some leather thingie – what is this about pink panties showing through? It isn’t sexy. It does not convey beauty, feminity, class. It is indeed crass and appears more like an ‘oops, I forgot to button up’ moment.

There are bikini rounds where she can wear whatever she wants. There is no need to combine it with a kimono. Geisha's wear kimonos and we know what their job is, but there is such subtlety and class in their demeanour.

This brings me to the Indian national dresses that get flaunted at such pageants. The traditional ghagra-choli (long skirt and blouse) have enough scope to show skin but how far can you go? The saree is considered one of the most sensual garments, but some film actresses and models tart it up wearing it so low that you fear it might fall; the graceful pallu (the loose end) instead of resting on the shoulder in a flowing manner is scrunched up like a snake so that the full impact of the washboard gym-toned – if not lipo-sucked – midriff hits you in the face. The cleavage is not a hint of promise, but thrusting of a Size A cup to tell the world you can fit into anything on a ramp where women are merely human mannequins and must draw attention to the clothes and not their bodies. Ironically, they have to abuse their bodies to reach this state of robotic perfection.

These are not ambassadors of our countries but just young women who are out to make it outside. Home is their last refuge. Many have to return and then they need to alter their identities and bodies again. Pump up the breasts, add some bulk to the hips, change your walk, change your talk. They want to be in the movies and Bollywood likes them to look like they can fill up the screen and pre-pubescent fantasies of mama’s boys.

Meanwhile, pageants have a whole lot of money riding on them and the women have to be what cosmetic companies and designers expect.

It is okay as long as it is a person’s choice and they represent themselves. I see no reason for them to be hailed as symbols of their countries.

7 Comment count
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It's not just the pink

It's not just the pink panties, but the whole garter belt contraption. Elegant. (Not.)

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Pink panties stayed in my

Pink panties stayed in my mind because it was mentioned in the report. But your are right about the garter belt. I wish they at least worked on a semblance of what is elegant.


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Farzana, you have probably

Farzana, you have probably heard about the Venezuelan beauty industry:


I don´t think they´re the only ones who do that, though. Young women go to extremes to be famous. But there´s something else, too. Like a lot of soccer players who, in their late teens jump from poverty to wealth and fame, the girls too, see it as a way to escape the fate of turning into a servant in rich people´s homes. Their life stories are very similar, and what´s really sad is that they know they´re pawns in a much bigger and complex game/business and keep playing along because they see no other way.

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The Venezuelan industry,

The Venezuelan industry, Luciana, is well-entrenched. And this is indeed being followed by other countries. I do not see it as merely a jump from poverty. Many girls in India are from middle and upper middle class families, some are professionals in their fields. The problem is as the game gets bigger, the women who in fact run the show are reduced to the cosmetics they are made to market.

In India, at least, it is another form of elitism and those who do no speak English too well are looked down upon.


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The Miss America pageants were fun to watch

as a little girl. By my twenties, I came to see it as demeaning to all women, not just the contestants. I am glad it's no longer the main stay of prime time TV. It's hard not to get physically queasy each time I see the shackles women are subjected to, or willingly allow themselves to put on. I always love getting your view from the other side of the globe.  The Chinese love beauty contests.  I'm wondering if it's a Western import.  Are Miss Chinatown contests still held in San Francisco?

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There were Miss Chinatown

There were Miss Chinatown contests in San Fransisco? But why am I surprised, Belle? We have so many suburban contests here. The big one gets prime time on TV and the queasiness is confined to very few people.

Worse, some designers state that they are promoting local art and craft!




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