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. Geishas 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.