Mansoor Ali Malik
Globalisation today means exploitation of natural and human resources from less developed countries by transnational corporations to reap huge profits. This is starkly felt when it enters our daily lives and seeks to capture and transform our personal values and gender perceptions into commodities.’’
An event that took place recently might illustrate the point.
When ABCL and Godrej Ltd. arranged a Miss World contest in Bangalore recently, much controversy was ignited in the name of traditional and ethical values; respect for the woman was reportedly going to winds with the holding of such contest in India. The question that all this raised was: Do such events constitute an insult to womanhood?
In terms of the event or case in contention, there were not less than 28 organizations opposing it. The matter was heard by the Court and the plea that such events are against Indian culture was dismissed by the Karnataka High Court.
ABCL and Godrej Ltd questioned the propriety of such hullabaloo over the pageant. They asked when Indian girls have been participating in international beauty contest since mid sixties, and when Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai won the crowns representing Indian women to the world, were welcomed, why were not these opposed by any organization? The further asked that can India and Indian women lose if beauty pageants were held in the country. Moreover, they pointedly asked 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 Khajurao sculptures and all other explicit temple carvings?
The organizers of beauty contests all over the world have conflated beauty with brain. The girls are reportedly selected as Miss world, Miss Asia, Miss universe not only in reference to their beauty parameters but also their and intelligence quotient .They are given several crowns with specific features like Miss beautiful hair are Miss photogenic , Miss beautiful smile and so on. But, in the final analysis, all this is done to sell the multitude of products spewed out by 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 populations and a good market potential to sell the products meant for females.
No doubt that beauty shows stereotype the female form and women’s body language and bodily movements are used to satisfy the lustful craving of the male eyes. Women are being publicly exposed almost nude and judged on the basis of their vital statistics actually amounts to an insult to their womanhood. Several women’s organizations and feminists group opposed the holding of such pageant in Bangalore on several grounds not all related with women. Politics, morality, nationality are intermingled in a pot pourri of hysteria. These women’s groups never opposed the holding of such contests out of India, but made much hue and cry when the same kinds of event were held in India.
The point of holding such contests was, in reality not about culture, but it was/is more about promoting cosmetics, in this commercial world. The corporate dealing in cosmetics are always in search of virgin markets to enhance their profits. Nothing can facilitate market expansion than fashion parades, fashion shows beauty pageants.
However, the violent protests and the destructive approach taken by the opponents of the beauty pageant did more harm than good to the feminist cause by giving an impression that these protesters were restricted to a reactionary and lunatic frenzy.
There were feminists who argued that beauty contests provide (d) an opportunity for women to express their feminity and liberation to which she is entitled as a human being. Some argued that opposing holding such contests in India , is like chaining Indian women in the old traditional values and ethics which is not at all acceptable to modern Indian girls because the old traditional and values superimposed on Indian women forcibly by the threat of so called kings and foreign rulers . All in all , the inference that can be drawn from the event and the protests thereof is that while moral judgments on contests of this nature might be reserved but women and their bodies must not be commoditized in and by the crucible of capitalist globalization. Women are human beings and they have rights but they are not commodities. Period!
—The Author is pursuing his PhD in Finance. He can be reached at: [email protected]