|Courtesy - Indian Express|
Why just America, beauty pageants across the world are dull! I can’t remember the last time I sat through one.
In India the reaction to Ms Davuluri’s historic win came in stages. It began as a trickle of self-congratulatory posts on social media for sharing the same gene pool as the first made in India, Miss USA. A few hours later it turned into a tsunami of outrage after BuzzFeed shared a tirade of racist tweets directed at Ms Davuluri. It did shock a lot of us that the world’s most powerful nation had citizens with Geography so poor that they couldn’t differentiate an Indian from an Arab and had heaped unflattering epithets like Ms Al Qaeda on her!
Interestingly, a lot of us returned the favour in equal measure as we went around dissing America as a nation of dumb racists.
It was convenient for us to ignore the fact that there will be as many opinions as there are people and if you go looking for ugly underbelly kind of stuff, there are people who will collate and find it for you. So, why get upset over the riff-raff that is carefully screened and used as proof to dump on the whole nation! If a set of Americans found it impossible to accept that an immigrant was chosen as America’s most beautiful, there was also the panel of judges and audience that selected her to represent first New York and then their nation internationally!
Just like no single template can be used to describe a diverse culture like India, we cannot paint the world’s third most populous nation with the same brush.
Isn’t it as bad as branding India as a nation of rapists because certain men choose rape to spew hate and subjugate women. It’s like saying all men are chauvinists and women weak.
It’s another matter that had Nina Davuluri been based in India, she would have spent a tortured childhood fending off how-to-lighten-your-skin-tone advice from well-meaning aunts and hating the looks of sympathy for being so dark. In India having dark skin automatically relegates you to the poor girl, her future looks so grim category. Little wonder that Fair and Lovely and their assorted cousins, which are nothing but ghastly concoctions of chemicals and bleach, continue to outsell any skincare product in our country. It is a sad commentary that we now have a Dark is beautiful campaign to change our perception of beauty.
I doubt if Nina Davuluri’s win will stop India’s eligible bachelors earning a six figure salary from seeking fair and beautiful, qualified but obedient, working but “homely” brides. On the contrary, it has exposed India’s unhealthy obsession for the light-skinned. Because in India it’s not just a skin tone, it also signifies your class, caste and social status in a society that has yet to get rid of its obsession for hierarchy. And why just outrage over bias of skin colouring when we use family background, schooling, command over English, number of cars in the garage, the square feet area of apartments to slot people around us. Where our last names are not just surnames we were born with but a repository of information, some stereotypical, about our eating, spending habits, intellect, character or the lack of it.
It certainly didn’t stop me from judging beauty pageants as being derogatory to women. We are all constantly scrutinizing people on basis of how they look, their mannerisms, their funny accents, the extra tyre spilling out of their jeans, the brand of shoes they are wearing….why, we even judge people for judging us! It’s like a chain reaction where we subject others to what we are subjected to, without even realizing it. But it hurts, doesn’t it, when we are the receiving end of it. Because we don’t acknowledge that, to command respect from others, we must respect others in the first place.
I think it makes it easier for Ms Davuluri if we stop thinking that she won the title despite her coffee skin. She won the title because of her looks, intelligence, exceptional dancing skills and most importantly her incredibly sculpted body. Now this makes me voice another valid concern. In a world of women of all shapes and sizes, why should certain body types and dimensions be considered a prerequisite for beauty? If beauty is irrespective of your skin tone and beauty contests empower women as claimed, why should it hinge on the fat distribution in your body?
There, we got our next topic to outrage about.