By: Puneet Kaur
Like it happens in any developing economy, in India, there�s been an apparent growth in aspirations of the people. Today, people aspire to be someone famous. And, to become �that someone�, they�re willing to pay a premium for quality, design and exclusivity. Be it the contemporary housewife, a sophisticated or the next generation of working class, they all want the best in life. "Today people, in one word, want Glamour. Anything written on celebrity, fashion and social revelry etc. is received with great delight. By giving the readers� what they want media whets their appetite for it. Then follows the vicious circle of desiring more and more. So media goes on providing the same.
Let�s take up growing awareness about fashion among youngsters. Media has given a boost to the fashion industry, to the fashion shows. The fashion industry is at its peak with Indian couture catching the fancy of the fashion gurus all across the globe. Beauty pageants have helped in promoting it. More and more youngsters are getting pulled in by the glamour of lights, camera, grease pint and fame. Young girls are being lured to the show bizz. Almost every young girl wants to be a slim trim, sexy model dancing on ramp, or wants to get a �Miss �.� Crown on her head. Since the last 4-5 years , the whole scenario of beauty paegents and fashion industry has just turned on.
Beauty contests sprout like common weeds today. Every small dance and college wants to organize one and ofcourse everybody wants to participate in it. Well , from an ordinary looking girl to a �crowned ideal woman �, it�s a long long process. The body beautiful is carefully crafted in the beauty factory, to be sold at a beauty mela. A successful sale helps it to lure millions of other bodies back to the beauty industry. Except for a woman�s height which is non negotiable, everything else can be altered.
And do we really know what is the price of a beauty crown? Sushmita Sen had to have her breasts augmented - artificially shaped to please the judges! Women today are using silicone breast implants their contouring that make men drool. Silicone injections produce the precise lip-chin correction which gives women the �sexy pout� that sells soft porn glossies. Lipo-suction for fat removal, nose jobs, facelifts, and every possible surgical trick In a way we can say that a girl passing through different surgeries is carved into a �new master piece�.
Through aggressive advertising the beauty industry has been very successful in convincing women of the �Ideal Woman� myth. It has made the woman�s body into a commodity which should meet a standard i.e. of queen�s. Every woman desires to look beautiful, sensuous and she feels insecure if she does not meet this standard. Perhaps this insecurity persuades women to buy beauty aids with often false claims of "removing wrinkles", "changing skin complexion" or "making one fair". But there is the other side of the woman, the true Indian woman in picture. The Indian woman, who hopes that her husband's longevity is increased by larger dot on her forehead, who has no idea of her rights. She just knows giving and giving.
When we talk about fundamental rights of women. what are these? We all know these include every right being a human being should have in a society. And who wouldn�t want these rights? These are the fundamental rights that every human being would love to enjoy. Law is there to protect these rights of women in particular. But after 54 years of Indian independence, the condition of Indian woman is even worsened. Of the 15 million baby girls born in India each year, nearly 25 percent will not live to see their 15th birthday.
The Indian constitution grants women equal rights with men, but strong patriarchal traditions persist even today. In most Indian families, a daughter is viewed as a liability, and she is conditioned to believe that she is inferior and subordinate to men. Sons are idolized and celebrated. May you be the mother of a hundred sons is a common Hindu wedding blessing. The rules laid down by Manu in 200 B.C.: "by a young girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house". "In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent."
On the contrast, the new generation X asks they have the right to drink or smoke in public, right to wear seductive cloths in public, right to take part in beauty contests, right to sleep with anybody she wishes. They should not be interrupted in whatever they do. Should all these include in fundamental rights? Don�t you think that these so called new rights only reinforce the 'objectification of women', the feudal and/or the consumerist culture.
Whenever any association opposes the beauty paegents or fashion shows , our �Miss India�s and crown girls� do talk about feminism and women�s rights but has any celebrity model expressed any anguish at the higher rate of infant mortality among girls in rural areas? Did anyone mention a sharp declining male-female ratio, existing female infanticide and increased selective abortion of the female fetus through sex determination? Did these models even know that every hour a woman is raped and every 10 minutes a crime is committed on a women somewhere in her country?
Hard earned money that could have been spent on nourishing food to bring on a natural healthy look is used for buying artificial blushes and skin nourishers. These artificial aids only worsen the condition if a woman�s general health is bad. Women�s groups and activists are objecting mainly to the �commodification� of women as sex objects. "Women should be free to decide which beauty products to use. They should not be conditioned by advertising and a beauty contest culture.
India�s constitution guarantees free primary school education for both boys and girls up to age 14 but India has the largest population of non-school-going working girls. Foremost is the view that education of girls brings no returns to parents and that their future roles, being mainly reproductive and perhaps including agricultural labor, require no formal education. The "another disincentive for sending daughters to school is a concern for the protection of their virginity. Women work longer hours than men. Still, men report that "women, like children, eat and do nothing. If all activities � including maintenance of kitchen gardens and poultry, grinding food grains, collecting water and firewood, etc. � are taken into account, then 88 percent of rural housewives and 66 percent of urban housewives can be considered as economically productive mothers breast feed their girl babies the reason of feeding for shorter periods of time reflects the strong desire for sons. If women are particularly anxious to have a male child, they may deliberately try to become pregnant again as soon as possible after a female is born Conversely, women may consciously seek to avoid another pregnancy after the birth of a male child in order to give maximum attention to the new son." A study in Punjab shows that medical expenditures for boys are 2.3 times higher than for girls. Why a woman does so ? obviously , to fulfill her patriarchal family wishes.
Male violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. Although not every woman has experienced it, and many expect not to, fear of violence is an important factor in the lives of most women. In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape takes place. Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is burnt to death over dowry. The most extreme expression of the preference for sons is female infanticide and sex-selective abortion. Women are kept subordinate, and are even murdered, by the practice of dowry. It is estimated that the average dowry today is equivalent to five times the family�s annual income and that the high cost of weddings and dowries is a major cause of indebtedness among India�s poor.
There are too many contrasts between the Typical Indian woman and modern outgoing Indian woman. Should we say that womanhood has been divided in between two polarities? Between big dot on forehead and the hair style where vermillion finds no place. The point is not to follow centuries old customs, but to maintain the grace and dignity of womanhood. To maintain herself in such way, her presence gives a feeling of proud of being a woman, no matter she be in any corner of the world.
We must learn to accept women in all their diversity - tall, short, thin, fat, white or black....Let�s try to understand in real terms that "Beauty is not in the body but in the mind." Let�s try to improve women�s living conditions in real picture.
About the author:
Puneet Kaur - Born in 1974, brought up and studied in Patiala (Punjab) and now settled in Delhi, Puneet Kaur is a post graduate in Journalism and Mass communication. She was awarded Gold medal for being the topper in Journalism in the University. She is also a post graduate in Public Administration. She worked as sub editor in Daily Aashiana, Patiala (Punjab), wrote for Punjabi Tribune, Indian Express and ezines on the Internet besides having worked as an Assistant Producer / Anchor in Tara Punjabi television channel. She likes to express herself on women issues and culture.
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