I deliberated for over a week about writing this piece. I know that putting my thoughts to paper on this one is going to open a can of worms. There are some who will agree with what I say and there are going to be those who will be up in arms against it…it’s a possibility. Hence, my hesitancy about writing this!
But, when I broached my thoughts to my husband, he was vociferous in his support.
‘You have to write this,’ he said.
‘But, it could ruffle a few feathers,’ I replied.
‘And, since when has your feminist writing not ruffled feathers? If you have an opinion then it needs to be shared…period. Give two hoots to people (that’s his favorite expression).’
So, here it is … my thoughts on an advertisement that I saw a week back.
A week back, ‘The Hyderabad Times’ carried a full page advertisement on the finalists for the Miss India Pageant 2022. The advertisement had thirty-one beautiful and intelligent women, chosen from each state of India to represent their state, in what is assuredly India’s biggest beauty pageant. It’s a coveted title and participants prepare for months before they appear for the selection rounds. Most of the girls competing for the title are educated young ladies pursuing a graduate or a post graduate professional degree. They are young women of poise who carry both their beauty and their intellect with grace.
What had my hackles up was the fact that in the advertisement all of them were nude from the shoulder up!! They were all dressed in off-shoulder tops/tube tops and each image was a testament to the nudity of their shoulders and neck. Now, I know that the pageantry world has certain requirements when it comes to beauty (chief among them being able to carry attire of all kinds including swimsuits). But, an exhibition of physical beauty need not be reflective of nudity. Isn’t that right? And, maybe such exhibitionism makes more than one of them conscious and uncomfortable.
This leads me to question –
Why must we unclothe a woman in the name of fashion? Why must we measure her beauty based on how comfortable she is in her nakedness? Why does nudity define the beauty of a woman in the fashion industry? What purpose is this nudity serving except titillating the male audiences?
And, we see more and more evidence of such nudity nowadays and not just in advertisements for beauty pageants. This year the MET Gala held annually, which is often referred to as the biggest night out for celebrities and fashionistas was overrun by the ‘Naked Dress Trend’ (https://www.vogue.fr/fashion/galerie/naked-dress-trend-met-gala-2022). The gala which is a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosts its event to a particular theme every year. This year the theme was – America: An Anthology of Fashion. The event saw the attendees take inspiration from the gilded age, a period of rapid US economic growth in the late 19th Century and nude dresses ruled the red carpet this year (Kim Kardashian, Lila Moss, Dove Cameron, Lily James, Karlie Kloss, Victoria Lee, etc.).
The above leads me to question –
If the event is a fundraiser then what purpose is wearing nude dresses serving? Will nudity loosen the purse strings more? Isn’t nudity an exhibitionist’s tool to boost ratings on social media? If so, then perhaps we need better role models to use such events to bring about change for the better.
The recent trends that I am witnessing lead me to question –
When will this exhibitionism end? What will this kind of symbolism lead to eventually? Are we to understand from these kinds of advertisements and exhibitionism that a woman can be beautiful only if she is semi-nude? Aren’t these kinds of things also body-shaming cloaked under layers of acceptance by ignorant masses?
It’s sad that today nudity defines high fashion. It’s sadder that women are unclothed in the name of fashion to help boost product or service sales. But, that’s what’s happening the world over and the saddest part is that it is us ‘women’ who facilitate this. It’s sparking a whole new range of insecurities which ultimately lead to psychological or self-esteem issues.
In my opinion, physical attributes do not make a woman beautiful. A woman is beautiful because she is the embodiment of kindness, love, compassion and sensitivity. Her beauty can never be limited to her physical attributes or any exhibitionism of those. Her beauty is reflective of the mettle that she is made of. But sadly, there is no pageant to judge such beauty.
what are your thoughts on this?
Thank you for reading this.
Absolutely stand by your point mam. Female nudity is a commodity that is used by all including politicians, religious gurus, corporates to their advantage. The peagants are hugely patriarchal in their content which in a way defies the very purpose of their existence. The attire of woman more or less or nil can always spice up things in the media,news, films, biz world. They actually use it very judicially. The basis of exploitation starts here
Thank you for reading this and for voicing your thoughts. I truly appreciate it.
Agree with you Sonal ji.I appreciate you for coming up with this very controversial topic- display of physical attributes in beauty pageants.I have often wondered about public display of body which is now given a name – feminism. I have a strong feeling women have got all wrong about feminism. It definitely doesn’t talk about or remotely also refer to nudity as an affirmation of equality with the male gender. It is all mixed up I feel.
Whether for contests or for any other reason women have agreed to bare their bodies n take pride in it.
Some believe it is their right to equality others trust that it is their body they can expose or conceal no one should question.
It is happening at 2 levels one is the pageants n contests exposing the women, the other women willinginly baring themselves calling it feminist point of view.
Sad that women are either ways bared.
Thank you Ma’am for reading this an for voicing your thoughts. Your last statement is especially hard hitting.
Very well written! I so agree with you Sonal.
You have voiced my thoughts to the core. I also feel that nudity is definitely not the scale one needs for beauty contests. A woman is defined by her character, integrity, elegance and her beauty.
Beauty, skin color, height should be the last characteristic trait to be measured in my opinion for any contest!
Thank you Lubna.