Beauty Contest in Bangalore
Crony Capitalism on Catwalk

(Below we reproduce a leaflet brought out by the Bangalore unit of AIPWA for their campaign against Miss World beauty contest to be organised in Bangalore by Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd.)

Globalisation has been on parade in Bangalore for quite some time. We Bangaloreans have been offered catchy glimpses of the lifestyles of the super-rich in steadily increasing doses - Kentucky kababs and Pizza Hut pastries, Apache music, Pierre Cardins and other designer dresses of the haute courte and their not-so-poor native KidsKemp cousins and what not. Now the cultural Czars of globalised capitalism are invading our Bangalore to put women on 'fashion parade'.

And, to be sure, this is not merely a show of cultural perversity that denigrates woman and degrades her dignity. A regressive exercise which stereotypes female form and women's 'body language' and preconditioned bodily movements to the exhilaration of the male ego and to the fulfillment of the voyeuristic cravings of the male gaze. A demeaning exercise designed to clearly define and standardise certain stupefying behavioural patterns for women which can amuse the male supremacists, the so-called go-getters and achievers in a 'man's world'.

The impending fashion extravaganza is as much a cultural monstrosity as it is a great business opportunity for the moneybags in the media and fashion industry, for the cosmetic kings and ad-industry barons. Like Olympics, like World Cup soccer or cricket, this so-called beauty pageant - a meticulous search for a Miss Universe - is a mega event that can mint millions in dollars for the media moghuls. All in ad revenues as the spectacle is supposed to occupy the prime slot with tens of millions of viewers hooked on to their TV sets devouring the well-packaged but grossly distorted feminine imageries. All eyes on Bangalore, the world over! All eyes on those pitiable women on parade hoping to be crowned!!

No wonder then that the 'crowned princess' ends up as a contracted slave to the sponsors of the show promoting whatever products they want to push in the market. The less-fortunate, uncrowned 'beauties' also often end up as 'models' or land up in the movie industry. The women are to be commoditized first before they can be used to market any, and every, commodity. The advertisement skits, designed and disguised as complete postmodern art works in themselves, employ and exploit these models and under cover of selling lifestyles, fashions, and even attitudes, they are put on a hardsell mission to sell commodities.

It is not for nothing that capitalism puts a premium on synthetic smiles, measured movements of the female body, the made-up manicured hair and moisturised skin. And it is no chance coincidence that most of the 'queens' these days are 'discovered' in the Third World. Underlying this 'aesthetic Third Worldism' are cold market calculations. The fashion parades and beauty charades, much discredited among the self-respecting sisters in the West, may have second-sale value only among the emerging rich comprador elite in poor Third World countries like India. But the objective behind this cultural colonialism is, no doubt, opening up the virgin markets for the fashion industry of the western multinationals.

Brokering for the high priests of the western fashion industry and programme sponsors abroad is Amitabh Bachchan, the angry youngman of yesteryears who turned into a scamster powerbroker during early liberalisation years of Rajiv Gandhi. From dishing out cheap pop and soap from Hindi films through his satellite channel round the clock, he has graduated to the level of organising this 'world event'. And he has naturally eyed the so-called garden city of Bangalore which is fast turning into a Garden of Eden for multinational satans. Blessing him fully are Messers Deve Gowda - in full gratitude for the dinner he and the monster from Maharashtra Thackeray were offered by this top-ranking tax evader - and JH Patel, the Socialist-turned-socialite. Even the supposedly hallowed precincts of Vidhan Soudha were put at his disposal to announce this mega event to the media.

How do women figure in the scheme of these rakes? Mr. Bachchan would demand of his own talented 'Guddi' to give up her promising career in films to take up a role as his devout wife, dutiful mother who has to turn a blind eye to his own off-screen escapades and whose only permissible public life is narrowed down to organising festivals of children's films. But he himself has no compunction in putting other women on parade, all for a couple of million dollars.

The rural rich and their leaders like Deve Gowda have no scruples of conscience in keeping their womenfolk as traditional housewives marching few steps meekly behind their successful men. The lives of their Chennammas are far remote from that of the great Rani of Kithur. But these mannina magas who shed glycerine tears at the travails of toiling rural women and pontificate about the virtues of traditional values for their womenfolk are simply overwhelmed by the glitz and gloss of their multinational masters and roll red carpet for their catwalk shows.

What does this globalisation mean for us, the ordinary women of Bangalore? It has only meant backbreaking toil for our sisters in globalised export garment or electronic industry. They can hardly afford to step into one of those 500-odd beauty parlours for an occasional hairdo which still remains the privilege of elite and middle class women. Globalisation has only meant a money culture of unbridled ambition and unsatiable greed among even middle classes which takes a heavy toll of our lives in the name of dowry. The increasing reports of crimes and atrocities on women in the last couple of weeks vying for space with the oncoming beauty pageants in sensational front-page journalism only shows that this culture of government-backed debauchery is a direct threat to our daughters and sisters. Enough of it! We don't want this globalised hi-fashion to creep into our once-serene but now fast getting lumpenised neighbourhoods. We don't ask J.H. Patel and Deve Gowda to make Bangalore an Eldorado. All that we demand are better civic amenities and adequate drinking water for our sisters forced to live in slums, more educational and occupational opportunities for us young women who look for a liberated future of equality of sexes.

In opposing the commercialised representation of women through beauty contests, we don't share BJP's angle which wants to stereotype women into communalised and traditional Hindu role models. Rather, we uphold the independent, secular and self-respecting role of the women.

The bourgeois elite of Bangalore has hitherto wallowed in a cultural ambience where night clubs and floor-shows catered to their base cultural sensibilities. Now they want nothing less than a ringside view of world class catwalking.

No more striptease, no more catwalks!

We appeal to all our self-respecting sisters, all our brothers who respect the dignity of women, to unite and resist this frontal cultural onslaught on women.