Freedom from airbrushed beauties

Srabani Mukhopadhyay on why we need more Susan Boyles in the world

Within nine days of her dream debut, the videos of her audition interview and her 1999 rendition of ‘Cry me a river’ had been viewed by 100 million people on the internet. Social analysts called it a victory of immense talent scoring over superficial gloss and manufactured glory.

The victory is special since it has come at a time when books are nearly always judged by their cover. In a culture which is obsessed with beauty and packaging, Susan’s talent shattered many a stereotype.

Worrisome trend

Marketing surveys of leading cosmetic companies show that the age profile of their fairness cream users have got lower in recent times. Pre-pubescent girls, as young as 12 and 13 years, are consumers of fairness creams, and they visit beauty parlours regularly for that perfect look. While the saloons are laughing their way to the bank, society has to deal with the fall-outs -- poor body image, crash dieting, unhealthy eating habits, obsession about weight and related disorders like bulimia, anorexia nervosa, plummeting self esteem and a host of psychological disorders.
Before the child learns about her social and economic potential she has to deal with her ‘beauty quotient’. After all, the role models are anorexic models, film stars and music divas who revel in their size zero outfits, off stage antics and instant stardom. The larger-than-life images of such celebrities fuel the aspiration of these youngsters who are witnesses to the cult status that they reach by doing nothing substantial. Socialites like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian are much sought after and enjoy a huge fan following by their momentous action of attending parties!
If wardrobe malfunction at a fashion show or music gig can bring you world recognition, then why plod your way through years of sweat and grime to acquire a new skill?

Breaking free

Before popular culture plumbs new depths we need more Susan Boyles to question ourselves if we really have the cultural freedom to call ourselves modern. Perhaps new age freedom is all about image and awareness of fashion quotient as the ‘lipstick feminists’ would have us believe, but the jury is still out on whether to call it yet another trap or emancipation. The pressure to conform to an ideal concept of beauty continues even in these so called liberated times.

Naomi Woolf, author of ‘The Beauty Myth’, found it a political conspiracy to maintain the patriarchal system so that women can always be controlled under her own insecurities. The more women feel unhappy and insecure about their appearances, the more they would be obsessed about knocking off weight rather than reaching any higher goal. Instead of chasing a standard of femininity that is impossible to attain, their energy could be used to enhance positive goals.
Real women are not air brushed beauties. They have wrested the right to be themselves from the self proclaimed authorities who set parameters of beauty. Here’s more power to Susan Boyle and her ilk.

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