The Beast of Beauty

English: beauty and the beast banner

I started to write a comment to Shub’s query which turned out too long, so here it is as a post instead! In my opinion traditional ideas of beauty all have their roots in reinforcing the social roles. For example:

1. Long, lustrous, silky hair: Ask any woman (who’s had such tresses that is!) how she manages it. You just might get to hear of hour-long shampoos, frequent head massages, a set of combs, brushes, grips, clips that can rival a spare parts mechanic’s toolkit, not to mention the sheer fortune spent in conditioners, volumizers, dryers, serum potions, colourants, oils etc.

Flash back to some decades ago when the phrase ‘hair-sculpting’ was unheard of. Remember long hours spent in washing that headful, treating it with home remedies to ensure lustre and body, drying it, copiously untangling it, keeping it free of lice etc? What better way to keep the woman occupied by giving her a workload to care for a pile of…dead cells?????!!!!

2. Long, flowing garments: The woman, the homemaker. The woman, the mother. The woman, the hostess. The woman, the cook. The woman, the cleaner, washer, sweeper, duster etc. And all of these, in sarees or lehengas or some version of long, trailing garments. So dress her in impractical garments, put her in the midst of hot, dusty conditions and fire hazards and potential ‘honour-threatening’ situations (what a hullaballo if the dupatta or palluv should slip!) to wear her down. Obviously the same holds true for skirts, tight dresses and gowns. Reminds me of the times prisoners were put in chains attached to chunks of metal to slow them down.

A guy once had the audacity to tell me, “What’s the big fuss? You should wear sarees more often.” I challenged him to spend 6 hours (inside his own house to preserve his delicate male ego) wearing a saree and to talk to me after that. I’m still waiting to hear of his experience.

3. Uncomfortable footwear: How many men like a girl in boots, flat shoes or sneakers? (I can hear the XY-crowd booing softly) How many men wear this stuff themselves? Its a funny thing that men should accuse women of being impractical but make such a big thing about the ‘sexy stiletto’. I, for one would really love to design a men’s shoe with a knife-edge under the heel and the front too tight to be comfortable. I’d prescribe a pedicure and then a day in open-toed sandals, walking on dusty roads and getting into crowded trains…I’d like to see how they look and feel at the end of the day. I am sure the supressed groans will sound just as sexy to me.

4. Jewellery: One very wise man (yes they exist…and are in the danger of being extinct!) told me that making a hole in the lobe of the ear is believed to suppress aggressive tendencies. This could be a myth of course, considering Indian women have had their ears pierced since time immemorial and it hasn’t succeeded in entirely wiping out aggression from them. Its worth thinking about though.

I personally hate gold jewellery. Apart from the fact that I think yellow is a perfectly horrible colour, I also feel like those jewellery holders you see in advertisements and shop-windows (yeah the black, bald ones with sharp features and no eyes). Of course I suppose its a real boost to the male ego to have to ‘protect the fine lady’.

I think the best jewellery I ever wore was a bicycle chain around my neck….it had its uses 😉

5. The package: And finally the whole notion of beauty is so restricting, so confining. Flawless skin, perfect figures, crip and well-fitted clothes….all of these take a good deal of maintainence.

Ever notice, that in any section of society anywhere, most women take care of their looks and attire (as their social and economic conditions may permit). Also a larger number of women do this than the men. Even in today’s day and age, in a big city, where ‘metrosexual’ is the latest buzzword from the marketing gurus stables, I see well-attired, groomed women and flabby, shabby slobs (FSS). Makes me quite see red (and I certainly don’t mean it as a colour of lust!).

Having said all that I confess to spending some part of the day grooming myself and ‘putting on a face’. What the hell, when in Rome…

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About IdeaSmith

IdeaSmith is the digital doppelganger of Ramya Pandyan (intrepid train-traveller and frequent spouter of post-midnight rhymes and rants). As IdeaSmith she battles obscurity and slays boredom with her stories about men, books, digitalia and Mumbai. She performs live and also blogs, tweets, Instagrams, Facebooks, +G’s, Youtubes and Goodreads all as IdeaSmith. Ramya is a blogger, digital storyteller and spoken word performer. She also runs a forum for aspiring writers called Alphabet Sambar. Tweet-bomb her at @ideasmithy.

Posted on May 13, 2005, in Battle of the sexes, I'm An Indian Woman, On a lighter note.., Times, they are a-changing, Vanity Unfair and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. yeah its social conditioning – all the hullabuloo about long hair its what has come down historically , jewellery as well..women were meant to look pretty and please men…
    however the times they are a changing..

  2. yeah now men can look pretty n please us..! 😀

  3. err.. you like ‘pretty’ men? hmm..
    Alas I fail to recognize most of what you have described; perhaps I was born in a generation where women are not forced to wear sarees, stilettos and swathed in gold while going about their daily business. Maintaining that gorgeous mane is an effort towards aesthetics, perhaps akin to men shaving everyday (look what you women force us to do!).
    And isn’t the notion of beauty (or attractiveness), while restricting and confining, applied to XX and XY equally?

  4. Well, well, well .. I am checking out your blog for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to see ‘a very familiar’ template 🙂

  5. ohhhhhhhhhh!!! here’s the post!!! n i looked allll over your main blog in vain! 🙂

  6. Several things:

    1) Why the new blog? Is the old one dead?

    2) You linked, delinked, linked, and again delinked me in your previous blog. Will I get the same treatment here?

    3) It has been months since I called myself the Whore of Mensa.

  7. wow great place and this post was gr8 :)enjoyed reading it !and thanx for linking me !

    meggie http://meeraj.rediffblogs.com

  8. i dont know about men- I as a woman, truly LOVE long tresses, as mine refuse to grow a bit beyond my shoulders! well tended hair looks so- umm- “rich” in texture and color tones.

  9. I had looong hair and chopped it all off..I never took care of myself..and NOW ..waiiiiiil..am on the wrong side of 30..ok..so closer to a-hem I am NOT about to reveal that..and hey..suddenly I suddenly remember alll the things i didn’t do..beauty not withstanding..LOLOL!–>

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