Nepal: Maoist Women Disrupt Beauty Pageant
Posted by Ka Frank on November 28, 2009
My Republica, November 24, 2009.
Maoists: Tired or transformed?
As usual, Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary) and some women rights activists tried to disrupt the Miss Nepal beauty pageant 2009 with sloganeering and demonstration of black flags. Despite that, the pageantry was successfully held last Thursday ([September 24]. Because of possible security threats, this year the event managers chose Army Officer’s Club located within the premises of army headquarters as their venue.
However, the high security zone alone was not a factor that prevented the cancellation of the event; this time the protestors too did not seem to be in a mood to force the event to closure as they had done last year. This year, their rallies appeared more like a ritual rather than a real threat, which were primarily for the consumption of party cadres.
In the past, it used to be different. With the application of violence and intimidation, the Maoists would force the event to be canceled. What made the Maoists change their methods (or even attitudes) this year? Got tired? Maybe. Got transformed? Very welcome, for that is exactly what the nation, people and the society wants.
Maoists allege that beauty contests exploit and degrade women for commercial purposes. They also condemn the ‘capitalist’ definition of beauty. According to their janabadi (pro-people) definition, beauty lies in mental caliber or work of a woman and not in the display of her body. Fine, dissents are part of free and vibrant societies; everybody including Maoists has the right to disagree. But nobody is allowed to force his/her view on others, more so through violent means. Should the Maoists choose to protest in a civil and peaceful manner, there is no reason why there would be complaints.
First, those who lecture others that a woman’s beauty should be defined in terms of the prowess of the brain and not physical appeal should never have used muscle power to make their point, which they did.
Similarly, trepidations that beauty contests affront women or reduce them into ‘commodities’ should be best dealt by stakeholders such as parents, guardians, teachers and the so-called victims themselves – the contestants. Maoists must learn to respect other’s ability to judge what is right for them and what is wrong. If various stakeholders, including participants, consider beauty pageants as sinful, no organizer or sponsor can force anybody to walk the ramp.
Similarly, members of the community have the right to object to beauty pageants. But it is not the business of political parties to do jobs that leaders of the society such as scholars, philosophers, gurus, sociologists, civil society groups and the likes are supposed to do.
Likewise, it is the duty of women rights activists to protest the pageant should they find that it is disserving the cause of women. Yes, the Maoists may argue that it was women who took to the streets and the party as such was not involved in the incident. But, such arguments cannot be acceptable as the demonstrators were not free individuals voicing concerns of women in general; they were party cadres who echoed the voice of their mother party.
Maoists should free themselves from the narrow-minded notion that all well-dressed people are their enemies or all pageantries are capitalist extravaganza. They should learn from China and Vietnam. Still communist by nomenclature, those states have tuned to the changing times where stardom, modeling, beauty and fashion industries are thriving day by day. They can also learn from Venezuela which, under the rule of a firebrand communist president, has been producing Miss Worlds and Miss Universities in droves.
Maoists claim themselves to be ‘progressive’ but paradoxically act like Taliban or Mullahs and Imams of Somalia, Yemen or Iran who physically punish women violating their traditional dress codes. Conversely, in areas where it is most needed such as writing the constitution or concluding the peace process, Maoist energy and zeal has been in short supply. Therefore, it is everybody’s wish that they demonstrate thoroughness and enthusiasm in those areas and stay away from social engineering as it is not their job.
Lastly, the pageantry was a wonderful spectrum of inclusiveness. The participants truly represented the country’s ethnic diversity; yet the winners were selected purely on merit, thus making the beauties feel proud. Despite the free competition, two of the three winners, including Miss Nepal, came from Tamang and Magar communities, which are considered as weaker sections even among the indigenous nationalities. Miss Nepal and the first runner-up will soon fly overseas to participate in Miss World and Miss Earth contests, an opportunity two deserving daughters of mother Nepal were deprived last year, thanks to Maoist’s misguided adventures.