By Partha Banerjee
18 September, 2013
The new Indian-American Miss America and racism cries. All fuss and no substance. Period.
No, I am not a fundamentalist: not a Hindu or Christian Taliban. And guess what, I’m not a communist either. So, go figure what makes me write it.
Well, let me help you before you lose patience.
(And, by the way, this is not about undermining racism. Racism is alive and well in America. But, joke is that Indians are crying racism and color bias. Just go to India and find out how dark-skinned women are treated back there. And how Indians treat blacks here. Come on…I mean…it’s pathetic!)
Now I’m writing about it because I have a major problem with the way women’s beauty is sold out. I have a problem with the way beauty itself is now defined by those who only use beauty for making big profit. And nothing else.
Fashion parade, in particular, is something I’ve always had deep trouble with. The straitjacket way they dress up women. The way they select a particular variety of women. The way they require them to stand and walk on the catwalk.
Catwalk? Like, even stray cats in Calcutta have much more freedom than these women. Even those cats…neglected and abused…walk way better.
Sure, cats don’t make money walking, and these women are making money doing it, but at what cost? Who’s making the real big money? Who’s trashing these women when their “time is up?”
Being pencil-thin — practically starving yourself to death. Yes, that’s the life of these fashion cats…I mean…models. Depriving yourself of a normal, happy feminine life…with motherhood, sisterhood, family, society, and all. Subjecting yourself to the whims, and lust, of the designer and business owner. Drug abuse is all-pervasive. Many models, especially the failed ones, end up in the huge porn industry.
Yes, all of the above.
Hadley Freeman, fashion journalist, wrote in The Guardian:
Sexual abuse of models is fashion’s dirty secret
“Anand Jon Alexander, known professionally as Anand Jon, has achieved a certain kind of success since moving to America from India: his clothes have been worn by Paris Hilton, he has appeared on America’s Next Top Model.
Then, last week, he was sentenced to 59 years in prison, having been found guilty of 16 counts, including sexual battery and performing lewd acts on a child. In other words, Alexander, 35, had for many, many years been raping models who worked for him, some of whom were only 14 at the time. These 16 counts only relate to charges in California – he is still awaiting similar charges in Texas and New York.
Yet this was barely reported in the UK, and even the US coverage was pretty limited, certainly compared to that of the PR stunt of the model showing her tummy.”
But this was NOT an isolated incident.
Ms. Freeman wrote:
“Even more than eating disorders, the fashion industry’s real dirty secret is the sexual abuse of models, male and female, and last week when I spoke to models and editors about the Alexander case, the only surprise they expressed was not at what he had done, but that the models had come forward at all. This rare conviction going almost unnoticed is a missed opportunity of literally criminal proportions. One picture of a normal-sized model is commendable, but it will not effect any real change. Widespread coverage of the Alexander case, however, could have forced the industry to at least acknowledge this issue. Instead, it has been brushed aside.
It is impossible to say how common assaults on models by people in the business are because so few are reported, partly for the usual reason assaults often go unreported (a sense of shame on the woman’s part), but also because of some factors specific to the fashion industry: models are often very young; they fear they won’t work again if they “cause a fuss”. Model Cohen describes it as “a reality in the industry”.”
So, WHAT makes this all-pervasive sexual and emotional abuse of women different from the violent abuse that’s now all-pervasive on Indian streets? I’d let YOU decide.
I just have a serious problem with the way one of God’s best creations — feminine beauty — is defined, straitjacketed, distorted, used, abused and sold. It’s a global, corporate item — only for profit. Nothing else.
Women’s situation — either in “savage” India or here in “civilized” America — does not change. If anything, women lose their respect and dignity even more. Because now the new-generation perception is that respect and dignity do not matter.
Cats in Calcutta now have better respect.
Plain and Simple Writing by Yours Truly,
Brooklyn, New York
Partha Banerjee is a New York City-based activist, writer, artist-performer and educator. He blogs at http://onefinalblog.wordpress.com