No More Fooling Around Girls !
Feminism, really?? Photo credits: Weibo
NEW DELHI: Bush is back. Not the one who we all know as the cowboy who cut his teeth against the double war on Iraq and Afghanistan and left a colossal mess for his successor to deal with. But one that comes with a small 'b', and to many it may still pose just as noxious a sight as Dubya.
Last week,Chinese Feminists exhorted their fellow comrades to grow their armpit hair and post the pictures on Weibo-- the Chinese Twitter-- to change the perception of beauty that comes with the smooth hollow of the oxter. As is obvious these days, when anything goes and nothing matters, especially on social media, women happily raised their arms-- just one arm though-- and gave the world a glimpse of their new 'holy of holies', fairly adorned with bristly tresses. The feminists managed to raise a stink with the novel idea, just as one of the "geniuses" of our postmodern world, Anees Kapoor recently did with his 'Vagina' installation in Paris.
Both instances give us the examples of ordinary outré, the bizarre yet dated use of human anatomy to cause a scandal and make some history, however minor. One can figure out many differences between the two acts, but the starkest is that of motive. While the Chinese feminists wanted to upturn the traditional notion of beauty, which requires women to be as bald at as many places as possible with the exception of head and eyebrows, the modern art installation of Kapoor is aimed at achieving glory. Like an artist with no cause to further, he tries to get his spot in the sun by trying to resuscitate the old conservative sentiments which would have gaped at the sight of the gaping garage of an artwork he referred to as "Marie Antoinette's Vagina".
Artists and feminists, both, have been denuding and interpreting female form in various ways since the struggle for the women's rights started. But at this point it seems, vagina has lost out to other forms and ways of interpreting femininity-- at least if one goes by the tepid response given to Kapoor's installation. While the 'arm pit' caper of Chinese feminists too, is not meant to last any longer than the next shave, still the idea itself fits snugly with the "reclamation" series of acts being done world over. It intends to reclaim the female body by doing away with the 'male gaze', through which female bodies are seen and judged, and, ranked and rejected.
One of the earlier acts of defying the 'male gaze' was when British Actress Keira Knightley posed topless for 'Interview' Magazine while refusing to allow any airbrushing of her photograph. It would be very hard for one to disagree though that her right breast was a bit flatter than the left one (Male gaze. Can't help it!), and adobe would certainly have made things more equal.
Should one see these motley acts of 'defiance' to carve a new feminine identity as benign, or as pure ostentation on the part of the social media iconoclasts and Hollywood icons is a matter of serious debate. Not everything that is heretic to the conventions of society-- which includes females-- can be justified as radical championing of basic female rights, which are still not so natural an entitlement to women in many countries. And one has a feeling that every such 'brazen' act of nonconforming has the potential to debase the coinage of the real feminist movement.
It's not just female bodies which are airbrushed for magazine covers, even Justin Bieber had to go under slight mutation when they edited his photo and made his "package" look bigger than it actually is for a Calvin Klein photo shoot. Vanity knows no sex, and people want their stars to be more perfect than the rest. While the urge to look good even for commoners is not forced either by some deadly male gaze or whatever, it goes back thousands of years when our ape-ish ancestors would carve shapes in small stones and wear them to preen themselves. I wonder whether we can change that legacy, even temporarily, considering our pedigree.
On the other hand, one wonders what happened to the 'arm-pit' contest-- it started with a call to grow hair and has now morphed into a trend of colour dyeing these. Its ironical to notice how our vainglory cloaks itself in causes only to disrobe later and become a style "trend" .