I just watched the Miss Tibet clip and it was supposed to be a distracting break from my work but here I am minutes later after watching it again, feeling compelled to say something. Please note it is only my opinion and I will spit it out, the way I see it from my window lol
Years ago when Sush and Aish were competing, I used to feed on every bit of news update. Initially having never heard of Sush, I was an Aish fan. But somewhere during the whole parade, I switched side lol My justification – how could you not take to heart this amazingly eloquent, down to earth woman, who’s got such intelligence and wit not to mention the exquisite bone structure, the gorgeous height and hair! Amazing. An original diva who even under extreme pressure to be politically correct, still twists things and make clichés sound less so. Aish is good but Sush is special. After that competition, it was year after dismal year of cookie cutters. At their best they gave boring but nice answers, after a while the girls even started looking alike (in my head for some strange reason) and at their worst, they fit the stereotype; you can be beautiful or brainy but not both. If anyone wants a good laugh I suggest youtubing the recent Miss California and the Philippine beauty contest. While my feelings for Miss California’s double standards and views on homosexuality approach the ‘I despise her’ territory, the Philipina is just plain funny.
Coming back to Miss Tibet pageants, I remember watching one on youtube two years ago and like most of you (don’t tell me you didn’t) giggled and squirmed a little (in typical Tibetan bhomo ishtyle) at some of the answers they gave but after that have basically been out of the loop with who’s who in the beauty circle. Maybe coz I don’t fit the bill of what the committee wants in a potential candidate, talk about blatant self interest lol Anyway before I digress and rant against my biological genes or the almighty leh (karma), first things first, I must laud the courage it took for the four of them to sign up for the pageant knowing the amount of bickering and sneers that must follow. They all have the courage and the tenacity to brave ridicule in order to live their dreams. Whether you think they are more or less beautiful than your sister, or friend or that neighbor’s daughter around the corner, it doesn’t matter because the fact is your idol didn’t show up and the ones that do, deserve respect and have the potential to be an advocate for Tibetan women. Why? Let me explain.
Although I watch beauty pageants, I am also a skeptic because I don’t agree with its fundamental outlook. It stinks of neocolonial mentality, is sexist, culturally biased and contributes to a whole host of issues regarding woman’s self esteem, body image and sexuality. For me, the racehorse scenario of the competition reminds me that we may have come a long way from the times slave women (and men) were sold at market squares, the more beautiful or stronger fetching more bucks, but still have miles to go.
In contemporary times we have seen beauty pageants latching on to humanitarian issues and while I understand that even a superficial acknowledgment of the poor and the needy by some celebrity figure can be beneficial (something is better than nothing attitude), I want to still call a spade a spade, even if the spade looks different with crystals, shiny ribbons and gold handles. That is why when contestants talk about relieving poverty, caring for the sick, the poor and everyone in between and my favorite “world peace” (wth!) I find it quite amusing. This funny Hindi saying pops up in my head “Jaana tha Japan, pohunch gaye Chin” but in this case, you are deliberately going to China, making it your gateway to Japan, y’know what I mean? I don’t want to insult the reader’s intelligence by over explaining. It is at times like these that you feel like getting a seat in the audience and be that a**hole who says f*** you, keep it real! It’s a BEAUTY contest not a competition for the updated version for the next Mother Teresa! The cynic in me!
But leaving aside my own personal hang ups, in our case beauty pageants can be utilized to further raise awareness of significant causes. By “causes” I mean not just “Rangzen” or Autonomy (your choice) but because you are a MISS Tibet contender, you are first and foremost representing Tibetan women. I think candidates should talk about issues regarding women’s status in our society, dogmas and beliefs that are harmful for the healthy development of girls. If you think that is overlooking the “more important” cause of Rangzen or autonomy, think again. We can’t afford to be a society of “this is how we have always done things”. If that is genuinely how you think and the nature of things can’t be changed, then we can also argue “this is how the Chinese now do things in Tibet”. Is that any less valid as an excuse? When we cry foul and demonstrate against the Chinese government, won’t stop talking about how grave the injustices done by them and travel the Gandhian highway to adopt his Satyagraha route, we can certainly look inward to sort the filth inside. If we expect outsiders to be sympathetic to our cause, we can also learn to be just towards our own.
This was my main concern regarding the Miss Tibet pageant. The contestants all made efforts to represent Tibet to a T, albeit a little uncomfortably… speaking a form of Tibetan usually reserved for language teachers, older monks and hardcore politicians. The result was they seem on tight leashes perhaps because they are not used to conducting themselves in such a way. They talked about Rangzen, serving the Tibetan government-in-exile, helping the poor and the needy. Except for saying more women needs to join the pageant and that we need to “walk shoulder to shoulder with other women”, nothing else. So let me take that point up and ask “HOW CAN WE WALK SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH WOMEN OF OTHER NATIONALITIES?” And there lies what you can as a Miss Tibet contestant genuinely advocate based on your personal experiences and knowledge of women’s issues in our society.