It is said that men and women are equal to each other. But when it comes to women, society seems to have pre-set etiquettes for women like how they’re expected to behave and how they’re expected to look. A woman would be deemed perfect, if she is a blend of beauty and brains. But, do we know what beauty with brains actually means? A few days ago, My City held a small discussion with a few participants to understand their views. Here’s what they said, as shared to Nasana Bajracharya.
Where do you stand on the debate ‘beauty vs brains’?
Pramila: I believe that ‘beauty’stands for confidence and comfort. And ‘brains’ is about intellect.
Pranav: I think they are mutually exclusive. People have so many definitions of beauty and brains. We need to establish a proper base for a debate.
Nishma: They are not mutually exclusive. They can go hand-in-hand. I would prefer beauty and brains not beauty vs brains.
Should beauty pageants be about beauty or brains?
Pranav: A proper definition needs to exist. Do you prioritize looks before intellect? If intellect is more important, don’t consider beauty. We all need to agree on the basis of the debate.But the expectations for the contestants are different, and when she doesn’t confirm, conflict arises.
Pramila: They should be more about beauty and brains. But if they’re about beauty, they should be able to define beauty in a specific way.
Nishma: I think they already have a set of criteria: height, weight, flawless skin and their walk.But regardless of these preconceived notions, the shows also bundle intellect with beauty. But as today’s beauty pageants don’t work with both of these aspects, they end up with a lackluster program that can’t decide whether to choose a winner based on her beauty or her intellect.
So going back a few days, there was a lot of hype regarding Nikita Chandak’s win. What, according to you, was the cause for this debate?
Pranav: I think it’s because of hidden racism. People are not blatantly saying that she is ‘darker’ or from the ‘Madhesi’ community. She is also does not confirm to social standards, meaning she is not as aesthetically pleasing as the other contestants. Obviously she is beautiful. People want to see a fair woman as Miss Nepal.
Pramila: I don’t think it had anything to with the title ‘Madhesi’ or ‘Pahadi’. Nikita grew up in India. So it’s more about India. After blockade, a conflict between Nepal and India arose. People had no problems with Evana or Shristi, who had also lived abroad. I think the debate arises from the fact that Nikita had dark-complexion, and beauty standards tend to flaunt women with white skin.
Nishma: People had already made-up their minds for winner of the competition; there were other fair competitors. Niti Shah had a great fan-base and people got disappointed when she didn’t win. And adding to what Pranab said, it doubled up and resulted in the debate.
Do you think Nikita deserved the first place??
Nishma: In a short period of time, contestants had to come up with an answer for tough questions. Nikita’s answer was not satisfactory, not even to the point but in comparison yes, she gave the best answer.
Pramila: I’m a big fan of Miss Nepal and I have always imagined myself in that position. Had I been on stage, in front of that crowd; I would not have been able to answer a question in such a short time. None of the answers were on point, but compared to others, Nikita gave a decent answer.
Pranav: Nikita’s answer was good, compared to other contestants, but I think we also need to take into consideration the way the contestants are trained to answer—in a certain tempo. They have to think about the tempo and give coherent answers, which is difficult and affects their answers.
Apart from Miss Nepal, there are many other pageants as well. What do you think about them?
Pramila: I think they are just doing it for profits. You win Miss Newa, but what after that? You should always have goals for those who win the title. These pageants just objectify women.
Nishma: There must be an end goal to these pageants like if guarantee a place for Miss Newa in the upcoming Miss Nepal like in the USA. But, if it’s for a one-time name in the paper, that’s not something a girl should aspire to.
Pranav: I think it caters to a very small niche, women who are both attractive and smart. There are a lot of programs that cater to either beauty or brains. There are always going to be different opinions regarding these programs. But I also think that it’s ok to have one program that caters to both beauty and intellectuality.
Should beauty pageants be there or not?
Pranav: Yes, since it’s catering to a niche. It would be like saying that there should not be any quiz competitions since dumb people are not being catered to. If someone wants to compete in beauty pageants they should be allowed to.
Pramila: They also provide women the exposure they need, the contacts that they require in their field and develop an identity as a media personality, if that’s what they want to be.
Nishma: I think yes there should be, because regardless of the debate, people will always sit in front of the TV and enjoy Miss Nepal.
1. Pramila Ramtel, Kathmandu University, Bachelors in Biotechnology (3rd year)