A Review of Modern India and Women in the Documentary "The World Before Her"
In India, there remain public beatings of women, who fail to conform to traditional Hinduism, and appear in public wearing western clothing. Yet, beauty pageants (Miss India), considered a western cultural icon, are extolled as liberating Indian women. Beauty, according the American rubric of thin, unbreakable, and poised, is often the only career avenue available for our gender.
"...watching the young beauties competing for the title of Miss India (as they) suffer Botox injections, skin-whitening cleanses, and the shouts of a choreographer who demands they "now try not to sound like elephants," quotes Alan Scherstuh's Village Voice review. These images of oppressed women seeking an unattainable norm are prized, as a righteous endeavor for the modern Indian girl. The Hindu argument is pageant contestants are failing to honor their traditional family roles. Directly stated by a Pageant contestant, in Nisha Pahuja's documentary, "Are Americans becoming more Indian because they are doing more yoga?"
A calculated explanation is the Westernized-Indian yoga practice promotes another capitalistic venture of the global patriarch. How did yoga become commercialized, regulated and assimilated by Americans? How does this knowledge commodity represent its origins as a culturally Indian spiritual practice? Cultural blending dialogues reward such questions with more questions. All efforts to assimilate a culture of chants, idols, and female oppression result in homogenous rhetoric. "Inhale, lift up, Exhale fold forward." How do we know the yoga practice Americans create (or are paying for) is authentic?
The legacy of women's rights fortifies this cross-cultural contemporary dialogue of social responsibility. Gender equity based on beauty, or perception of beauty, leaves many women with the same dilemma. How can equality for women be universal, and apply to both continents? Yoga practitioners, who harbor genuine integrity, should not indulge in a strictly Western expose of internet yoga videos, teacher training workshops, and copyrighted yoga practices. Yoga makes Americans' Indian. In the same way, Miss India is a convert to commercialized Western capitalism. American yoga rarely addresses the tradition of gender inequity.
The popularity of beauty pageants is growing. Mass media is growing. In this mixing of cultural norms, are we ignoring the immediate priority of equal access to financial freedoms? Perhaps yoga, in the American west, adopted fiscal responsibility as a result of the capitalist, imperialist environment. Therefore, the high cost of classes, trainings, and proposed spiritual attainment is warranted. In contrast, Indian opposition to the westernization of women's careers is well documented. Traditional Indian women do not work; they marry.