Oppressive Sexist Beliefs
If the usage of beauty products in India, as well as in adjoining areas, from the olden days are not taken into account, then write-ups, often, might tend to start in this fashion: an Indian cosmetics-manufacturing start-up company has triggered a sensation after its Stock Market debut. This explosive commercial success is surprising, keeping in mind the situation of the Indian market a couple of decades ago. In the late 1990s, one of the leading industrial groups in the South Asian country started cosmetics business (in a rare first in India). It had become really difficult for the group to capture the market. However, things have changed in the last two decades. Today, investors in the Indian cosmetics market do not hesitate to buy shares of such a company. Change takes place silently, depending on the character of the Social Changes.
Women are the potential buyers of cosmetics, across the Globe. It is not the case that the Indian women did not present themselves beautifully in those days. However, the character of the beautification was indigenous in a sense, as they mostly used coloured decorative dots, termed bindi on their foreheads, and talcum powder on bodies, with occasional usage of perfumes. At that period of time, the Indian women had a declared social dislike for the western form of cosmetics, like foundation blusher, compact concealer, eye liner, etc. Later on, subsequent market surveys revealed some reasons behind that social dislike. Majority of the Indian women used to believe that there was a relation between usage of Western make-ups and be termed as loose character; as it were women in a certain or despicable profession, who were seen made-up cheap and loud!
Of course, Economic Globalisation changed the equation in the 1990s. However, it is not enough to understand the chronology of Social Change in India. It is a fact that the Indians’ perceptions about beauty, as well as cosmetics, changed thanks to satellite television and social media in the early days of Globalisation. In particular, the global trend of posting selfies on social media has played an important role in this regard. Although there was no social media in the 1960s, 70s and 80s; cinema had a considerable influence on society. The trend of making garments following the actresses is not new. However, there was a discomfort among the Indian women with make-up, which has always been fundamentally viewed as a feminine product by the society. Indeed, it is difficult to explain that discomfort. It would be an overstatement that stronger connection with the outside world, due to globalisation, helped Indian women gradually accept Western cosmetics.
According to various surveys, women were hesitant to use cosmetics in India, and those, who secretly used cosmetics, used to remove the make-up carefully before returning home. It is because the Patriarchy has always viewed make-up with suspicion, and considered the use of cosmetics by women as a ploy to seduce men. This is the vision of Patriarchy… always looking at women in terms of men. This perception has changed in the last few decades. It is not that the vision of Patriarchy has changed, but the relative social position of a section of women has changed. It has happened because many women have started earning by having joined the organised sector, and overcome the social stigma in the context of make-up.
As long as a woman had to reach out to a man to purchase a face powder, the Patriarchal opinion prevailed… even many women did not think of buying the product, accepting the view of Patriarchy. Working women do not face this problem. No one can claim that women have become independent as soon as they have started earning, and broken the shackles of Patriarchy. However, it can be said with certainty that a hole has been made in the strong fortress of Patriarchy, and cosmetics have crept into the lives of Indian women through that hole. The Indian society has also gradually learned to accept this sabotage!
One can object if the use of cosmetics is considered as an indicator of Women’s Freedom. However, the issue is not about the usage of cosmetics, but the Right… the Right to Live in one’s own terms and conditions. India has taken at least a few steps in that direction. Of course, it is an achievement for the Indian women in this seeming period of crisis.
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