We collectively missed an opportunity to rewrite the definition of ‘beauty’: The Young Achievers Matrimony Meet Controversy

A recent incident brought into public view, a long standing societal practice in India. Growing as a collective entity is something we have done in leaps and bounds, especially when adapting to practices which we appreciate from elsewhere, certain chains still hold us back, to surprising, rather shocking extents.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a pioneer in preaching abolishing regressive trends, mentality and practices, quite likely turns in his grave every day as he sees the marital practices we often follow when searching for the ‘right one’. The sorting hat would never be able to decide what we value more at times, the complexion of skin or the complexion of persona, while putting us into our ‘right houses’ as the quest of a fair bride or a handsome groom looms large over matrimonial advertisements. It is only prudent to state that these practices are being increasingly discarded, but a few practitioners still remain.

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”, said Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. Little did she take into account, the situation where beauty is often collectively assigned a definition, in quite possibly the most regressive manner.

An matrimonial meeting advertisement placed strategically in a major national daily in India became a subject of internet furor for more reason than one. The premise of the meeting was to find ideal partners for successful youth, the categories of which the advertisement elaborated on. They restricted the meet to clientele which falls under the set of entrepreneurs, bureaucrats or civil servants, graduates of elite educational institutions and the like. One qualification into this meet that met with more than a few stares was the line that read ‘beautiful girls’ under the category of Young Achievers.

Yes, beauty is not an achievement. A discussion about this topic with a few friends I can afford banter with ensued and what followed was a series of valid pain points that this post, and that line in particular caused, and while the points we debated are topics of large articles themselves, what led me to write this post was the understanding of beauty we hold in our minds.

When the word beauty was mentioned in the advertisement, we collectively fell back on the definition of what we thought was the ‘obvious’ definition of beauty. Realization struck me hard. I realized that the internet furor and even our particular conversation was being driven by what we think is the definition of beauty and that we, the web residents as a community, missed a chance at collectively rewriting it. I believe that the furor is justified, but a way to progress as a society would have been to collectively ignore the definition of beauty implied in the ad or our social media and to coin the optimal one- one that is inclusive of all peoplekind. Reasoning together and showing solidarity across the internet, the very tool of our protest, in stating that no offence was taken to this advertisement because we do not define beauty in this regressive fashion and do not understand the furor of those who do, would certainly have been a decisive step forward in rewriting the obvious definition of the often ill used word.

By reacting the way we did, we only justified the current obvious definition regardless of the usage, context and the speaker who enunciated the word of debate, while collectively missing out on an opportunity to advance as a society. Our reaction was nothing but a show of support to the women we think are not beautiful, whereas our reaction should have been, in my opinion of course, a quest for a Utopian society free of the chains such as regressive definition of words that signify oppression of some kind.

Remember Raja Ram Mohun Roy? He would have liked this approach too.

I have tried to express my personal opinions on the definition of beauty in the above crudely edited post(due to lack of time) and did not mean to be offensive to any person or community. If there are brickbats, I would be glad to discuss them and edit the post accordingly. Reach out to me at my social media handles, or my email, facebook or twitter.

-Adithya Narayanan

Works towards mastering Data Sciences and Ops Research in the free time he gets between watching “Billions” and reading the news. His alter ego likes writing.