Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-023
The September 14th Reuters/Kyodo photo titled “Angolan Beauty” showed 2010 Miss Universe Maria Kamiyama of Japan crowning this year’s beauty champion, Leila Lopes of Angola. Despite their feminist detractors beauty contests do have lasting virtues: empowering women and putting worthy role models of education and grace, principle, ambition, endurance and eloquence before our daughters for them to emulate; and then, helping to focus media attention on whatever charitable work the women pursue during their tenure. It’s all good.
Miss Universe is not my ideal of feminine beauty, though. I do not revere the long legs of an American lifeguard or the carefully manicured figure of a supermodel. My ideal woman encompasses the blackened teeth of an old Japanese matron, the bound feet of a Chinese princess and the oily hair of a Japanese one, the stretched neck of a Karen tribeswoman, the exaggerated lip plugs of an African Fali beauty, the wide, life-giving fertility goddess hips of my old Greek grandmother, the circumcision of an Arab maiden
accompanied by a modesty veil all rolled into one.
Maybe I’m in a minority, but why not celebrate those esthetics? I’m afraid I can’t muster much regard for beauty contests until they
Published on Sunday, September 18, 2011 as “Overlooked aspects of beauty.”
The paper deleted the word “circumcised” from my sentence about the Arab maiden, rendering it just “an Arab maiden accompanied by a modesty veil.” I thought to complain about that omission, but decided to let it go. In truth, I despise genital mutilation - male as well as female - but so long as male circumcision is not condemned by society I want to pretend to praise female circumcision to try to point out the disparity.
The paper edited and re-wrote the opening of the letter. I wasn’t happy about that because I took care to try to write it in a way that I thought they would have re-written it anyway if I had written it any differently. I mean, I used as my model the opening of my last letter, the one commenting on a photograph of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The paper edited that opening as well, slightly. I just copied the way the editorial staff edited it. But instead, they still changed the opening a little. I think they did it to reduce the number of words, not to improve the eloquence.
There is something of a trap associated with my feigned advocacy of these ‘extreme’ fashions. Many might consider them grotesque fashion, or misogynistic social treatment of women. Even torture. But critics of my use of these ‘extreme’ fashions might then open themselves to accusations that they are purveyors of the American dream girl meat market.
Before I submitted this letter I sent it to a couple friends for comment. At least one person wrote back saying, “I agree with you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But I don’t think that was my point at all.