Globalizing beauty: Attitudes toward beauty pageants among Nepali women

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Journal Article
Feminism and Psychology, 2008, 18 (1), pp. 61 - 86
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A series of focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted exploring the beliefs of urban Nepali women about the introduction of beauty pageants to Nepal. This qualitative study examined how the competing pressures of modernization and traditionality impinge on Nepali women who are attempting to both resist patriarchal restrictions and preserve long-established cultural values. The large majority of participants expressed ambivalence toward beauty contests in Nepal. They expressed the belief that beauty pageants can help to empower Nepali women, facilitate progress in Nepal, and present Nepal positively on a global stage. Moreover, participants called for the perceived benefits of pageant participation to be extended to rural, impoverished, and lower caste Nepali women. At the same time, participants expressed reservations about Nepali women being objectified by their participation in these contests, deplored their commercial aspects, and felt that beauty pageants could contribute to the development of body image disturbance. Their ambivalence may reflect their conflicting positioning as middle-class citizens and as women in a developing consumer economy that retains strong patriarchal norms. Their complex and conflicting responses help to elucidate the process of gendered social change in a developing country during a time of rapid societal transition. © 2008 SAGE.
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