When girls are taught to be charming to each other

“The first rule that a geisha is taught, at the age of nine, is to be charming to other women...Every girl in the world should have geisha training.” - Diana Vreeland

Continuing my admiration for Diana Vreeland, I have decided to take up each of her famously recorded quotes and ponder over the feelings and any relatable values that they trigger in me. There is a wealth of wisdom in each of her sentences. I hope you'll be able to gauge through the abstractness of the articles. By the end of these posts, you'll be feeling as if you just bathed your soul in a quiet retreat.

Geishas are traditional female Japanese entertainers, skilled at different arts ranging from playing classical Japanese music, dancing, and poetry. They have long been known as fashion-leaders and innovators, although today they serve more as caretakers of the Japanese art and culture.

Cultural pursuits often begin with instilling basic mannerisms in the trainee. I remember when I was six, and had started learning Kathak, the first thing I was taught was to bow down and pay reverence to the ground that I was to dance upon, followed by greeting and paying respect to my fellow dancers. We had to fold our hands and bow down in a traditional 'namaste' acknowledging the divine in all of us. These seemingly unimportant rituals perform the humongous task of instilling respect for your fellow humans. We need it more than anything.

Fostering respect among women for other women is an important value to inculcate in young girls. One might argue as to why I'm focusing on women in particular and not making a case for humans respecting humans? Valid point.

I am doing so, because as of now I am speaking from, within the context of the fashion industry which has been instrumental in defining what makes a woman beautiful and desirable, often to the extent of creating more harm than doing good. Added to that let's not forget that the majority of the fashion industry's consumers till today are women, from across the globe.

When women who work within the industry, are also the women who respect the diversity in looks and tastes of other women, society will stop pitting one body type against the other. When women themselves start finding beauty in a different shade of skin, then skin lightening products will cease to exist.

If this sounds too idealistic to you, I'd like to narrate a noticeable change that I've experienced in my growing up years.

I come from India, a country whose root issue has been about learning how to transcend 'the paradigm of separation'. An entire generation's intellectual and spiritual faculties were ruined by third grade TV serials themed around family drama and women competing in the house (and in the office - but that was rare).

This was also the time when 'fair & lovely' was the go-to savior for a wheatish skinned girl like me until a girl called Bipasha Basu, someone by the name of Priyanka Chopra followed by a certain Deepika Padukone, among others took over Indian cinema and challenged the conventional beauty norms.

I saw our classroom discussions changing to fair-skinned girls complimenting their duskier friends and wanting to buy fake-tan products to achieve a sun-kissed look. The dynamics had started shifting. As odd as it might sound, but there was a trickle-down effect happening within the younger generation of the time. Notions and ideals of beauty were evolving and expanding. Acceptance of the other was filled with more love, kindness, and compassion and celebration of the differences rather than the false security that stems from similarity.

Who would have thought that a seemingly frivolous subject as 'beauty' could lead to profound human values?

The message of women competing against women has been deeply coded within the dictates of fashion as well. Beauty has always been defined through the eyes of the watcher, who is most definitely a man in every context.

"Talk about fashion and beauty as being potential mediums of enhancing an already existing sense of self-worth."

Therefore, it becomes all the more important to talk about fashion and beauty as being potential mediums of enhancing an already existing sense of self-worth through self-expression, but clearly understanding that they cannot make up for the lack of it.

The joy of dressing, when brought out and away from the gaze of a man, creates space for women to be themselves and with each other.

What would a world full of women caring about each other be like? To me, it feels like the entire planetary consciousness would shoot up in a few seconds. It feels like, half of earth would be buzzing with the awareness of shared empowerment through kindness, compassion, and feminine camaraderie.

What do you think?

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