Friday, 4 November 2011

Hit or Miss?

This weekend sees London host the 2011 Miss World pageant, an event that has been running for decades and now celebrates it's 61st year! So popular is this programme it is viewed by millions worldwide. Yet no British mainstream channel will broadcast it (if you're intertested you can find it on the Active Channel here in the UK. Ever heard of it? No me neither.)

So why the awkward silence and doleful staring at the feet? Surely such a huge and successful enterprise would have the BBC and ITV both elbowing each other out of the way to get first dibs. 

Well no, you see Miss World has become something of an embarassement these days and anti feminsit. The 'respectable' media will no doubt promote this opinion because lets face it, championing a beauty pageant in this day and age is 'totally uncool'.

This morning I watched The Wright Stuff on Channel 5 and the phone-in was about Miss World. Matthew Wright laid down the gauntlet; 

'...We’re going to find out what you think about Britain hosting the Miss World beauty contest on Sunday. Feminist groups say it’s sexist and outdated but organisers say the contest champions racial equality and has more than 1bn fans worldwide. True, many in such open-minded pro-women democracies as china and Zimbabwe. Come on folks, what the hell are we doing hosting this nonsense in the 21st century'

With the bait set Wright waited for the lines to fill with disgruntled women. Which they did, but not the disgruntled women he was perhaps expecting; every caller was a female proclaiming her love for the contest and dismay at his views.

But how can you say there's nothing wrong with 'ogling girls in bikinis', how is that not sexist? Wright asked in exasperation.

He was so outraged by the callers he cried out that he was the only true feminist on the programme. Citing that women only feel the need to conform into ideals of beauty, because of a male dominated society which wanted to keep them in their place, the Miss World contest did nothing for womens rights and in fact put them back to the 1950's when the pageant began.

He certainly has a point. But somewhere in between all this political correctness and pageant nonsense something is bothering me. When Wright told one of the callers they couldn't be a feminist and still be a fan of Miss World I wondered why not. It might seem obvious but wait...

I applaud his sentiments and passion for the subject of womens rights, but surely, as I pointed out in my post about the bunny girl, being a feminist means allowing women to pursue their lives in any way they see fit, whether that be dressing as a fluffy rabbit or taking part as a Miss World contestant, it's their choice.

To dictate just what a woman should and shouldn't think in order to be taken seriously is just as bad as these dominating men Wright was talking about. Why can't you enjoy watching a beauty contest and still feel strongly for women's rights? One of the things that occurs to me is that in our fight for equality over the years, women's roles have changed dramatically, but one thing has always remained the same, we ARE women. And as women we still enjoy cosmetics and fashion and beauty. Despite what Wright says these passions are not completely due to men telling us we should conform to them, they come from somewhere deep in our genetic makeup. (The thousands of women out shopping for new outfits and lipstick right now are probably having a whale of a time glorying in the thrill of it all.)

But I do feel these interests are massively exploited by the media and commercialism, and no doubt Miss World plays on them in order to have been running for so long. Tanya Gold (She of the bunny hating club) recently wrote an article entitled 'I blame the media for ignoring feminsim in favour of makeup' In it she asks 'why the feminist movement seems so comprehensively to have stalled.' 

My answer would be it hasn't stalled, it has changed. Women like myself, and possibly the caller on The Wright Stuff, enjoy the trappings of modern femininity (I view artifice as a huge part of femininity), but that doens't mean we have been brainwashed into accepting nothing else in our lives. Feminists (men and women) need to stop pigeonholing other women over their choices and focus on a fully rounded representation of women including the cosmetic side. Why does that have to be a bad thing?

While I personally find Miss World off putting I don't agree with some feminists using the beauty card to underline what they see as womens failure. There is a fine line between enjoying being a woman and having your femininity exploited.

1 comment:

Gemma Parker said...

For further reading see: for a really interesting take on age, beauty and Miss World, by a writer who really gained my approval by the end of the article :)