Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Burning the Bra.

Yesterday via @UK_Feminista on Twitter, I found a Facebook group called Feminists Protest Sexist 'Miss World' Contest 2011. At the name of the title, I innocently wondered what on earth would posses people to protest about an event that has been around for many decades. A contest that honours women for talent, their enthusiasm to save the world and their beauty.
 On inspection of the group and what their ideas were, I fully understood and related. It was feminists against the competitive nature of the event and the objectification of women. In 1970, there was a protest against the Miss World competition, where many women lined up outside the Royal Albert Hall, stating 'We’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry” and “ban this disgraceful cattle market!”. 

During this famous protest, flour bombs were thrown by men and women, Bob Hope who was presenting that year tried to flee the stage, police were called in and the world took notice of what they were doing and saying. It reads as an interesting and hell-raising year for Miss World, and it worth a read up about the 1970 protests here.

The people who take part force themselves through many rounds, layered in make up, dressed in bikinis, formal dresses and glittering talent outfits. Although taking part is seen to some as a part of being a woman, it does not prepare you do deal with modern life in reality. The event, the ultimate beauty pageant, sees many young women take part from all over the world, where they have already taken part in local and national competitions in their native country.

There have been portrayals of beauty pageants in films in the last decade or so including Miss Congeniality(2000), Little Miss Sunshine(2006) and Drop Dead Gorgeous(1999). In Little Miss Sunshine, you see a young bespectacled girl Olive obsessed with beauty pageants, winning a local pageant by default and getting through to a regional pageant 700miles away. The young girl, despite her unconventional looks [no make up, giant glasses, slightly podgy] and talent [best dance scene in a film of the noughties], has courage and enthusiasm for the pageant. Her father, Greg Kinnear, tries to impose on his own daughter how she should look, 'skinny or fat', after she orders ice-cream for breakfast. He mutters that ice-cream is not what the skinny beauty pageants eat, imposing the idea that people shouldn't be fat. Her mother, Toni Colette steps in and tells her daughter it is her choice whether she wants to be skinny or fat, and either choice is ok as long as she is happy. It is these enforcement's like Kinnears patronising character, that young women live their lives by. It is the enforcement that you must be skinny to take part in these contests. You must look and behave a certain way to be accepted, and in Olives case, she looks and behaves much the opposite and questions herself against the other young girls.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a comedy that tears the ideologies of beauty pageants in America apart. You see many young women enter a local pageant, a few dropping out in suspicious and unfortunate circumstances. The movie questions the idea of an ideal winner,Neve Campbell, a traditional pretty rich girl who wants to save the world with a ex-beauty pageant winning mother, or Kirsten Dunst, a hard working good-hearted girl who lives in a trailer park. The film mocks the whole process light-heartedly which really questions why take it all so seriously? It has the similar idea that a girl who doesn't necessarily fit the conventions of a winner should win or even compete.

What does it mean to be a women? It does not mean showing your body off in competition with other young women. It causes peer pressure, stress and does not allow individuals to fill their full potential as a unique human being and as women of the modern world.

Looking through the Facebook group for the event being held on 6th November, there were interesting discussions about the attendance of men for the protest. I thought this was an interesting debate as it raises questions about feminist protests and how they are represented when in full action and does it actually make THEM sexist? What does it mean to them to have men support them- does it show human race united for equality or show feminists as weaker protesters?
The debate between two people, the group creator, the London Feminist Network and a women. It became increasingly interesting as the unnamed woman, declared herself as neither a man or woman, just a human in a female body. She felt it unfair and sexist not to allow men to attend if they support the cause and refused to attend the protest.

Here are some snippets of the discussion:
 Above: by Unnamed Woman.
One of the replies by LFN
Katie Richardson has organized a protest against Miss World that allows men to attend.

Sexism will continue to rage on.


1 comment:

  1. Saw something and thought of you at the Power of Making exhibition at the V&A. had a piece called "Quilts in women's lives II" film quilt.

    'Artist and craft activist Sabrina Gschwandtner creates textiles, installation pieces and films. This work unites her various interests, treating film stock as the raw material for quiltwork. Some footage is her own, some comes from early feminist documentaries on textile crafts.'