The lovely BitchBuzz girls were cool enough to let me have a rant on their site about this.
A somewhat depressing story has come to public attention recently, as London‘s Miss University beauty pageants gain momentum. Yep, that’s some of London’s most prestigious universities, hosting beauty contests in their names for the super-smart women who attend them.
Beauty pageants which by definition judge, award and disqualify based on appearance are controversial for many people in any form – but in the name of an educational establishment? Surely that needs some explaining.
The protests by London School of Economics’ Feminist Society at the ‘Miss LSE’ event last week hit the headlines, causing a furore across press, TV, blogs and Facebook. Over 400 LSE entrants had entered, handing over applications covering vital statistics and killer questions like “Which Sex and the City character would you most relate to?”
Ultimately Keelin Gavaghan, a 19-year-old accountancy student, was named Miss LSE and she’ll now go forwards to the final of Miss University London, against women from five other top London universities including Kings and UCL.
Now making an effort to look fabulous for the night or discussing Sex and The City is fine by us and Gavaghan said she has no problem with it:
“What is wrong with feeling glamorous for one night. We hardly sold our souls. Nowadays I believe that we are post-feminism.”
While it may not be my cup of tea, she just might be right as some women find the pagaent both empowering and fun. Not to mention that it’s for a good cause as the final night will raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness.
All good stuff, but do they have a place at University?
Quoted in the Telegraph Mary Honeyball, a member of the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee, said:
“It does not seem right on many levels. It is dividing students, which is unfortunate, and it will exclude women who do not conform to a Nuts magazine idea of what is pretty.”
Lots of women do not believe it has a place at somewhere they have fought hard to attend based on their intelligence, and with the promise of expanding their minds.
These pageants aren’t post-feminist; society hasn’t come far enough yet. Evident in this comment made to Ruby Buckley, LSE women’s officer:
“When one contestant was asked, ‘Would you rather have brains or beauty?’ she said beauty, because if she wasn’t beautiful, nobody would want to listen to her anyway.”
How depressing! What has society shown that girl if she believes that? And what damage are these pageants going to do in reinforcing these sorts of ideas?
Society hasn’t come far enough to make this a fun, *ironic* step forward – it’s still a step backwards.
Universities are supposed to places of thought leadership and progress, and that is not what this is. Boo!
Join up to the protest group, Miss-Ogynist University of London.
Image via MVJantzen‘s Flickr
BitchBuzz is well worth a look – their manifesto -“We’re not interested in being perfect feminists, or perfect women: we craft, we bake, we have good sex, buy the latest technology and we blog. In short, the women of BitchBuzz do what makes us happy and encourage other women to do the same.”