We are more than what we look like

Over the last couple of months I have been bombarded with press releases from the Torbay Tourism Association about glorified swimsuit competitions that still attempt to claim respectability by playing the charity work card.

I’ve been trying to ignore it but having been sent the same press release twice this week about how “Miss World is coming to Torquay next month!” I have been inspired to resurrect my feminist blog to protest.

As far as I’m concerned too many women suffer on a daily basis from the prevailing attitude that what we look like is more important than what we do or who we are. This is the basis – indeed the foundation of – a catalogue of sexist, unequal treatment that holds women back in the workplace and public life; exposes them to catcalling and verbal abuse on the streets and makes females from toddlers to pensioners anxious about their weight and appearance to the degree that it impacts on, and even ruins, their everyday lives. Don’t even get me started on the role it might play in violence against women.

Whether you’ve got kids or not (I have two stepdaughters), and whether they are boys or girls, do you really want them to grow up in a world where a woman’s worth is measured by an arbitrary ideal of beauty and how other people think she should look? This is not the basis for an equal society, nor is it the basis for equal partnerships between women and men.

So-called beauty contests like Miss England and Miss World legitimise this view of women and promote it as an ideal. It is NOT the sort of thing a tourism association should be promoting. It is little better than saying, “Come visit [name a destination] and ogle women. Plenty of venues where you can be lecherous over women you deem attractive and abusive to ones you don’t.”

This sort of perspective on women is also one step away from endorsing the view that when a man pays any woman sexual attention she should be grateful and yield to his ‘desires’. To refuse means she is ugly and probably also a lesbian because in this view of the world women are sex objects to be ogled, masturbated over and/or fucked.

I do not want my stepdaughters to grow up in this kind of world; the kind of world that the organisations or individuals who support and promote Miss World and the like want us to live in. Pretty women for men to look at and women to aspire to be like and women not ‘pretty’ or ‘slim’ enough hidden away in the kitchen – or if they’re lucky at least in their workplace somewhere – after all this is the 21st Century.

So last month it was a whole load of gushy press releases about Miss England being held in Torquay and now it’s Miss World. Either the idea of equality is being deliberately ignored or the press releases are being sent out by someone who is extremely naive.

Here is an extract from one of the Miss England press releases which bore the ridiculous headline, “Breaking News! Miss England is being streamed LIVE!”

It then went on…[includes comments in italics from me]…

“It just keeps getting better for Torbay. Miss England is being streamed LIVE on the Daily Mail’s website and on the Miss England.info website. [Ooh, hold the front page!]

The public can watch the contest Live from the Riviera Centre – a press release to announce the fact that the public can watch the contest live on the Internet either on the Miss England website or the Daily Mail website will be forthcoming. [What the fuck? A press release to tell us what you’ve already told us?!]

The Sun TV is also interested. As you all know the Sun is Britain’s Biggest Daily Newspaper with the biggest circulation. [It is only interested because it puts tits on page three and this is basically tits without the nudity.]

The media coverage this will bring Torbay will be unbelievable and a fantastic boost for our Bay.” [Really? Because the sort of people who read The Sun and The Daily Mail will flock to the area? And in any case why would anyone come here just because some load of old sexist tosh is being held in a local conference centre?].


Torbay: Let's admire the scenery rather than ogling women in swimsuits
Torbay: Let’s admire the scenery rather than ogling women

I wish this was just some horrible nightmare that I could wake up from. Instead Torbay – or at least its Tourism Association – seems to have been beamed back to the 1970s and is trying to drag everyone else along with them.

I hope they – and everyone else – wake up and smell the coffee. It is demeaning to judge women on their looks and disingenuous to claim these outdated beauty contests are all about personality and contestant’s charity work. In reality beauty contests simply objectify women. Let’s consign them to the dustbin of history where they belong.

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