The most enduring image of the last Miss World pageant held in London 40 years ago is of angry feminists storming the venue and pelting the celebrity guests with eggs and rotten tomatoes.
Forty years on, the protest was more muted as Venezuela’s Ivian Sarcos, a 21-year-old human resource graduate and wannabe social activist, was crowned Miss World on Sunday amid the usual razzmatazz at a song-and-dance event here.
Wow! I’ll lay odds Sir Bruce Forsyth was at both. Some things never change.
A group of women gathered outside Earl’s Court in West London to protest against the “objectification” of the female body, They raised slogans and waved banners, one of which read “We’re not ugly, We’re not beautiful, We’re angry.” Another said “Miss World is the jewel in the crown of rape culture.”
Among them were some from the famous 1970 protest — now much mellowed but still angry that women should be judged by their looks alone.
Some things never change do they? I read somewhere recently that young women in Britain are more likely to have university degrees and on average earn more than their male counterparts. Indeed I believe Michael Gove or some such numpty was predicting dire but unspecified consequences from this. What amuses me about the Miss World protests – well there is quite a lot, but we’ll go with this first – is that I know a lot of women with professional jobs who are not judged on their looks in that sphere but in the context of a beauty pageant of course that’s what they’re judged on! Now Usain Bolt might, for example, tell extraordinarily witty anecdotes after dinner over the brandy and cigars but that’s not what Nike (or whoever) bung him cash for. Indeed I suspect Miss World herself wasn’t judged on her looks whilst doing her human resources degree. Whatever that is anyway. I’ve always found the staff of personnel departments to be selected for the job on the basis of their undiluted misanthropy.
But what really amuses me is it’s flogging a dead horse. Both ways. The whole beauty pageant and “I want to work with animals and children” schtick is tired beyond belief. As is the hyperbolic “feminist” attacks on the show. “Miss World is the jewel in the crown of rape culture.” recall. It is the unspeakable (and yes, they may well have been angry but they were also certainly ugly) protesting the irrelevant. If they can be utterly hyperbolic and stuck in the early ’70s being goosed by Sid James then I can regard them as such throwbacks. We live in a world which in many regions or cultures is profoundly sexist. There are forced marriages, bride burnings (if the dowry ain’t up to scratch – India, largely), female genital mutilation, lack of access to healthcare and education yet this collection of alleged feminists turns up to protest something that is almost quaint and moreover not broadcast on any UK TV channel and hasn’t been for years. It can apparently be viewed via the internet but really! I mean seeing as the internet is real pornography’s home objecting to Miss World seems to somewhat miss the point. Moreover I for one wouldn’t have known anything about the show if it hadn’t been for the protests – I had completely forgot the whole sorry spectacle still crawled on – in much the same way the BBC’s “Children in Need” telethon always ambushes me. Indeed the protests seemed quaint and from another era. Some things never change. It really was “Carry On Girls”. I’m thinking of getting into quaint protesting myself. Me, Manchester Town Hall, a placard and a megaphone and, “Repeal the Corn Laws Now!”
It’s like a few years back when the Afghan/Pakistan “tribal areas” were hit by an earthquake and everyone rallied round to help with the rescue and rebuilding (not that there was much in the first place to rebuild) there was an interview with a twinkly tribal elder. It quite stunned me. He said something like, “We are good Muslims so we welcome this help and will be most hospitable [good start - I said he was twinkly] but when they rebuild the primary school it must only teach what is needed which is the recitation of the Qu’ran and then only to boys otherwise we’ll kill the teachers and burn it down”. I think it was about that time that “nation building” in Afghanistan was a doomed enterprise. Or was it the point were some warlord abducted and kept a teenage girl as a sex-slave as a reprisal for the theft of the best fighting dog in the province? Or was it the cartoon in The Times around 2001 which riffed on the ‘Nam-era “bomb them back to the stone age” with “Bomb them forward into the renaissance”.
So, I dunno but I suspect. Almost every campaigning group I suspect if it doesn’t get disbanded at the right time drifts into bizarre pointlessness. Yes, there are many (I mentioned a few) feminist issues around the globe left to fight. Actually quite a lot but this self-parody does nothing to the purpose. One has to wonder why feminists still frequently attack “sexism” in the least sexist nations on the planet and the anglosphere nations and much of Europe certainly aren’t the “high value targets” they ought to go for. Why target an utter irrelevance like Miss World in London when Saudi Arabia has an active protest movement of women who just want to drive cars? I mean that is where the real fight surely is now? Not here. Feminism to a large extent won here and that’s a good thing. I mention the Saudi driving thing because… I first heard of it because a Saudi Prince set-up an airline and he was rather liberal and had a female pilot working for him. She had to be taxied to the airport where she’d get behind the yoke of a Boeing. The Saudis had thought to ban women driving but not flying 200 tonne airliners. Is that not utterly ridiculous?
I couldn’t join the RAF for pilot training and that had nothing to do with a womb but with a view. I suffer from astigmatism, short-sight and RG colour blindness. None of that is located in my pelvis. I mention this now because like good looks it is something outside of my control in much the same way some women (and indeed men) are better looking than others. Get over it sisters! Everyone else has. OK, not in the context of a hot date (but does not the looks criterion apply across the board – gay, straight, lesbian, whatever?) but you see a doctor or an accountant then looks don’t matter – not when one cures your illness or does something cunning with your tax-return. And is not good looks just the same, essentially random, stuff as my eyes keeping me from flying a Tiffy (undoubetdly there might be probs which would be other reasons for turning me down but that was an absolute “no”) in much the same way looking like a right hound prevents you being the face of Chanel? No, it ain’t fair but it’s life.
Life isn’t fair.
And it isn’t even feminist is it? I do not believe for a millisecond that men are less “objectified” than women. As I said I know quite few women with professional jobs. You ought to hear my wife and her sisters talk about George Clooney or Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt or Gabriel Byrne. If women are stereotyped and have to look a certain way to be attractive I would argue it’s even worse for the blokes. Yeah, actually it is. I mean I can go for the slyph-like “elven thing” and the voluptuous Marilyn thing also lights my wires. I guess I’m saying there is no stereotype for me when Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet both do it for me. Winslet because you just know she’d be right dirty. And if Halle Berry joins us in the hot-tub…
Note what I have done there. Without thinking too hard I have mentioned actors who are (a) about my age and (b) people I respect not just for their looks but their talent. That they are also good-looking is a bonus. I also have a thing for Helena Bonham-Carter and obviously for Uma Thurman.
So what am I playing at?
Well, obviously, looks are a factor (but not the whole nine yards). But so is brains. Why should one be like “OK” and the other “shallow” when neither are a choice? Indeed who defines “brains”. My wife is a professional linguist. I’m a linguistic dunce (The only Bs I got for GCSE were in French and German) but unlike her I can solve partial differential equations. She does gerunds and I did matrix mechanics. I have no idea what a gerund actually is. I can do covariant differentiation and Fourier analysis. Both of us could have a reasonable go at calling the other thick but we don’t. Everyone is different. I once dated a woman who could hardly be called physically gorgeous but that’s life and she was fun to be with. Life is like that. It is the deranged “pseudo feminist” harridans who don’t see that and not me. I can appreciate beauty and smarts and fortunately by and large I’ve managed both but I’m prepared to trade. Or in short I’m not as shallow as those protesters at Miss World who ridiculously see it as an either/or and think (know) that men always want their idea of a stereotypical beauty rather than anything else. They only think that because they don’t really know men or themselves.