Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Beauty and the Connétable

There will not be a Miss St Martin in Jersey because not enough young women have come forward. And the Parish Constable wonders why! Perhaps he is still living in the dark ages, when lecherous old men would gawp at women parading in swimsuits before voting, but the rest of the modern world is fast leaving behind this kind of revolting voyeurism; hence no Miss World on BBC or ITV for some time.

Hazel Croft, writing in 1999, put it very succinctly when she said:

Women will be paraded, ogled at and inspected like so many pieces of meat. They will be judged for the size of their breasts, the shape of their legs or the smoothness of their skin. A "bubbly" personality or an interest in "children or current affairs" may be an asset, but only if the contestant matches up to a stereotypical and sexist image of what is "beautiful".

Appraising our bodies in this humiliating way puts women under intense pressure to match up to the "perfect" figure. Women are made to feel like failures if they don't fit the stereotype. Millions of women become obsessed with whether they are too fat or thin, agonising over whether their thighs are too wobbly, their bums too big or their breasts too saggy. A minority of women completely ruin their health through starving themselves in pursuit of a "perfect" shape. The bosses of the beauty industry in Britain rake in some £8.9 billion a year by playing on women's insecurity about their looks.

Another writer notes that:

Miss World pageants staged in places such as the Chinese beach city of Sanya, the Nigerian city of Kaduna, and Johannesburg are essentially travelling side shows reminiscent of an era when women in bathing costumes posed with pouting lips beside the 'strong-man', the dwarf, the bearded lady and the dancing bear.

That makes me think of the alternative. Perhaps we should have a Beauty and the Beast Competition, and alongside the Parish Beauty, we could have the Connétable and those who judge these competitions paraded in small swimming costumes so we can see all their glory - the bulging beer-belly paunch, the fat dimply legs, the greying mat of chest hair. Then at least we would be providing fairness, and they could be judged on how well they have coped with age, and awarded points for the least revolting aspects of their anatomy - just like the travelling side show of yesteryear, when the beautiful and grotesque were paraded side by side.


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