‘This is the most empowering news I’ve heard in a long time’
BY HELEN FRITH POWELL
When I learned yesterday that the organisers of the Miss England beauty pageant have decided they ‘won’t bow to the woke brigade’ and could bring back the competition’s famous bikini round, I was thrilled.
It was the most female-empowering piece of news I have read for a very long time. When women are under attack from all quarters — from a lunatic gender ideology which dictates that we no longer have the right to call ourselves ‘women’ or ‘mothers’, to girls dying in custody in Iran after not wearing the hijab correctly and showing too much hair — it’s about time we came out fighting.
And while some may see the reinstatement of the controversial swimwear round as a step back for the cause of feminism, I see it as a crucial step forward in preserving our culture and our freedom to choose exactly what we wear and when.
Women have posed in bikinis or swimsuits — and thereby displayed their freedom and femininity — since the very first Miss Universe was held in 1952.
Miss England 2008 Georgia Horsley launches the official Miss England Bikini 2008 by Aguaclara on the Kings Road
Miss England 2011 Finalists. Left to right back row – Miss Bath Amy Willerton, Miss York Annastasia Smith, Miss Harrogate Alexandra Devine, Miss Lipsy Courtenay Dodd, Miss Everymodel Alize Mounter. Left to right mid row – Miss Newcastle Hannah Gray, Miss Liverpool Sarah Farley, Miss Manchester Nicola Mcconnell, Miss Flyde Coast Sophie Leigh Anderson. Front – Miss London Rissikat Obade.
In fact, two of the world’s oldest beauty pageants — Miss World and Miss Universe — were actually created with the purpose of promoting swimwear: Miss World was originally called the Festival Bikini Contest.
So, quite apart from representing a woman’s choice to wear what she likes, the swimsuit round is a crucial component of the beauty pageant tradition.
Older feminists argue that making women strut up and down a stage wearing anything, but especially a bikini, is demeaning and sexist.
But perhaps, before they start making decisions on behalf of these poor, defenceless and exploited women, they should ask them what they want.
That, after all, is what Angie Beasley, the female organiser of Miss England, is proposing to do. Crucially, this is no longer a decision made by and for men, nor an event run by them.
Indeed, support for re-instating the swimsuit round comes from a very surprising quarter: the very woman who campaigned to have it cancelled.
Former Miss England winner Katrina Hodge — dubbed the ‘Combat Barbie’, having served in the Army for 11 years, including tours of Afghanistan and Iraq — regrets toeing the party line back in 2010, when the most popular section of the competition was scrapped.
‘I was young and naive and felt like a bad feminist for enjoying posing in swimwear,’ Katrina says now.
‘We were constantly being told by the ‘feminists’ trying to close down beauty pageants that it was wrong and objectifying us, and I felt pressured to go along with it.’ Now, however, she feels that the campaign against the bikini round was ‘misguided’.
‘By successfully ending it, I took away women’s choice and freedoms — I also made the competition highly boring,’ Katrina admits.
It’s a change of opinion that represents just how far feminism has come in the past decade — from condemning the display of female bodies to celebrating their strength and beauty.
Miss England Beauty Competition 1969, the Lyceum Ballroom, London, Friday 16th May 1969
Indeed, what old-school feminists don’t acknowledge is the way the ideal female form has changed in the past 50 years — from soft and passively voluptuous in the 1950s and 1960s to powerful and muscle-bound today.
Look at the abs on women such as Gwyneth Paltrow, JLo and Davina McCall, or the lean, muscular strength of the Princess of Wales.
From the unapologetic sexiness of the Love Island contestants to the body-positive gorgeousness of pop stars including Beyonce and Adele, all of them deserve to be seen and displayed on their own terms.
Yet according to those who want to censor how women present themselves, they are being humiliated.
Would they rather all women were covered from head to toe? Maybe they should ask the women of Iran (and Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, the list goes on) what they would prefer?
And before some bore complains that beauty is only skin-deep and women are far more than their looks, well of course we are! But we are talking about a beauty parade here, which means, by definition, women are judged mainly on what they look like.
The beauty pageant is looking to reintroduce the bikini parade on stage for the first time since 2002 – despite other competitions recently scrapping it
They have to prove they have a brain, too, but since when did simply wearing a bikini make you a bimbo?
Ironically, removing the swimsuit round felt to me rather like a radical form of mansplaining. Campaigners thought they knew better than the contestants themselves, when really they had no idea what the women taking part felt about it.
Well, now it is time to listen to the contestants.
Any curtailment of our freedom of speech and choice is a dangerous thing.
Former Miss England Katrina Hodge says she felt like a ‘bad feminist’ for enjoying the way she looked and felt in a swimming costume.
But is there anything more anti-feminist than taking away a woman’s joy and pride in her own body?
‘Prancing around while being scored by judges is simply an abhorrence’
BY JULIE BINDEL
So there’s more bad news for us feminists in the current war against sexism-on-steroids: the shameful bikini parade — scrapped in 2010 in a hard-won result for women’s rights campaigners — may be revived as part of the Miss England pageant.
This time around, though, organisers claim that the reversal is intended as a strike against ‘the woke brigade’.
In response, I have heard one or two naive feminists say they couldn’t believe such old-fashioned sexism would be back with a vengeance ‘in this day and age’ — but I knew that it was precisely because of the current climate that they would have the brass neck to try such a stunt . . . and even label it as a form of liberation.
The history of TV beauty pageants is a chequered one. ITV dropped Miss World, which the winner of Miss England goes on to compete in, in 1988, when the women’s lib movement was riding high.
It then returned to our screens between 1998 and 2000, before being consigned to satellite channels from 2001.
Miss England 2008 Georgia Horsley (C) and Miss England semi- finalists launch the official Miss England Bikini 2008 by Aguaclara on the Kings Road
The first Miss World pageant took place in London in 1951, back when women were expected to be barefoot and pregnant, rather than liberated, and it was normal for men to judge us by our looks and our bodies alone.
Feminists have long protested against such blatant sexual objectification of women. One of the most inventive and colourful examples of direct action was broadcast back in 1970, when activists disrupted the Miss World competition in front of a live audience of 100 million TV viewers worldwide.
Finding their way into the Royal Albert Hall in London, they shook loud rattles during the event, threw flour bombs, and succeeded in taking the programme off air.
The host — U.S. comedian Bob Hope — disappeared backstage, and the 20 million British viewers watching the spectacle were treated to a proper display of women’s empowerment. Whether or not they agreed with it, many would have recognised what the feminist protesters were saying: that there is no place in modern society for such blatant misogyny.
Feminists have always argued that parading women around a stage in swimsuits sends a very clear message that women are worthless unless men find them attractive. I remember watching the competition in horror as a girl, as the judges described the ideal body shape for women as 36–24–36 inches.
We are in a time of horrendous woman-hating; in 40-plus years of campaigning, I don’t remember things ever being as bad as they are now.
Transgender activists insist there is no biological basis to being female and that womanhood is based on nothing more than a ‘feeling’. They claim women who use terms like ‘motherhood’ or ‘breastfeeding’ are bigoted and chauvinistic.
Milly (pictured) commented on the round and said: ‘I think it’s fun and celebrates body positivity’
This is misogyny dressed up as progressive politics.
To my mind, it is no coincidence that the rise in trans- activism has coincided with a time when women are becoming more objectified, and schoolgirls are being bombarded with obscene images from schoolboys on their smartphones.
Women are treated as though we are vessels for men’s use; for others to define and judge. Those who promote such pageants, and the trans ideologues, show contempt for women’s bodies, personhood and rights.
Indeed, Miss England and pageants like it are nothing less than a cattle market, with the women who take part seen merely as living dolls. This is an abhorrence in a society where we are supposedly equal to men.
Little girls are being indoctrinated into believing their worth is purely superficial, that they will have nothing to contribute to the world unless they are conventionally attractive. I understand there is a huge backlash against feminism among women who don’t want to upset or offend men. But I wish they could see as clearly as I do that allowing females to be judged on our physical attributes is harmful to all women, and the effects ricochet throughout society.
However, just as I do not criticise surrogate mothers for entering into arrangements with so-called ‘commissioning parents’ or impoverished women for ending up in prostitution, I do not blame the women taking part in or defending beauty pageants — rather I point the finger at men who create the demand for such events.
It is clear to me, that against a backdrop of the proliferation of pornography, the normalisation of the ‘rent-a-womb’ industry, and the targeting of young women by online sites, Miss England is seen as relatively harmless.
The bar is now set so low, that even a world-class limbo dancer would be flummoxed by it.
Pageants are not harmless — they are yet another clear step towards the dehumanisation and monetisation of the female body.
Those 1970s protesters are our fore-mothers, and it is their passion and activism that we need to revive — not the swimsuit round. We must recognise that, without the acceptance of misogyny, there is no way Miss England would be considering bringing back its bikini parade.
This is symbolic of the state we are in, and it’s high time we returned to radical action against such sexism.
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