BY ELISA O’DONOVAN – UCD Students Against Sexism
This year see’s the first (and hopefully last!) Miss UCD beauty pageant, sponsored by UCDSU ,alongside trashy tabloids The sun and News of the world. The first Miss UCD takes place on Thursday 17th April. The winner of the ‘competition’ will win automatic entry to Miss Ireland as well as winning beauty makeovers , clothes and a gym membership. Miss Ireland and hence Miss UCD bans all mothers, wives and women under 5’4 from entering.These sexist competitions have no place in Ireland and particularly in UCD. These types of competitions are demeaning and are an excuse for putting sexism on parade They encourage the idea that women should be seen as sex objects to be judged by men, as well as making women believe that to be desirable they have to conform to unrealistic types of ‘beauty’.
The Miss university pageant is doing the rounds in third level colleges throughout Ireland and already a Miss DIT,Miss Portebello,Miss NCI,Miss RCSI,Miss St Pats and Miss Tallaght IT have been ‘crowned’ with extensive positive media coverage. Miss Ireland and Miss world seems to have become an acceptable form of ‘entertainment’ in Ireland despite thats its a competiton that is grossly offensive to both men and women.
Why oppose it?
It has become normal for young women to be irrationally critical of their bodies. As young women we are bombarded with on average 600 ads/day each telling us how to look .Every week there’s a new part of our body we have to change and look better in order to be accepted and respected by society. The young women most celebrated in Irish media are Katy French, Rossana Davidson ,those that are ‘ beautiful’ and successful with Miss Ireland being the most pictured young women in Irish media. The effect that this has on
women cannot be overstated. In Ireland alone 6000 women suffer from eating disorders compared to 400 men. Self esteem in young Irish females has never been so low. This is because as women we are constantly barraged with how we should and must look. This stereotype of youth, clear skin, sparkling teeth, tanned and toned is a stereotype which is completely reinforced by the Miss Ireland and Miss World franchise. And who does this stereotype benefit? Does it benefit us women? Of course not it directly benefits’s the pockets of the Miss Ireland franchise!
All the time women are struggling with self esteem and self worth while big business is making billions of our insecurities. Miss Ireland helps accelerate these insecurities by allowing wealthy businessmen on the judging panel to choose what society should see as desirable or not. Miss Ireland is not run for fun or for creating opportunities for women as it often proclaims, its sole purpose is to make as much money for the organisers. Millionaire businessman and owner of the Miss Ireland franchise, Krish Naidoa, recently stated in a daily mail article that ‘we ( the miss Ireland organisers) are all in it to make money.’ Like the beauty and diet industrys constantly advertising a new diet trend or latest must have product which as a result doesn’t boost our self esteem it only boosts the enormous profits of the diet/ beauty industry. Last year alone L’oreal made a massive €1.86 billion in profits!
Miss UCD will also contain the famous swimsuit portion. This is where women don bathing suits purely so there bodies can be judged to see if they conform to what is desirable for society I.e. lacking wrinkles, celluite, flab and every other normal constituent of a women’s body. This is a pervasive force not only in shaping our body ideals but also in creating stereotypes on how women should act and be. The female body has become a commodity that can be sold. From playboy bunnies to Miss world women are seen for a sexual use other than as a person with the capacity for independent action and thought. Frequent exposure to media images that sexualize women and girls affect greatly how women conceptualise feminity and sexuality. It leads them to accept more constrained and stereotypical notions about gender roles and sexual roles. Miss world is part of an industry based on portraying women as sexual objects, available to be “consumed” by a male customer. Women’s sexuality is reduced to pleasing men.
What about Student Union involvment?
Our SU is there to represent us, the students. Its role ,like all students union is to empower and reach out to all students whatever their sex. Students need a strong union to fight for students rights and to campaign,educate and inform students on all issues.
However, this year UCDSU has completely ignored women’s issues on campus. The women’s officer, an active member of fianna fail, has held only one event all year. Women have never been more isolated from the union which can be seen in the fact that we once again have an all male sabbatical team to represent us next year. Considering women are a majority on this campus their issues whether health, social or political should be represented yet they are being completely ignored by UCDSU.
The union justified their reasons for holding the Miss UCD pageantby running it as a charity event for the primary immunodeficiency association; a charity that helps mothers and fathers cope with raising a child with a incurable paediatric condition. It is ironic that in order to raise money to help struggling families the union has to resort to using a competition that bans mothers and wives from entering!
The union should not be holding beauty pageants, they should be fighting to ensure equality for ALL on campus by fighting for; decent child care facilities for mothers and fathers on campus, free smear testing and proper health care facilities for women, fighting for workplace rights,including maternity leave and equal pay; and to speak out against all other forms of discrimination in Belfield.
To oppose union involvement in Miss UCD, UCD students against sexism are holding a mock Miss UCD beauty pageant where the REAL Miss UCD will be crowned. At the event,which will be held Thurs 17th April at 1 outside the arts block, we will be distributing leaflets to highlight some of the challenges facing women in modern Ireland. There will also be speakers present from the Equality department, the Socialist Party and more.
We ask all students and staff from all univeristys who oppose sexism to get involved.Come along on the day,show your support and say NO to sexism!