Usually I share observations from my personal life in our Weekend Observations column. But today I’m deviating.
I’ve written about beauty contests a lot. One reason? There’s a ton of ’em out there so they are bound to stir up some interesting stories. Also, they happen to be a source of a lot of strong opinions. While many women view these parades as a way to progress, i.e., win a scholarship, get exposure, attract a successful mate; many others view them as degrading to women. And I’ve sympathized with both sides of the argument.
So, I was struck by the news that Italy’s national beauty contest, Miss Italia, was taken off of the national TV’s schedule. First of all, this contest launched some of Italy’s biggest female stars, like Sophia Loren. Also, it’s not like Italy ranks high when it comes to women’s equality in professional and domestic spheres. Finally, Italy is a country with a strong heritage of beauty and aestheticism, so to cancel the biggest beauty contest in the country seems out of character.
The reason for the cancellation? Sexism. Anna Maria Tarantola, president of the state TV station, RAI, calls the contest “a sexist anachronism.” Who can argue with this, right? These contests basically ask women to parade around in skimpy clothes and beat out others based on their physical beauty. As you can imagine, there were protests to this. People claimed that such an event happens all over the world, and has been happening for eons.
But then I heard an argument that was different. The contest organizer saw this ban as a sign of racism. She argues: “’It’s really rather interesting to note that the Speaker of the Lower House has closed the door to Miss Italia but thrown it open to Gay Pride. I am not opposed to any show or rally and in fact the more colourful the better but her decision has the air of racism.’ (Daily Mail)
Can you argue that banning a show about pretty people discriminates against, well, pretty people? Actually, maybe you could. After all, we have shows about Little People, rich wives, Red Necks — basically all different types. These shows don’t always portray these folks in the best light, but they give them a voice and a platform. While I certainly would not be the first person to sign up for a beauty contest (and not just because I wouldn’t want to scare the audience wearing a bikini!), I still question whether banning them is the answer.