THE BLOG

Miss Universe? I'll Give It a Miss, Thanks

24/12/2015 10:58 GMT | Updated 23/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Everyone is up in arms that the winner of Miss Universe was unceremoniously de-crowned after the TV show's host, Steve Harvey, announced the wrong name.

I know, it's shocking isn't it? Miss Universe actually still being a serious thing broadcast on television in 2015! I thought I'd tripped, fallen and woken up in 1972. Or a spoof. But no. there it was in all its dated, sexist glory. A beauty pageant. For grown-ups. Taken seriously.

It's not a stand-alone opportunity to objectify women and pitch them against each other based solely on their looks either. America generously also still broadcasts Miss America and the Victoria's Secret 'Fashion' Show - an underwear parade which would bring Benny Hill back smiling from the grave.

As a Brit living in Los Angeles, I am flabbergasted daily by the overwhelming misogyny which permeates society here. Whilst the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Toni Collette bring enormous attention to a gender pay gap in what Collette recently described as a 'f***ing sexist industry', they are simply high-profile examples of a wider societal problem.

I shared my surprise at a beauty parade being on prime time television in the comments section of a friend's Facebook post, and suggested it is time that we start to value women's worth based on more than how they look in a bikini - and stopped pitting women against each other. A TOTAL stranger took exception to this suggestion, telling me: 'Life is a competition. At least the pageant's (sic) are honest about what the criteria is. Girls who participate in the pageant system are far more equipped to handle many of life's other challenges than those who don't. Especially when it comes to dealing with other women...'.

That's actually how he ended it. DOT DOT DOT. Yeah, I don't need to say anything more because you know what 'other women' are like, cue eye roll.

Deep sigh.

Even without pageant experience as suggested by said stranger, I managed to compose a reply all by myself and without any help from a penis. I also didn't mention the appalling apostrophe use in his own message, which I can only put down to his own inexperience - presumable ill-equipped after never being judged semi-naked on stage.

I thanked the gentleman for the overt sexism in his statement - and suggested that if we keep making life a competition then that's considered to be the norm, when we could and should all work together. We are all on the same side, after all. Instead it promotes the idea that the purpose of women is to look pretty, and to be prettier than someone else.

This ruthless premise was quickly proven to be so, when the girls all started to turn on each other Lord of the Flies style after Steve Harvey re-crowned Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach instead of Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez. She had been wearing the crown and sash for at least a minute and a half before the red-faced host confessed he'd ballsed it up.

The hapless host then added, 'Don't blame the girls, don't blame the girls' which sounded a little like he'd just got a new puppy which had peed in the middle of the living room carpet and he was trying to stop his mean uncle from kicking it. You know, because the whole thing wasn't quite misogynistic enough without added patronising.

If you are in any doubt at whether the woman are objectified and belittled...they aren't even referred to BY THEIR NAMES! They are stripped of their identity beyond being a vagina and a country. We wouldn't want to start personifying these chicks now, would we?

In the two years I've lived in the US, I've heard more sexist remarks than I've heard in a lifetime in the UK. And if I heard them there, they would have been accompanied by some self-awareness and someone making it clear that they are being tongue in cheek.

Art has a duty to inspire, and not encourage women to be paraded like show-ponies around an auditorium in front of a panel of judges, regardless of ratings. 'Nice glossy mane that one, lovely rump.'

So while they are still broadcast on mainstream television, it serves to mainstream the attitude.

I'm not saying that stopping network television broadcasts of Miss America and Miss Universe would provide the cure for intrinsic sexism in society here, but it would be a significant step in the right direction.

My Facebook non-friend replied to my reply, by the way. He argued: 'How is it sexism if the audience for pageants is overwhelmingly women? Women encourage it - all of it.' Helpful that this man was so able to tell me what 'women' do.

I replied, 'Right up there with "I've got a lot of black friends that one".'