Last week’s Point of View on BBC Radio 4 heard "Writer and academic Mary Beard ponder why - unlike her teenage days as a radical feminist - the whole occasion [Miss World] doesn't fill me with fury." Well I couldn’t help but ask the same question. Why doesn’t it? I didn’t hear the piece but on reading it was utterly perplexed as to some of the contradictions posed in this Point of View. But perhaps more importantly, I felt extremely concerned by the fact that a woman who calls herself a feminist, indeed many women who do so, feel somehow that the job is done and worse, that by embracing beauty contests they are somehow more liberal than ever, conveniently ignoring the fact that women’s bodies are not their own and as such, feminism has a great deal of work to do indeed.
Beard explores her lack of anger at the whole Miss World affair by observing that the women on screen were what she considers to be a "relatively healthy, normal size." And that "they were a bit aggressively hour-glass in shape, it’s true, but at least most of them appeared to be hovering around the size 10 - or even size 12 - mark"
Well, that’s ok then isn’t it? As long as they’re not, as she says, "impossibly thin, size-zero, anorexic fashion-model(s)" Who cares? Who cares if young women (girls in many cases) spend their lives desperately aspiring to fit a certain mould. Squeezing and sucking and shaping their bodies every which way possible in a life long struggle to fit the current image of what they should be, whether that image is straight or curvy. Whether women are expected to be size zero or size twenty is beside the point. It is the expectation itself. It really isn’t about what size or shape they are, it’s about why they’re that size or shape and the fact that far too many people across society and society itself, seem to have more of a stake in women’s bodies than women themselves. Stating that this year’s Miss World contestants are all what one person might consider healthy does not deter from the experience of those women in striving to be a particular size nor from the societal pressure to be so or their own internal experiences and obsession with body image that ultimately takes them to Miss World where they are scrutinized by no less than a reported one billion people.