Still more on the "Miss World" riots
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Nov 22 22:53:04 MST 2002
I certainly don't expect the capitalist scam artists who run the Miss World
contest to feel "shame" any more than I expect those who profit from the
"Miss America" contest, the "Miss Universe" contest (I've always wondered
who represents the other planets in that one), or any other aspect of the
sexist oppression and exploitation of women to feel "shame."
The "Miss World" contest was bringing to Nigeria a different aspect and form
of the oppression of women than what exists on the surface of village life
today -- but it had nothing to do with liberating women from the
restrictions they face in Nigeria or anywhere else.
It didn't take any progressive struggle by working people in general or
women in particular to create these "beauty" contests. They have nothing to
do with any aspect of human liberation, including sexual liberation, of
But it did take struggles to win the right for women to work in many
industries and professions, to education, to be active in politics, to have
the right of divorce, and the right of abortion and generally to control
their bodies. And these rights are still being fought for under fire, not
just in Nigeria and Afghanistan but right here.
It is becoming more important, not less, to reject the cultural forms that
oppression of women takes in imperialist countries, forms which tend to be
superimposed on other forms in the countries they dominate. The
imperialists are the last line of defense of all forms of the oppression of
women in the world today.
It is no more true that the "Miss World" contest was bringing a vision of
the liberation of women to the "backward" people of Nigeria than it is true
that the British imperialists in the late 19th century, or the U.S.
imperialists today, were bringing or will bring the end of slavery to
The Nigerian religious figures who said that the "Miss World" contest
"degrades women" weren't wrong, though they had their own reactionary
reasons for saying so. "Miss World" and the riots in Nigeria are
expressions of an entire world where women
need liberation, not part of a world where only a few backward "Islamic"
countries or regions stand in the way of the completion of that liberation.
When I was a lad, feminists demonstrated against "beauty" pageants like the
"Miss America" contest. It wouldn't be a bad thing if that happened in
London, although it is not too likely in today's context.
If advocates of women's liberation accept the imperialist portrayal of women
as a vision of that liberation, we will be dealing a very big blow to that
fight here and around the world.
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