November 10, 2008

Why I Won't Protest the Miss LSE Pageant....

So, there is going to be a beauty pageant at LSE this week called the "Miss LSE Pageant." I am not sure how I feel about this. The LSE Feminist Society is staging a protest at this event, but I'm not going. Sure, I think it's wrong that an academic institution is allowing its name to be attached to a contest that is associated with superficiality and the objectification of women. Sure, I wish this pageant were not going on. It would even be better if it still went on but there was a "Mr. LSE Pageant" going on right beside it, but that's not happening. I still won't protest it, though. Nope, I'm going nowhere near the protests.

I'm not protesting because the protests lined up by the LSE Feminist society are going on outside the spaces where the pageant is taking place. This would have the effect of protesting the women themselves who are participating. I don't have a problem with the women. I have a problem with LSE, at academic institution, facilitating a beauty pageant. That's not appropriate for a university, in my opinion. But really, who am I to shame these women themselves? I'm not mad at them as individuals. I don't want them to feel "othered" or alienated by feminism. I don't want them to think we feminists at LSE think of them as our enemies.

Space matters. Where you do things matters, and I suppose if the protest had been planned before there were actual Miss LSE contestants and wouldn't have the effect of othering these female participants, I'd probably go along. But I don't want to misdirect my anger. Sure, I'm mad that we live in such a superficial world that beauty pageants still go on even at the London School of Economics and Political Science, an institution that was supposedly founded with equal rights for women in mind. But I don't want to make these contestants feel less human. Yeah, they are just performing femininity publicly, albeit in a hyperbolic way, something that even I do every day. I put on make-up specifically for the male gaze, even though I know that's bullshit and I shouldn't do it. I go to the gym, so people won't call me fat. I wear pretty clothes hoping it will make people think I look pretty too. All these things are things I do because society tells me I should AND because I want to do them. I'm not so different from those pageant girls who put on make-up and then walk down a runway in heels and a bikini in front of hundreds of people. My daily beauty pageant just takes the more subtle form of my walk to school in a trendy trench coat with my hair freshly done.

So, in sum, I'm mad at LSE for wanting to be associated with a beauty pageant. It's a university and girls looks shouldn't matter here and it shouldn't facilitate competitions that suggest they do; however, as inappropriate as that is, I'm not going to other potential allies in the feminist movement and give them a reason to hate feminism. Next year, I hope we get our protests together earlier, before actual girls have signed up...

1 comment:

Chloe said...

Hi,

I don't know if you'll get this in time, but I'm the chair of the LSE SU feminist society and would like to invite you to come speak in a discussion we will be hosting about the Miss/Mr LSE pageants.

Details below:
On Thursday at 6:30 in NAB2.04 the feminist society will be hosting a discussion about the Miss/Mr. LSE pageants and subsequent protest.

Given the recent widespread coverage (and protests) of the pageants and the narrow view of feminism that has been portrayed within these debates, the FemSoc hopes to provide a forum to express the diversity of feminist perspectives regarding these issues to the wider community.

Issues addressed include: Do the pageants objectify the contestants? Does
this differ for the Mr. LSE v. Miss LSE pageant? If so, why?

The discussion will be informal, but we will have a few designated people who will speak briefly from different perspectives about their ideas of the pageants. The discussion will also be moderated and everyone is welcome and encouraged to come share their perspective. There will also be drinks during/after! This will be a really productive time to think about the implications of pageants and the activism around them from a variety of perspectives. We hope this will be a discussion that the wider LSE community will come to and reflect on. Our goal is to show that feminism is a diverse movement and that we can engage in productive dialogues from various views.

you can contact me at c.diamond-lenow1@lse.ac.uk if you have any questions