[…]

You’re probably aware of the protests against beauty-pageants held at universities across London, and if not your can check out the Miss-Ogynist University of London Facebook group for the full story.

Today we received a press release from the company organising these pageants. Never in my life would I have suspected I would feel worse about these beauty contests after reading a press release issued in their defence:

Miss Student UK – Press release 10 December 2008

Both the motto & ethos of Miss Student Uk is “More Than Just A Pretty

Face”.. We are looking for hidden talents and fresh personalities in

students from all over the UK.

However, we are not a beauty pageant. In no way whatsoever is the

competition focused on external appearance, our university students embark

on a journey of self-development, acquiring valuable life & social skills

additional to their academic studies whilst meeting new like-minded people

& having fun.

Here’s the banner of the website for this event, which is clearly not a beauty contest, or in any way related to how conventionally attractive the contestants are:

notabeautycontest.jpg

Universities, as important as they are, cannot necessarily equip their

students in all aspects of life to be ready for the real world, and this

competition certainly helps its contestants to build confidence and

self-belief, ready for a world that does not revolve around academic

achievements alone.

From the beginning, there has been a risk that this competition would be

misconstrued, tarred with the same brush as with awful tacky counterparts.

However, we are proud that this competition is helping students to push

their personal boundaries, proud that we can help provide them with

something of life-long benefit and proud that Miss Student Uk is looking

for much more than a pretty face.

Yes, they are seriously arguing that winning this beauty contest – sorry, Miss Student UK, just saying it’s not one doesn’t make it so – actually prepares women students for the ‘real world’ better than a university eduction.

Maybe there’s something to that – at least it’s preparing the female students for a life-time of being judged on their appearance & ability & willingness to adhere to a conventional kind of feminine prettiness. And it sends a strong message to male students, who are, of course, not expected to compete.