Her remarks were reported in newspapers around the world but there was no rioting in the streets. Ms. Francoise Ducros, Prime Minister Chrétien’s aid, called the leader of the world’s hyperpower a moron but no one was killed. It was a careless and stupid remark but Ducros was the only casualty — she lost her job.
Not like when a Nigerian newspaper reported that the Prophet Mohammed would have approved of the Miss World beauty pageant being held in that country. Then all hell broke loose.
The newspaper office was torched, despite an apology from the newspaper. More than 200 were killed, 500 were injured, 4,500 left homeless in Kaduna and the rioting spread to the capital, Abuja.
Talk about the power of the press.
What’s going on here? There is obviously a radically difference in perception of beauty pageants between the Islamic and western worlds. The western world views beauty pageants as anachronistic fluff. Muslims view them as an affront to public decency — something like we view child pornographers.
Part of the difference is that feminist viewpoints have been integrated into Western society. Beauty pageants are quaint because they portray women in exhibitions that ignore the advances made by social activists.
For example, we no longer regard women as chattels or possessions of men. Yet beauty pageants parade women the way that cattle are paraded at an auction. We assume the right of women to vote but it was a right hard fought for.
One such social activist was Emily Murphy, a leader of the suffrage movement in Canada. She became a police magistrate in Edmonton in 1916, the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. In 1917, she helped women gain the right to vote, although they could not run for office.
You can imagine Murphy’s chagrin, when a lawyer before her court claimed that Murphy was not fit as a magistrate because she wasn’t a person. It was true. In 1916 women were not legally persons.
This insult led Murphy to campaign the Privy Council in Great Britain in the Persons Case, which finally resulted in women being given the legal right of persons under Canada’s BNA Act in 1929.
The second wave of feminist activism was lead by activists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem in the 1960’s. It was a reaction to years of stereotyping of a women’s place as being exclusively in the home. It resulted in many women entering the workforce. By 1984, sixty per cent of women over the age of sixteen were working.
With the Islamic view thrown into the mix, there is a wide diversion of opinion. Even those on the same side of the issue disagree. Western social activists don’t like beauty pageants because they are poor role models and out of sync with modernity. Fundamentalist Muslims see them as morally offensive.
Those who favour of beauty pageants include the contestants and their organizers. The contestants see themselves as missionaries off to save the world. Miss Canada, 22 year old Lynsey Bennett, went to Nigeria to lecture the Islamic world about the death sentence handed out to a Nigerian woman damned by Islamic law to death for adultery.
And on the same side, there is the “Playboy philosophy” which favours beauty pageants because they display women according to the philosophy – – as sex objects. The way of the Playboy is strewn with luscious babes, expensive toys and 24/7 hedonism.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for sex. Men and women are sexual creatures. But that’s different from the view of women as sexual objects; decorations on the cake of a paternalistic society.
In a ironic twist, the Muslim and Playboy worlds coincide in Islamic heaven. According to Muslim legend, when martyrs die in the defense of Islam they are immediately transported to heaven where 72 virgins await their pleasure.
“As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed virgins for companions: a truly overflowing cup,” Koran 78:31’
Women have apparently not yet become persons in the Islamic world. But we need not be smug in the as long as the Neanderthal spectacle of beauty pageants is around. Like the appendix, civilization has evolved to the point that beauty pageants serve no function. They only fester when infected.