Friday, March 26, 2010

Combat Barbie Saves the Day!

You may have already heard about "Combat Barbie" who is supposedly changing the world of beauty pageants as we know it! Apparently Lance Cpl. Katrina Hodge, a soldier in the British army and last year's Miss England, asked the organizers of the Miss England pageant to remove the swimsuit portion of the competition. The swimsuit competition will be replaced with a sports challenge.

Now on the surface, we think this is a great idea. However, we're not exactly cheering over this news story...

First of all, it's still a beauty pageant. They can take away the swimsuit competition but what's left is still a sexist, antiquated contest. While it's true that "beauty pageants" aren't just about beauty (the Miss England pageant features talent, charity, and "eco" segments in addition to the new sports challenges) women are primarily judged on their looks and ability to fit some society construct of "femininity".

Second, her reasoning is off. Hodge was quoted in England's Daily Telegraph that the swimsuit portion was unfair because "it's nerve-racking enough to girls to get up on a stage and speak, let alone in a swimsuit." Yes, that's true. But that's not why they should do away with it. It's unfair because not only is it irrelevent (winners are rarely asked to appear in swimwear for public events) and objectifying, but because it's wrong to judge women based on how closely they match a sexist, unfair expectation of "beauty" and body type.

It's also a little condescending on Hodge's part if you think about it... As a part time model for the lingerie firm La Senza, Hodge spends a good deal of time in the public eye in various forms of undress but doesn't seem to have a problem with "nerves". But she's trying to protect all the contestants who aren't as strong as she supposedly is. No woman should have to be judged based on how she wears a bathing suit, but I think these types of pageants should be more about the ability to "get up on stage and speak". If that's so nerve-wracking, then maybe this isn't the competition for you. (I'm not trying to discredit anyone who does find it nerve-wracking. I certainly would - swimsuit or not - but that's why I don't enter pageants. I hide behind a computer screen.)

The news coverage about Hodge has especially irked me, particularly her nickname "Combat Barbie". I don't know if she actually likes and accepts this title or if the media has just taken it and run with, but either way it's annoying. A beautiful woman in the army? OMGZ NO WAY! What is this Private Benjamin? In 2010 is it really such of an anomaly for a member of the military to be feminine and attractive (whatever that means)?

This isn't the first time Hodge has made the news. She first became well known in 2005 after she wrestled rifles away from a suspected rebel fighter with her bare hands in Iraq. This is definitely something commendable, but we have to wonder if the press would have cared at all if she was male... or, you know, "ugly".

Hodges is currently on leave from the Army, so she can be the front person for the military dating site Uniform Dating. I wonder if the military gives everyone leave for that sort of thing or if just the pretty pageant winners get this kind of special treatment. I know that women in the U.S. military aren't always given this kind of leniency, but maybe this is a U.K. thing and not just a beauty queen thing?

Now we're not trying to be party poopers here. It's clear that Hodge is an excellent soldier and well-rounded, intelligent - and yes, beautiful - young woman. We think it's great that Hodge wants to help military personnel find love and wants to improve the Miss England pageant.

Out of curiosity, we looked into the history of the Miss World Organization and oddly enough Miss World started in the 1950s as the Festival Bikini Contest. In the 1980s, tests of intelligence and personality were added, along with the new slogan "Beauty With a Purpose". Over the years, the organization has raised millions for charities around the globe. Clearly it keeps evolving, so the removal of the swimsuit segment is hopefully just one step on the way towards a pageant that doesn't judge women based on their looks at all.

Our dream pageant - you know, the Ms. Evil Slutopia Pageant - would be open to all genders, all races, and all sizes. There would be no swimsuit competition or evening wear. We can just imagine the talent competition! Do that Corona-lime-thumb trick without spilling a drop and then reenact one of the dance scenes from The American Mall. Or the Q&A portion: "What's the dumbest thing a guy has ever said to you?" and "Would you agree that Rush Limbaugh can suck it?"

What else would you like to see in your dream pageant?

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