Socialist Worker

Festival of inequality

by Judy Cox
Issue No. 1829

MISS WORLD has come to Britain, bringing with it a torrent of garbage about women and their role in society. Miss World is a symbol of how society reduces women to objects judged on the way they look.

The contest became a target in 1970 when women protesters disrupted the event. The protests were part of a bigger movement that challenged discrimination against women in pay, jobs, education and social rights. Those arguments are just as valid today.

Thirty years after the Equal Pay Act women still earn on average only 80 percent of men's wages, and the gap is growing. Women still do the majority of childcare and household chores. Sexist images dominate advertising hoardings. Women are a long way from liberation.

A few women have pushed their way into the boardrooms and executive suites of big companies. A recent report exposed the sexist harassment suffered by 'high flying' women in the City.

Most women are struggling to make ends meet. They face long working hours, the most expensive childcare in Europe and pressure to shape their lives around the demands of looking after children.

New Labour's beloved flexible working means more women with young families working than ever before - because they can't afford not to. The Miss World event was supposed to take place in Nigeria but was moved because of violence in that country.

The contest's supporters said that this showed that in the West women are free to wear what they want and enjoy their sexuality. This is a false version of freedom. Women are not set free by pornography or by being fed images of 'supermodels'.

Many women have their lives wrecked by the constant pressure to look a particular way, to be thin or to make themselves 'attractive'. Western leaders claim to be outraged by the position of women in Islamic countries.

But they do not speak out about the way fundamentalist Christians think women should be reduced to the role of mothers Socialists believe that no religion has a right to tell women how to live their lives or to limit their sexual freedom.

All women should have the freedom to decide what to wear, who they form relationships with, where they work and how they behave. Anyone who wants real equality for women should oppose Miss World.


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Article information

Features
Sat 7 Dec 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1829
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