Last week, for the first time, I entered a public debate on gender equality. I’d been motivated by the amazing speech of actress Emma Watson, when she launched the HeForShe campaign at the United Nations in September.
On Tuesday, as a Councillor on Sydney’s Ryde Council, I went public with my concerns that Council had been supporting a beauty pageant run by local newspaper The Weekly Times. The paper asks girls and young women between 13 and 19 to submit a photo and list of hobbies to enter the Granny Smith Festival Miss Teen Queen Competition.
UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. Her speech on gender equality kick-started the HeForShe campaign in September.
My message was pretty simple; competitions which pit girls and young women against each other based on how they look are archaic and out of touch with our modern values. Our elected bodies should have no part in supporting them.
Three radio interviews and one heated Council debate later, I’d been called a nitwit, a galoot (I had to consult google on the meaning of this one), a killjoy and a wanker. I was even accused of being a misogynist.
Fortunately, I was spared the bile that is directed towards women when they speak out on gender. No one started an elaborate death hoax about me as they did Emma Watson after her speech (to be fair, I’m not sure a death hoax about me would really grab much attention). I escaped the insults thrown at my female predecessor when she was accused of “tiara-envy” after raising the same concerns.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I actually got off pretty lightly.
Competitions that pit girls based on how they look are archaic and obsolete.
The fascinating aspect of the beauty pageant furore was the way that opponents of my opinion fought back. The Teen Queen competitions in Ryde have all the glitz and glamour of a beauty pageant; the tiara, the sashes, the bouquets given to all the finalists, and the fact that only girls are invited to enter. They ask girls to enter by submitting a photo and a list of their hobbies.