Fluffy to the world
Published: Sunday | October 11, 2009
According to a full page ad in the October 7 edition of The Gleaner, since the inception of the Miss Jamaica World pageant in 1978 it is the "cream of Jamaica's beautiful and talented young women" who have been attracted to this 'contest'.
The ad also emphasised that today it is the young women who enter universities and other institutions of higher learning who find the Miss World pageant most appealling. Indeed, today the former contestants and winners are doctors, lawyers, engineers and Indian chiefs who are finding that to complete their new status as high achievers in the established masculine paradigm they must indeed prove to the patriarch that they are still 'real women'.
This trend was demonstrated in this newspaper ad by the high achievement of the eight women who were the judges. On the top end of the advertisement page are 18 upwardly mobile, relatively fairly educated young women with well-straightened or processed stresses and perhaps the occasional wig, or either glued-on or stitched-on synthetic or other people's hair. I guess we have evolved to a point where the 'blond bimbo' is an artefact of patriarchy!
These contemporary young women will prepare for beauty contests by working out in the gyms and spas, eating as skimpily as possible the prescribed foods that will guarantee that they do not gain an ounce of weight during their search for the 'winning moment', when they render all other contestants 'the losers of the year'.
Those who do not cut back on their love of fried chicken and French fries would have learnt to gorge themselves and then run to the bathroom to regurgitate the disgusting food that tasted so good.
In short, among these high-achievers will be a representative number of food addicts, anorexics and neurotic young women grinning and showing off their braces-enhanced set of teeth.
After all, to be bright and the symbol of the beauty queen means that a woman must never be seen as serious and she must never expect to be taken seriously. Yes girl, you might have some substance between your ears, but it is the substance between the ankle and the neck bone that will make a difference on the catwalk or on the stage.
This contemporary paradigm of who is the desirable beauty queen in the Jamaican context is some distance from the early days when feminist activists encouraged young women to get an education and break the stereotypes of the pregnant and barefooted female whose main role in life was to procreate and ensure that she produced sons to carry on the patriarch's name, and to inherit the properties that were acquired through fair or foul means.
In fact, it was the 1968 Miss America beauty contest that is credited with bringing the opposition of the feminist movement to beauty contests into public view. Since then, the focus has been on justice, women's human rights and the eradication of all forms of systemic barriers to the empowerment of women and girls.
Just as the women of Jamaica have settled into the realisation that the beauty queen will never truly look like the majority of Jamaican women who are unambiguously of African origins, the masterminds behind the beauty industry have decided that they will continue to entice more and more women into the beauty charade. This time they are putting out pages of women who are now being described as full-figured beauties. In other words, they are now enticing fat, fluffy women to the catwalk.
It is ironic that at a time when the medical fraternity and the health practitioners are warning the society that obesity is one of the main indicators of ill-health and the lifestyle diseases that are putting pressure on the health system, the beauty industry is bent on manipulating another slice of the female population. These women are being told that they are truly beautiful even though they are obviously fat.
We now see overweight young women advertising consumer goods while they jump around and display their voluptuous breasts and oversized rear ends. In another six months we will see many of this body type in bikinis and thongs parading across the stages in their search for the 'fluffy to the world crown'.
Many progressive thinkers are of the opinion that this second stream of beauty contestants have more relevance to the archetypal image of women as goddesses. In fact, a perusal of the literature on 'the Great Mother' will demonstrate that the original appealing image of womanhood was a 'woman of great obesity with sagging breasts, protruding stomach and enormous haunches'. This type represented the fertility that was the defining characteristic of womanhood. It is also interesting to note that there were also slim figures who represented the mothering one in antiquity.
In short, whether the Jamaican beauty queen is 'Miss Skinny to the max' or 'Miss Fluffy to the world' she will always be never quite black and she will continue to doubt her potential to be a self-possessed, intelligent, independent woman who has the right to take her place off the catwalk.
Glenda Simms is a consultant on gender issues. Feedback may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many fat women wear their weight proudly. - File