When you Get the Crown, Not the Jewels
By Sharon Arnolda
Ceylon Today Features
Women are known to be rather conflicted and dramatic creatures, with some of us asking not to be judged, degraded or mistreated and some of us taking more than simple pleasure in putting another woman down and humiliating them while hypocritically blaming men for doing so; just because.
While women generally come together when it comes to moments that they believe they are being oppressed as a group of people; the term ‘b***h fight’ takes on a whole new meaning when a woman is given the opportunity to put another woman beneath her.
While the recent events that transpired at the Mrs. Sri Lanka pageant blatantly highlights the fact that some women unfortunately take pleasure in putting others down and degrading them, it also highlights something that is much deeper; how glorifying people elected based on nothing beyond their looks, places an unnecessary amount of regard and respect for people who may not necessarily deserve it.
These women's standing in life comes purely based on the fact that they are better at being a ‘woman’ as opposed to the other women who chose not to put themselves through an evidently shallow competition in which women voluntarily agree to be objectified to be the ‘most beautiful’ person in that group.
One of my biggest concerns watching the recent, clearly well-planned fiasco unfold, was how the two women –who ‘courageously’ crowned the first runner-up– who one might think would have been better trained, given their experience of representing the country on an international level, showed almost no grace when it came to handling the situation at hand.
Certainly as holders of international titles both the women seen on stage humiliating the initial winner, when representing our country behaved a lot better right? I surely hope so because these women are given extensive training before being sent out internationally as well as during the pageant itself; from basic grooming skills to how to behave gracefully. They are trained by who is meant to be the “best in the industry”.
So the question remains; if these people are so well trained and managed to convince a panel of both local and international judges that they are women of ‘standing’, would they ever act like hooligans given the opportunity to do so?
There is a lot being said about the political and other affiliations of the initial winner that somehow makes one section of society see the fact that she was publicly humiliated and de-crowned as some form of heroic act of Caroline Jurie standing up against an unjust situation. However, the committee didn’t take too long to rectify the fiasco and give the crown back to Pushpika de Silva. Meaning, that the immediate problem of the crown has been fixed; but before this gets swept under the carpet, it would be worth to look at some of the blatant issues this fiasco has highlighted.
Back when Caroline was crowned and bullied about a picture of her wearing shorts with her husband and child, most women rallied around her; calling out people for attacking her and making assumptions based on what she was wearing; that her clothes don’t define her and that she is somehow a good mother. Looking back; none of these were backed up by fact. We got together to defend her because it is wrong to have anyone go through so much hate for what they chose to wear or how they chose to live their personal lives. Let’s not forget that Caroline therefore is a woman who has enjoyed undying support from fellow women when she was being bullied.
What was absolutely shameful, is to watch the same woman who was so fiercely protected by other women, put down another woman to such an extent, humiliate and act so disrespectful towards another woman in the same industry all while acting on a baseless accusation.
Women tend to get extremely triggered when the opposite sex call them dramatic; but as a woman myself that was a total unnecessary display of drama. If she was told that the winner was divorced, there were so many different ways to handle the situation that didn't involve a public display of her clear inability to handle a tricky situation.
The purpose of the pageant is to encourage married women and mothers from all over the world to become role models to their peers, families and communities through charitable activities, volunteerism, involvement within the community as well as embracing their flaws to overcome fears and gain confidence and self esteem.
The key word to be extracted from the purpose given to the pageant “become role models to their communities, peers and families”. The only thing even remotely good in this situation is that they caused such a mess, the lesson to be learned is to avoid being such a public embarrassment to you, your country and your family at any given cost.
The reasons I'm so strongly against her actions are not based on the fact that Pushpika is not a divorcee; even if she was my stance on the matter of what was done would remain the same.
If we were to look at the incident like the many other dramatic episodes in movies it seems to be following; the two women seem to have had the fiasco planned before executing it. The second woman, who rushed to stage from nowhere, was absolutely uncalled for and made a bigger embarrassment of herself by the gestures that followed the horrific act, Pushpika was made to live through.
Even in the event that Pushpika is in fact divorced and led the competition astray, she deserves the basic human right of not having to be publicly shamed and defamed for her private life which was exposed to millions in the aftermath.
She has always been open about the fact that she raises her son on her own. She in fact, comes off as a strong role model for single mothers out there who struggle to make the lives of their children better; a complete power move to be doing a two person job by herself and she seems to be doing great at it.
Let's talk about what she could have been ideally doing
If the former Mrs. World was to change the world and be an advocate for better things, she would definitely be up on stage; but instead of tearing down another woman's crown she should be advocating to perhaps. rewrite the rules and include single mothers in a pageant that is aimed at empowering mothers.
She could have had a press conference the next day to rectify the mistake that was made in the event she had just found out that Pushpika was indeed a divorcee. Ironically that’s how Pushpika was re-crowned as Mrs. Sri Lanka.
Clearly the world expects more than just a beautiful woman from the reigning Mrs. World. Someone who is capable of handling a situation like a ‘mother’ would.
Everyone is human and to be human is to make mistakes; but at the same time to be a person with significant influence would also mean that you are bound to weigh the pros and cons of all your actions before making a fool of yourself and the country you represent. The actions of the reigning Mrs. World has not only caused great embarrassment to her but also to our country. It has undermined the ‘sisterhood’ we women hold close to our hearts. It has served as a clear representation of the fact that no one is harsher on a woman than another woman.
But most importantly, it has shown the opposite sex that we claim to want to be treated with respect by, that we as women don’t respect each other. And that we ourselves are capable of putting other women down just because we are in a position to do so.
The actions of the founder of the ‘be you’ that we women held a brief for, unfortunately undermines the entire concept of women having each other's backs.
Which really begs the question: Why are we defending women who are just recognised for their appearance? Shouldn't our role models be the power women making a change in this country and world?
It's dangerous to put the wrong people on a pedestal or to give recognition to people just because they were selected as the ‘most beautiful’ person amongst a group. I would like to be the one to say that pageants although strive to pick a “beautiful woman with substance and character”, have clearly not in this instance, given all that went down. It proved to the world that judges who made such a decision were utterly and horribly wrong.
While the situation could have definitely been handled better, the problem lies in the fact that something as misogynistic as beauty pageants still exist in the 21st century. We are essentially telling one group of men not to objectify us on road ways but on the other hand allowing ourselves to be objectified by judges based on our appearance by another group of men.
Pageants remain one of the most hypocritical contests for womankind, while also acting as one of the biggest barriers to achieving equality.
So this avurudu season; before you doll your child in the hopes they secure the title of Avurudu Kumariya/raya, let's think about what exactly we are teaching our children by continuing with such a clearly misogynistic practice.
In a world striving to get to a place where anyone can be anything, nobody needs to be judged or respected based on what they look like anymore; do they?