How green is your tiara? Get Miss Earth finals out of the London Green Fair 2011!

// 20 April 2011

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Clare Cochrane is a founder of Oxfordshire Reclaim the Night, and a Green Party member, and lives in an ecological housing co-op in Oxford

world's first treehuggersThere is no copyright on ‘green values’. Just like the question, ‘what is feminism?’, exactly what it means to be green is a topic of much debate. But there are some things that clearly aren’t green. And sexism is one of them.

So imagine my horror when I discovered that this year the London Green Fair will be hosting the UK finals of Miss Earth.

Yes, an annual event designed to promote green values and ethical lifestyles is teaming up with a beauty pageant organiser to promote the sexual objectification of women, and a narrow and oppressive definition of ‘beauty’.

I’m a feminist, a green campaigner, a member of the Green Party and fairly well-read; I’ve read stuff by ecologists including Murray Bookchin, Vandana Shiva, Susan Griffin, Derek Jensen, and others. And as far as I can tell, beauty pageants just don’t fit in to the ecological world view. Green values are about the equality of diverse beings, and celebrating the diversity and difference in living beings that contribute to the web of life.

Beauty pageants, on the other hand, are about valuing women more for their beauty than their as a whole human being; measuring the value of a woman by how much her appearance meets the approval of others, particularly men; and presenting a single, narrow concept of ‘beauty’.

Well so much you already know. What I’m saying is that beauty pageants are sexist – and sexism isn’t green.

But it’s also not in line with the London Green Fair’s ethical policy (scroll down to read it), which says, amongst other pledges: “We will not deal with those who exploit the individual.”

I’ve asked the London Green Fair to explain to me how the sexism of a beauty pageant is in line with promoting green values, but they haven’t replied. Probably because they can’t – because it isn’t.

So help me persuade the sponsors of the London Green Fair to take action – and withdraw their support until the London Green Fair drops the Miss Earth UK finals. Sponsors include the Co-op Membership and Camden Council. I’m pretty sure that sexist beauty pageants are not congruent with co-operative values. And I’d be interested to know what those more familiar with the Gender Equality Duty might have to say about Camden Council sponsoring a fair that includes a sexist beauty pageant.

entryform.jpg

Screengrab of the 2011 entry form for Miss Earth

There are also a number of ‘supporters’ listed on the London Green Fair sponsors webpage – and it’s worth getting in touch with them too. One has already replied to me saying they have contacted London Green Fair themselves about this issue. And if you know anyone booked to perform at the London Green Fair – a poet, musicians, dancers – tell them, too; so far at least one has already expressed his outrage to me – and his concern to the organisers.

I’ve written to both the Co-op and Camden Council to ask them to withdraw their support for London Green Fair unless it withdraws from hosting Miss Earth UK finals, but I haven’t heard back yet. What they need to know is that lots of us feel the same way. So if you’re a supporter of green values, a Londoner, a Camden resident, a co-operative supporter, or just a feminist, join me in campaigning to get the London Green Fair to withdraw from hosting the finals of Miss Earth UK. Let’s make it understood that sexism is not green.

Photo of Chipko women, the original treehuggers

Comments From You

Khrystene // Posted 20 April 2011 at 1:00 pm

This is just tacky. A ‘green’ beauty pagent is still just a sexist old beauty pageant.

Jennifer // Posted 20 April 2011 at 1:15 pm

This is the first time I’ve written a letter to a company.

Any updates on the matter would be great!

Kristin // Posted 20 April 2011 at 1:50 pm

Good post, and I totally agree with you. But ultimately, women have to have a strong enough sense of self to refuse to enter these contests and submit to being judged and objectified.

sianushka // Posted 20 April 2011 at 3:02 pm

thank you for raising the profile of this – was furious when i read about this on twitter. it’s just so sad that so may causes fall back on sexism to get a higher profile, from the nightmare that is PETA to now a beauty pageant for green values. so so cross. will be writing.

Tamara // Posted 20 April 2011 at 6:13 pm

“Eligibility Requirements

The following entry requirements shall be a person who:

NEVER BEEN MARRIED. (“MISS” usually uses the prefix Miss before her name)

Born female,

NEVER given birth.

Must be a U.K. and Irish citizen & hold a valid U.K. passport. (Northern Ireland may hold an Irish passport)

Between the ages of 18 and 26 (as of the final of Miss Earth)

13-17 year olds may enter our Teen Earth Girl UK contest and must have full parental consent to enter

Minimum height of 5 feet 5 inches. (No min height for Teens)

Good character”

So this isn’t even about green issues really… that’s just a cover up… I don’t see how this fits into ANY of the aims for the London Green Fair event… *rages*

Laurel Dearing // Posted 21 April 2011 at 12:00 am

*born female*

wow, usually these things just ignore the existence of transgender people rather than actively choose to make a point out of their exclusion…

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 April 2011 at 11:23 am

Surely ‘born female’ is an illegal condition under the Equality Act?

The law says you can only exclude transexual people from ‘services’ provided to their identified gender under some very particular circumstances- and I am fairly certain this isn’t one of them. If anybody is writing to Camden Council, they might want to mention this, because this is particularly poor from a local authority.

Kez // Posted 21 April 2011 at 6:55 pm

Blimey, reading those eligibility requirements makes me feel like I’ve fallen through a timewarp into the 1950s. (Except maybe for the “born female” part.)

“Good character”? Calls herself “Miss”? Is this for real?

And presumably being a Miss and having given birth would be incompatible with the “good character” part…

Gennie // Posted 22 April 2011 at 7:08 am

I was in several beauty pageants as a child. It hurts being told that what I did was “sexist” and that I am some sort of “traitor to feminism” for participating. Feminism is about choice and I chose to enter those pageants. It doesn’t make me any less of a person.

peace // Posted 23 April 2011 at 2:36 pm

Gennie i could not agree more. I personally think pageants for children under a certain age are more problematic than those aimed at adults. Isn’t feminism about choice? i choose not to take part in pageants because i do not want to be judged on my physical appearance but that is my choice. Who am i to judge someone who takes part in those competitions? If you enter any type of competition you will be judged whether it is physical appearance, strength, mental ability.

Tamara // Posted 23 April 2011 at 8:38 pm

@Gennie

I wouldn’t say that anyone who enters a beauty pageant is sexist, or a “traitor” to feminism, if you are aware and control then clearly it is a matter of personal choice.

The problem is that society is so fixated on this (ethnocentric, sexist etc) myth of the ideal woman. By having entry requirements such as those above you are automatically excluding the majority of women, are these women not beautiful? Clearly our misogynist culture thinks so…

To have this notion reinforced by a festival claiming to be ethical, endorsed by a local authority is just inappropriate. The festival is meant to be about promoting ethical living – I cannot see how this event does this in any way at all…

polly // Posted 24 April 2011 at 9:30 am

Appalling as this contest is, the entry requirements which can be found here.

http://www.missearthgirls.co.uk/register.php

Do not include ‘born female’.

Sarah Irving // Posted 24 April 2011 at 11:59 am

This is the sort of news story I want to respond to with ‘I don’t believe it…’ … but sadly I do. It’s just thoroughly depressing that the organisers obviously think this is a good idea, and have such a shallow appreciation of environmentalism that they think it’s OK to do something so crass. Not dissimilar, sadly, to all the borderline Page 3 style ads which PETA insists on printing in the name of animal rights. What happened to the idea that misogyny/patriarchy and oppressing the planet and its creatures are part of the same structures of power and oppression? Surely the organisers of such a festival should have at least *heard* of eco-feminism? or of Carol Adams? Apparently not.

Clare Cochrane // Posted 25 April 2011 at 3:06 pm

Just heard from Camden Green Party whose members are also shocked by this and who are keen to take action – contacting organisers, stallholders like themselves and performers. Spread the word!

Tamara // Posted 25 April 2011 at 11:16 pm

Well, I guess at least they have taken that out… strange… maybe due to complaints?

Because I copied and pasted directly from the page in my comment above…

Kez // Posted 26 April 2011 at 8:35 am

Yes, it definitely was there before – I checked, because I couldn’t quite believe it!

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