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For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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Miss World:

Debasing Women For Profit Sake

On 7th December, Nigeria will host the Miss World "beauty" pageant in Abuja, the federal capital. Private interests as well as the government are investing millions of dollars in this programme. Among the leading personalities behind it is the wife of the president herself, Chief (Mrs) Stella Obasanjo.

Socialists are opposed to this programme. This is essentially because modern day beauty contests are one of the means by which women's oppression is perpetuated. The concept of beauty pageants view women not as complex persons, but primarily as sexual objects which exist only in relation to the male desire. No doubt it has been associated with rise in cases of sexual harassment.

Organisers of the contest are desperately trying to make the contest appear as modern and not sexist by stating that some of the contestants are studying for degrees, and that some have professional jobs, etc. This may be true but it is a token gesture to try and claim that it is not just looks that determine the winner. The question to ask is why are all the contestants of a certain height, no more than size 10 and generally look the same?

The reason for this is that these contests are increasingly linked to the need of the multinational corporations to sell their products and boost their profits through the use of women for advertisement. A certain "acceptable"

image of women is therefore being promoted. Models are getting thinner as the pressure is on from these industries for women to look a certain way. While women are made to debase themselves, the multinational companies and show promoters like Silverbird and Ben-Bruce rake in millions of dollars and smile to the bank.

There was an advert in the Nigerian dailies in July last year promoting the sale of a brand of car. A car and a lady was used in the advertisement. The caption of the advert is: "

if you want it open she will take off her dress; covered, she will put on her dress". Also the fast food chain, Tantalizer advertisement says: "Have you tantalised her lately". This contest and all these adverts promote the idea that there is some "ideal"

body image which women must aspire to, and that they are to behave in a submissive manner. In particular, this gives young men a completely false and dangerous idea of how women should look and behave.

The resources which will be wasted on this jamboree would have been more productively utilised by investing in education, skill acquisition, provision of jobs with decent pay, childcare facilities, healthcare, and other social services in dire need of resources. This would have contributed in reducing the rate of illiteracy, unemployment, prostitution and crimes among women.

But this cannot be possible under capitalism, a system which puts selfish, private greed above public interest. This is why the working people as a whole, and working class women in particular, must see the need for real change, the overthrow capitalism and introduction of a democratic socialist arrangement. Through this, the process towards ending the oppression of women can be started.

Meanwhile, the Miss World show is being threatened by boycott by many of the expected participants. The planned boycott is to protest against the death sentence on Aminat Lawal by the Sharia court in Katsina state for allegedly committing adultery. Among the contestants who are planning to boycott the event are those from Denmark, Kenya, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, France, Belgium and Costa Rica. Miss France was quoted as saying- ' when a woman faces the most agonising death, there are more important things in life than winning a crown for being beautiful'.