Masie Jane Garvin
There was an uproar of chaos at the broadcasted Mrs. Sri Lanka beauty pageant last week, when the newly crowned Pushpika De Silva was captured leaving the stage in tears, after the crown was forcibly snatched from her head by former title holder Caroline Jurie.
Jurie claimed that De Silva was ineligible for the title of “Mrs Sri Lanka” since she was divorced. Later declaring on a Facebook post that she was separated but not divorced and the win was dedicated to single mums like herself, De Silva claimed she would take legal action against Jurie.
Although, it is not uncommon for beauty pageants to have such eligibility rules – to compete in the Miss World competition for example, an individual must not be married, must not be pregnant nor ever parented a child.
What is common however, is for stories, such as the one witnessed on Sunday to turn into a damaging narrative against women in the media.
It is perhaps the structural barriers and societal norms of the country that inadvertently affect how women are perceived in their society and media
Most of the media coverage surrounding the event either pits the two women involved against each other or speculates the truth behind De Silva’s relationship status. Little to none, report of De Silva’s achievement at winning the contest or question the morality that women competing cannot be divorced.
Looking at Sri Lanka in particular, it is perhaps the structural barriers and societal norms of the country that inadvertently affect how women are perceived in their society and media. The United Nations Development Programme notes that for example, out of the countries 8.6 million economically active population only 35% are female, with only a 5.3% representation in Parliament.
Both statistics are dangerously worrying and yet the harmful attitudes to women aren’t just witnessed abroad.
This instance reminded me of the televised scandal on ITV’s Love Island only five years ago, where the Miss Great Britain winner Zara Holland, was stripped of her crown whilst in the villa after having sex on the show. Under strict, similar rules as to why De Silva was temporarily de crowned, Zara was informed about the news to an audience of thousands.
A woman’s clear distress and humiliation becomes part of a narrative that fuels the unnecessary opinions of millions across the globe
Looking back to 2016, the attitudes of the media towards Holland are clear. The Guardian simply used her upset to write about the show’s ratings whilst the Sun, typically, titled their article ‘Miss GB Gone Bad: Romps, lies, sex with judges’.
Why is it that in both instances discussed, a woman’s clear distress and humiliation becomes part of a narrative that fuels the unnecessary opinions of millions across the globe.
Whether she is a single mother competing in a beauty contest, or a young woman participating in a reality TV show, it seems the oppression to women is never-ending.
Can we judge the toxic environment of the beauty pageant world for the damaging backdrop of both the instances? Quite possibly.
However, both stories highlight how there is still a generated tendency to lean towards using a harmful narrative when discussing woman within the media.
Masie Jane Garvin
Featured image courtesy of oneredsf1 via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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