Advanced search

Mary Beard on Radio 4 now with Point of View about Miss World 2011

(344 Posts)
EleanorRathbone Fri 11-Nov-11 20:51:12


ElderberrySyrup Fri 11-Nov-11 22:20:49

what did she say?

ElderberrySyrup Fri 11-Nov-11 22:25:14

I'm listening online. She's not angry....

EleanorRathbone Fri 11-Nov-11 22:35:25

Oh having pointed everyone in its direction, I then went off to put DC's to bed, sorry....


Didn't actually hear what she said. blush

ElderberrySyrup Fri 11-Nov-11 22:37:48

That was pretty rubbish. She has no idea smile

She thinks it was necessary in the 70s but not now because now everyone knows about the relationship between objectification and sexism. So how does she explain all the stuff that has got worse - the heels, the plastic surgery, older women (apart from a few tokens like her) not allowed on tv?

I think she'd be approaching this very differently if her daughter was 5 instead of mid-twenties.

ElderberrySyrup Fri 11-Nov-11 22:38:18


marybeard Sat 12-Nov-11 19:15:22

I dont think I would be approaching it differently... it's not that I am NOT ANGRY.. it's that I am not really angry about Miss World any longer.. and (as I said) I am a bit less dirigiste.

You can still drive me to apoplexy about (say) BGT.. and its dreadful abuse of kids and the vulnerable in all ways, or (as I have just discovered) Mini Miss Worldwide.

I dont think that Miss World is going to be the focus of my fight... grown up women, who seem to have a clear idea of where they are going... would I invent it again if I was running the world? No... Does it bother me much... not really.

The make up point is important I think. I dont ever use it... I used to think that it was part of a conspiracy to make women ashamed of their faces. I have come to se that that isnt always true...

ElderberrySyrup Sat 12-Nov-11 23:06:28

When you said in your talk 'some battles have been won' which battles did you have in mind exactly? Because the battle for women to be judged by what they can do rather than how they look hasn't, that's for sure; a woman out there in the public eye is still judged by her appearance in a way that men aren't.

You seemed to be arguing that in the 70s the Miss World protest was necessary because people didn't 'get' the connection between objectification and discrimination against women whereas now we all know better. But we have a situation now where the objectification has got worse, and the pressures on women to look good are horrendous. Look at the rise of plastic surgery or the crippling heels that women wear regularly these days, or the way older women in the media are discriminated against.

Of course you are an exception in that you are actually allowed on the telly despite looking like a normal woman.... and I am very glad an exception is being made for you (& v much looking forward to watching the thing you have been filming recently) but for you, in that position, to be saying 'oh, actually this stuff doesn't really matter to me' came across as rather smug and 'I'm alright Jack'.

I think you need to look more closely at why there was a protest aimed at Miss World - it's not all the feminists getting together and saying 'What's the biggest problem facing women today? What one thing do we really want to end? I know, Miss World!' Feminist protests happen all the time and generally don't get much coverage (Hooters is in some ways a much more symbolic issue at the moment, are there protests, yes, do they get media coverage, no). A Miss World protest makes a deliberate reference to the earlier Miss World protest which is just about the most famous feminist protest ever in this country. As such, it has a number of advantages: 1. people can grasp it instantly 2. the media cover it 3. It is a very clear way of saying 'Actually these problems haven't gone away.'

AyeBelieve Sat 12-Nov-11 23:17:39

Hi Mary!

I'm quite new to feminism, so am not really aware of your work. I am, though, curious why you aren't angry about Miss World any longer. Isn't the judging/rating/ against an approved norm over their abilities, along with the objectification of women, still a massive issue?

What is the focus of your fight, just out of interest?

I do agree with you about the abuse of the vulnerable on BGT and X-factor. It's all very gates-of-the-asylum to me.

ElderberrySyrup Sat 12-Nov-11 23:20:00

When I said your approach would be different if your daughter was younger - I think you need to know about the extraordinary amount of 'looking pretty is the only thing that matters' propaganda that little girls get these days to see why younger feminists are so exercised about the objectification issue as a whole.

ElderberrySyrup Sat 12-Nov-11 23:42:11

and one more thing (sorry) - the line about Miss Venezuela not being to blame - come on, feminism has never been about blaming the women who take part in these things! (Or has it?! Maybe feminism was meaner in the 70s?)
You'll probably say the line obviously wasn't meant to be taken literally, but doesn't it just feed the anti-feminist picture of feminism as being about criticising other women, rather than criticising the system that tries to pit women against one another?

messyisthenewtidy Sun 13-Nov-11 01:05:15

I agree with what the above posters have said. Out of all the ways in which things have changed for women in the last 40 years the one thing that has gotten worse has been the increased sexualization and objectification of women so IMO this is exactly the battle that feminism does need to focus on.
You make the point about grown women making choices but what about the choices of our girls who younger and younger have to adapt to the reality that their appearance is key to their identity? And they are sold this insiduously under the guise of empowerment.
They learn that just like the Miss World contestants they can have any type of career or Phd they want but they must still be hot. Always.

EleanorRathbone Sun 13-Nov-11 09:08:05

OK it's just been repeated so I've got round to listening to it properly. And I agree with ElderberrySyrup.

A couple of things struck me as striking very wrong notes and being v. disappointing but I'd like to just pick up on this one: "some battles can be won/ have been won" ??? sorry I don't remember the exact line but I did a sharp intake of breath when I heard that, because it implies that the battle to see women as full human beings rather than primarily the sex class, has been won. One of the criticisms feminism gets thrown at it all the time is that "well in the seventies before equal pay and when there was Miss World and that, yeah, you needed feminism then, but now... well we're all equal now, so what's your problem? It's just that you're fat/ ugly/ don't like sex/ jealous of Jordan's tits" etc. ad nauseum. A respected feminist adding grist to that mill, is disappointing.

AlwaysWild Sun 13-Nov-11 09:28:16

I agree with the others. Just heard it and found it really lacking in making any connections. I get you can get to an age where it is less important to you, so with the example of feeling more at home in your own body, as an individual it matters to you less, but feminism isn't about selling out other women so long as you feel

And the last comment missed the point so spectacularly- no miss Venezuela is not 'a threat' just like I'm not jealous hmm but the protest wasn't about miss venezuela now was it, so why on earth would someone try and make out it was?

JuliaScurr Sun 13-Nov-11 12:56:35

The tragic thing is, she's a historian. With some weird idea of perpetual forward motion & progress, no notion that it's a tug of war, sometimes we win, sometimes they pull us back over their line. Which is, sadly, where we are now.

EleanorRathbone Sun 13-Nov-11 13:00:32

Re Miss World not being a focus - that's fair enough, we all have our own area of focus.

But if mine were say, working with victims of domestic violence and that was what I was most emotionally involved in and concerned with and where all my energy and focus were directed, I wouldn't make a broadcast which implied that another area of focus, like the struggle to get equal numbers of women into parliament or the boardroom, for example, is not really worth bothering with anymore.

I'm sure that's not what MB meant (I hope that's not what she meant) but that's what it sounded like. And for all the anti-feminists and misogynists out there, that's a really great message to hear. I don't know why a feminist would want to cheer them up, really. Am just a bit disappointed.

JuliaScurr Sun 13-Nov-11 13:06:42

We must face the bitter truth: that she buggered that right up. Better luck next time.

ElderberrySyrup Sun 13-Nov-11 15:14:31

I know MB's work pretty well and she does not have an idea of perpetual forward motion, I don't think that's fair.
But I think 'Some battles have been won' (*Which battles* please Mary?) is a bit of slippery rhetoric to allow her to imply, without actually saying so, that the one about objectification has.

I could imagine she might respond 'the ones about women being allowed to be commercial lawyers and television station owners', since she seemed to be trying to draw a connection between women having more career opportunities than they used to, and Miss World being ok now - this is pretty standard choice feminism stuff.
And it is bollocks. Because women's progress in some areas has been accompanied by a move backwards in others, and THIS is the point that today's active feminist movement is concerned with.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 13-Nov-11 15:52:26

"Times do change and some battles honestly do get won" she concludes. "I don't any longer feel that Miss Venezuela is much of an enemy"."

I'll need to listen to the programme, but this is the last line in the blurb advertising it.

Are you sure you were a radical feminist Mary, because radical feminists have never seen women being exploited by men as the enemy. Back in the day Eric Morley was your enemy as is every man now who thinks he has the right to judge a woman on her looks.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 13-Nov-11 16:07:49

Other things are worse so Miss World isn't bad anymore - size zero models, Britain's Got Talent. Stupid argument.

Noticeable that the early 70s demonstrators attacked Bob Hope, the bouncers and the journalists, in other words, the men. I think Mary missed the point of feminism. And reducing this to "bodily choices of women" is ridiculous.

"I dont think that Miss World is going to be the focus of my fight"

So give your platform on the radio to women who are still fighting the objectification of women and stop undermining them and their arguments, Mary.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 13-Nov-11 16:13:23

Think Julia Long should have got the spot.

"It's a totally retrograde celebration of inequality and so that's what we're objecting to".

ChickenLickn Sun 13-Nov-11 16:24:53

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

ChickenLickn Sun 13-Nov-11 16:28:11

And then she moans about how she is old and feel miserable about her aging body.. WTF???
She is a successful professional woman with a wealth of skills and experience! why be so down on herself?

ChickenLickn Sun 13-Nov-11 16:31:48

Come on Mary!!

I know the world looks a lot better than when you were young, but there are still many barriers hindering women right now, and many battles to fight!

marybeard Mon 14-Nov-11 08:23:45

Look friends.. I think that you are being a little bit tough!! It's a 9 min 30 sec radio programme, for frick's sake.. meant to prompt a bit of thought from a personal standpoint (well it did that, alright!).
The ultimate prompt for me (which has rather got lost in all this) was the aging point... what does it feel like to be 56 and a feminist rather than 15 and a feminist (as I was in 1970); or what does it feel like to be 56 tout court? I think it would be disingenuous to say that it felt exactly the same (and I dont think feminism has really 'got' the aging thing my view, not much that is hard hittingly good on being post-reproductive, for example).
And I think it would be needlessly pessimistic to deny that, in some respects, things have improved dramatically (OK I am talking about ordinary women (in reasonable employment) in the UK ... there IS a very different world out there, both abroad and in the UK, but noone expects one to take on the whole world in a 9 minute Point of View!).
I don't just mean the more general stuff (my Mum, who was a primary school teacher, had to 'make up' her maternity leave at the end of her career; one of my female friends was laughed at when she said she wanted to be an engineer.. and I went to a uni where one in ten students were women...), I mean the body politics stuff. The thing I remember in 1970 was that people really didn't see the connections between so-called 'beauty' and the politics of women's lives -- connections that now are indelibly on 'the agenda'. That is one of the things I mean by 'battles being won' ... it's not that we have a world in which everyone agrees with us, but arguments and connections have been made that cant ever be ignored, within (for example) public and policy discourse. (That isn't some naff form of historical teleology.. but an intellectual battle won).
I also feel very strongly that we have to think tactically and identify the most critical enemy. As I said in the piece, I didn't much like Miss World (I said that I was 'turned off' but not furious!).. but if I had to deploy the resources of protest, I certainly wouldn't be protesting there . For a start it seems to me that there are so many worse exploitative media events that have become taken for granted (BGT came instantly to mind.. but then I heard the rather favourable interview with Mini Miss World wide, which I thought had FAR worse implications than Miss World, as I witnessed it... forcing kids into roles over which they have no choice at all).
So that would be one target. But perhaps uppermost in my mind now would be the differential effect of the 'recession' and redundancies on women's lives and prospects and ambitions.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now