The university is all abuzz today after last night's local TV news story about the Miss USE beauty contest that the Students Union is running. The Vice Chancellor, Victor Crispin, said that of course he couldn't and wouldn't interfere with Student Union matters, but he urged the Student Union officers to remember the diverse backgrounds and cultures of USE students, with many students coming here from countries where the notion of young women parading about with little in the way of clothing was not just distasteful but abhorrent.
Professor Ruth Russell from the English Department was interviewed and she said that the young women who were taking part were betraying the Feminist Movement. She asked them to consider the struggle for women's rights that was still not over. But Pippa Johnston, who is one of the people involved in organising the Miss USE competition, said that the whole thing was empowering for women, not degrading. Johnston, who is apparently also quite well know internationally for her involvement with Femen, a worldwide movement against patriarchy, said that women's bodies were their own and that they were entitled to exploit their physical features as well as their intellectual ones. She said that she was proud that naked and semi-naked women were not just there on the cover of Playboy and similar magazines. "After all, she said, "it is not as if we are prostitutes".
Chatting with some of my students I got a slightly different take. One of them said that he had never seen the Student Union so full as it was on the night of the first elimination event from which the ten finalists were selected. And it would be even more packed next Thursday for the Final. The Student Union must be making a huge amount of money from the entrance fees and the bar profits. One of my female tutees said she had no problem with the event, although she wouldn't want to take part herself. She also said why couldn't there be a male equivalent event called perhaps Mister USE. There were some very fit young men at USE and it would be great to see them with their shirts off! Another added that most weekends you could see female students going along to the Carnage events with not much more clothing than the Miss USE contestants would be wearing.
Now I think of it I do remember coming across a bunch of half-dressed and fully drunk young students on the streets of the city when I was going home from the theatre and being really shocked at their behaviour. No wonder they couldn't get up in time to come to classes the next day.