Venezuelan crowned Miss World amid protests

Hasan Suroor
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Protester: look what society expects from young women; says organiser: it's more than ‘just a bikini parade'

On top of the world: Miss Venezuela, Ivian Sarcos (centre), is euphoric as she is crowned Miss World 2011 at a colourful event in London on Sunday. — Photo: Reuters
On top of the world: Miss Venezuela, Ivian Sarcos (centre), is euphoric as she is crowned Miss World 2011 at a colourful event in London on Sunday. — Photo: Reuters

The most enduring image of the last Miss World pageant held in London 40 years ago is of angry feminists storming the venue and pelting the celebrity guests with eggs and rotten tomatoes.

Forty years on, the protest was more muted as Venezuela's Ivian Sarcos, a 21-year-old human resource graduate and wannabe social activist, was crowned Miss World on Sunday amid the usual razzmatazz at a song-and-dance event here.

‘Objectification' of body

A group of women gathered outside Earl's Court in West London to protest against the “objectification'' of the female body, They raised slogans and waved banners, one of which read “We're not ugly, We're not beautiful, We're angry.'' Another said “Miss World is the jewel in the crown of rape culture.''

As guests, who had paid up to £100 and some looking slightly sheepish, hurried their way in, one protester screamed: “Shame on you.”

Among them were some from the famous 1970 protest — now much mellowed but still angry that women should be judged by their looks alone.

Pressure on women

“You'd think after 40 years things would have changed, wouldn't you? Look what happens — what society expects from young women. There is terrible pressure put on them to look a certain way,'' said Jo Robinson, who led the 1970 protest and spent a night in prison.

Defending the pageant, Angie Beasley, Director of Miss England, described it as much more than “just a bikini parade”. The contest, she claimed, had also “changed with the times.”

‘Protesters bullying us'

“These people should give it a chance instead of thinking it's just a bikini parade. I'm all for women standing up for what they believe in, which is why I run Miss England, but I'm fed up of these protesters trying to bully us and push us around. We live in a free society where women have the right to choose. The contestants in Miss World are quite capable of making up their own minds if they want to enter or not and protesters shouldn't keep criticising the same decision,'' she said.

A billion viewers

The event was watched by nearly a billion television viewers around the world, according to the organisers, but not telecast by any major broadcaster in Britain.

Ms. Sarcos, who was chosen from among 122 contestants, became the 61st winner of the contest first held in 1951 and apparently conceived as a one-off event to market the Festival of Britain. She will spend a year visiting and endorsing charity projects sponsored by Miss World's organisers.



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