Friday, October 17, 2008

An Open Letter to John McCain

By Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Dear John McCain,

I missed the debate the other night, but from what I can hear, you were struggling quite a bit. Joe the Plumber? Or your double-take on hearing that Barack Obama will actually provide health insurance without a fine? I heard that you talked straight to the TV, but the evening was devoid of your famed "straight-talk." And even though you looked straight at the camera, I don’t think you were talking to me (although I vote in Virginia, so you should have been).

The fact is, I couldn’t watch your debate, because you have disappointed me beyond words. I’ve already voted against you, but I want to give you some sort of explanation, because there was a time when I admired you, even if I didn’t always agree with you. There was a time when I didn’t think that you would be a disastrous president. There was a time when I didn’t think you were a liar.

These are strong words, I know. But I feel strongly about a presidential candidate who refuses to treat women as if they are human. And this isn’t just about abortion, because (and this may be a surprise to you) I am not pro-abortion. I would be overjoyed if no woman ever had to undergo such a difficult procedure again. I would argue that I am, in fact, working harder than you are to make sure that abortion can vanish from the American landscape.

And yes, I’m pro-choice. But I am also pro-woman. I am not opposed to laws which would finally end pay discrimination on the basis of gender. I have an opinion about whether insurance companies should cover birth control (unlike you), and it’s one which gives women control over their own bodies, so that they don’t have to make the heartbreaking choice to have an abortion. I want sufficient maternity and paternity leave, so that having children doesn’t force women to sacrifice their careers. I want government-subsidized daycare. I want accurate sex education. I want the military, which you esteem so highly, to crack down on male soldiers who are raping their female colleagues, and getting away with it. And I want fathers to be committed enough to their families that they do not leave their wives across the country to raise their children while they pursue a political career. You talk about family values, but Barack Obama has valued his family more highly than you.

Does any of this make sense to you? At one point, I thought it must. After all, in 1999, you said that you would not support the overturning of Roe v. Wade, because it would cause too many illegal operations, which is true. But then again, you voted to gut the Family and Medical Leave Act. You opposed the Title X Family Planning Program, which would provide low-income and uninsured women with essential health services. You voted not to overturn the global gag rule, and you oppose accurate sex education programs. These are not the actions of a man who supports women. These are the actions of a man who wants to get elected at any cost.

A friend asked me recently if I thought that you cared about the fetuses whose “right to life” you so fervently pursue. I hesitated. I wanted to say yes. And after all, I don’t know you. You might wake up sobbing every night over the loss of that potentiality, the three-week-old fetus which was terminated by a young professional because her birth control failed, or the two-month-old fetus that was aborted by a high school sophomore who didn’t know that birth control existed. But really, if you are crying over those fetuses, remember that you could have helped them avoid their fate. You could have supported sex education. You could have pushed for better maternity leave. You could have fought for fair pay.

So I can’t feel sympathy for you, even though you are flailing, even though you have resorted to a dirty campaign in a desperate dive for the presidency. I don’t know what you believe, and I don’t think you care - about me, or an unborn child, or even about Joe the Plumber. I think you care about John McCain.

What we mean when we say "women's health"

By Chloe Angyal

"Just again, the example of the eloquence of Senator Obama. He’s 'health' for the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That’s the extreme pro-abortion positions, quote, 'health.' "
- Senator John McCain at last night's Presidential Debate.

John McCain put women's "health" in inverted commas during the debate last night, as though it's a made-up phrase that represents some imaginary or laughable idea. Or alternatively, an idea that doesn't matter very much and can be easily dismissed by a candidate who, say, had no idea that health insurance plans cover Viagra but not birth control. McCain labelled people who support the right to terminate a pregnancy when that pregnancy endangers the health of the mother "extreme" and "pro-abortion."

So just to make things perfectly clear, this is what pro-choice people mean when we say "women's health" - and when I say "pro-choice people," I'm including the UN, whose Population Fund defines reproductive health thus:

"Everyone has the right to enjoy reproductive health, which is a basis for having healthy children, intimate relationships and happy families. Reproductive health encompasses key areas of the UNFPA vision – that every child is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect."

Healthy, wanted children? Safe births? Dignity and respect for women? Woah, slow down, that sounds a little too extreme for me! Happy families? Shit, I was really looking forward to having a miserable and dysfunctional family when I grow up.

And by the way (and I am so sick of having to say this): No one is "pro-abortion" (now there's a phrase we can rightly put in inverted commas!). No one calls their friends on a Saturday night and says, "Hey, you know what I really feel like doing tonight? Having an abortion!"

Even those of us who defend fiercely a woman's right to choose would never suggest that an abortion is something to be taken lightly. An abortion is a personal tragedy, and each of us hopes with all our hearts that we never find ourselves in the situation where we might need one. It's an awful choice to have to make, but a choice that should be available to women, especially those whose health (screw you and your inverted commas, McCain) is at risk.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


By Jordan Bubin

So Respect Life Week (Oct 5-12) is over. The pro-lifers on campus ran around sporting purple buttons with the slogan “former fetus” on them, conveniently advertising their nuttiness from a safe distance. Originally, I had thought the buttons were a joke; I hadn’t realized they had a political purpose until I paid more attention to who was wearing them. My mistake, of course; the logic behind the buttons is obviously impeccable—I am a former fetus, therefore I oppose abortion, because…

Actually, I’m stumped. What is the logic there? The New York Times pointed out Monday that referendums on abortion are back on the ballot in three states for November. South Dakota’s jumped back into the fray; California has an initiative to require parental consent, but Colorado’s gone all out, with a move to redefine “person” to include “any human being from the point of fertilization.” Colorado’s my favorite, since to me, it showcases the full lunacy—and hypocrisy—of the idea that life starts at conception.

If we’re going to buckle down and play with the idea that life starts the second a sperm manages to bust into an egg, then there’s going to be some serious changes. If a pregnant woman and relevant man are now a three-person family, does the woman get to claim the fetus as a dependent for tax purposes? Do pregnant mothers have to pay for an extra person when renting a hotel room? What about the millions of children kept locked away in freezers in in vitro fertilization clinics?

Perhaps these outcomes seem crazy. What about the idea of women charged with abuse, negligence, or murder for not treating the people in their bellies correctly? Regina McKnight, a mentally handicapped woman, was given 12 years in prison for homicide. She had used cocaine while pregnant, and her child was stillborn. Gabriela Flores, a migrant farmworker mother of three, took Cyotec tablets to have an abortion (they contain misopristol, a substance found in RU-486), for which the state of South Carolina attempted to charge her with murder, in hopes of seeking the death penalty. We need not only consider abortions---if a baby is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, can the mother be charged for abusing her child in utero?

There are two things to be noted here. First of all, the standard for a parent’s actions to qualify as abuse is horrifyingly low—as a social worker this summer, I saw a case where a woman gave birth to her child into the toilet, defecated on the newborn, and then went to take a nap while the baby screamed in the toilet, none of which qualified as abuse—so the idea that the state would pay enough attention to prevent woman from getting to Pilates class for the sake of the newborn is ludicrous. At the same time, the point remains that, when life is considered to begin at conception, women get to spend nine months as incubators.

Second, of course many of these outcomes seem crazy—but they are at least logically consistent with the idea that life starts at conception. This seems to the basis for plenty of pro-life rhetoric. Are anti-abortion advocates ready to deal with all the consequences of that declaration, and award to fetuses all the privileges we grant to life after birth?

I’m sure few of the people mindlessly sporting their purple “former fetus” buttons also support broad state-sponsored social service programs for pregnant mothers, or welfare for struggling mothers. I’m sure none of them are in favor of granting tax credits and benefits to families for their fetuses. Compassion for the weakest among us—the poor widdle fetuses—is bullfudge when it’s only compassion if one is talking about prosecuting doctors who perform abortions and the women who receive them.

So what is the logic behind the “former fetus” buttons? As a former fetus, I oppose abortion out of compassion? Love? These reasons don’t really hold out; but I guess that was never the point anyway. It’s easier to get behind meaningless slogans than anything else.

"This incredibly difficult decision"

By Chloe Angyal

"It's got to be courage and compassion that we show to the young woman making this incredibly difficult decision."
That was John McCain at tonight's Presidential Debate, talking about how we can change American culture into a "culture of life."

In McCain's own words, a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy faces an "incredibly difficult decision."

Decision. Also known as a choice. Except that if John McCain had his druthers, there'd be no choice at all.
"Women, in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision."
That was Barack Obama at tonight's Presidential Debate, talking about why what a woman chooses to do with her body is none of the government's damn business.

Get inspired, get involved

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Palin detractors are "losers"

By Chloe Angyal

This whole "women who don't like Palin are just jealous" thing is getting awfully tired. Miranda Devine, of the Sydney Morning Herald, writes today:

"The intemperate reaction by women to Palin flags something beside ideological differences - a weird, visceral rage, with its roots in some entrenched psychic pain. There is an echo of bitchy high-school jealousy of the popular queen bee from the snarling, self-mutilating nerd and goths who vainly lusted after the cute boys she snared.

The consolation for the losers is that homecoming queens are meant to get married, get pregnant, get fat and lose their looks so the self-made strugglers such as Bernhard and Madonna can patronise them at school reunions. Palin, by having it all, has cheated. Not only was she Miss Wasilla 1984, but she married her childhood sweetheart, Todd Palin, kept her figure, had five attractive, seemingly well-adjusted children and was successful in her career."
("Well-adjusted?" Her son is called Track. That kid is going to have a complex and you know it.)

I'm so sick of these insulting claims that we women never progressed past high school and that we're stuck in an adolescent mindset that makes us want to act out our Revenge of the Nerds fantasy on Sarah Palin. Palin's detractors don't think she's a good candidate because she's laughably unqualified, and she endorses anti-woman policies. (actually, that's just why I don't think she's a good candidate. I'm sure other women have their own reasons). Her selection as McCain's running mate was pure tokenism, and thankfully, a lot of women aren't falling for it. The GOP vastly underestimated women if they imagined that we're dumb enough to switch our vote the second we notice that one of the candidates has a vagina.

Also, this is the BEST "ugly, angry feminist" picture I've seen in a LONG time. Ladies and gentlemen, the SMH is all class.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What do women want from the next President?

Good question. Sarah Seltzer at RH Reality Check has a crack at answering the age-old question of what women want as it relates to the upcoming election:
"This election season, women have been treated to endless talk about themselves: women candidates, women voters, sexism in the media. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty policy choices that affect real women's lives, from daycare to immigration, there's been markedly less attention and far fewer headlines."

Happy Love Your Body Day!


Also, this is my new favourite website, Swoon!
Check out their "7 Ways to Love Your Body Through Thick and Thin" (Number three: Give your mind a workout. Imagine what happen if women decided that bulding mental strernght was as important as pumping up our biceps. We could start businesses. Earn degrees. Travel. Uncover new talents). Word.

What do you love about your body? Stop by the Eating Concerns Advisers table on the Frist 100 level today and tell us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Men can stop rape

This is appropriate given today's explosions of "WTF?!" over the Queensland Government's new anti-alcohol ad:

Men Can Stop Rape is kicking off its 2008 Building Stronger Boroughs Campaign. The campaign consists of Men Of Strength Training Clubs - the premier primary prevention program for male youth in the country. MOST clubs have provided middle school, high school and college age young men with a structured and supportive space to learn about healthy masculinity and redefine male strength. Each year-long, multi-session Club builds members' ability to translate their learning into community leadership.
To start the campaign right, MCSR is holding a panel discussion called Women and Men as Allies in Preventing Men's Violence Against Women, which will be an exploration of the roles that women and men can and do play in the primary prevention of men's violence against women. Held in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities, it will be an important solution focused discussion between leaders in the movement and the NYC community.

When: October 20th, 2008, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
Where: John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue, NY, NY
What: "Women and Men as Allies in Preventing Men's Violence Against Women"

Keynote speaker: Ms. Cindy Dyer, Director, Office of Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Moderator: Dr. Katie Gentile, Director, Women's Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Panelists: Yolanda B. Jimenez - Commissioner, NYC Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence Harriet Lessel - Executive Director, New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault
Courtney Robinson - Men of Strength Club Facilitator
Neil Irvin - Vice-President of Programs, Men Can Stop Rape

Thanks to contributing writer Jordan for the tip!

Feminist stereotypes

Courtesy of Ann from, here's the weekly Tuesday Ten. This week, it's the Top 10 Feminist Stereotypes:

1. We're frigid and hate sex.
2. We're sluts.
3. We're lonely "cat ladies" who can't get a man. Therefore, we are bitter.
4. We get knocked up for fun just to have abortions on-demand.
5. We're hairy, angry man-haters.
6. We're just desperate for male attention.
7. We want to dismantle the patriarchy so we can establish a matriarchy! Muhahaha.
8. We are intellectually unserious.
9. We are the sanctimonious women's studies set, with our heads up our academic asses.
10. We are loud-mouthed bitches who won't shut the fuck up and make you a sammich.
Ok, so the last one's true.

What are your favourite feminist stereotypes?

Are you kidding me!?

By Peale Iglehart

I open the link and immediately think it’s porn. A young woman cries, gasps, moans, grimaces—in pleasure or in pain, it’s not immediately evident. Then the camera pans out and we see a guy raping her. Menacing music plays as the camera pans out farther and we now see two hulking male figures in a dark alley.

We watch the action in rewind and surmise the following: the girl is dragged from a party by two guys. Oh, the girl was chugging from a bottle. Dancing with her friends, putting on makeup. This looks like a regular slumber party. Daddy beams at his little girl as she innocently gets into the car. He’s handing over a case of alcohol. A voice tells us: “Don’t kid yourself. Buy your children alcohol, and they could pay the price.”

Wow. Right off the bat, this ad (supposedly a “public service announcement” courtesy of the Queensland government—you know, for our own good) totally eroticizes the pain, humiliation, and helplessness of a woman being assaulted. It exploits her. Second, through the rewinding of events, it essentially blames the girl herself for getting drunk in the first place—you know, “asking for it.” We see her chug from a bottle, dance sloppily with her friends, put on a cute dress in her bedroom. We watch as she accepts the case of alcohol from her father, looking like a kid on Christmas morning. Basically, the message is, “she should have known better.”

“Don’t kid yourself. Buy your children alcohol, and they could pay the price.”
So the girl is “paying” for her actions (underage drinking—tsk-tsk). There is no mention of what motivated the guys in this scenario to rape her—were they also under the influence? Finally the blame rests with the girl’s father (there’s no mother in sight). Dad, you should have known better than to hand over the booze to your silly daughter. You should have known she’d only chug it and put herself in harm’s way. It’s your duty to protect her. It’s her duty to be “good.”

What about the other people involved in this scenario—for example, oh, I don’t know—the guys who raped her?! Who’s holding them accountable? This ridiculous ad skirts that issue. Let’s not question the culture that objectifies and puts the girl at risk. Easier to shake our heads at her for “asking for it”—and tell her dad to keep her on a tighter leash.

Australian government plays the victim-blaming game

By Chloe Angyal

Watch this PSA, released by the Queensland State Government.
In case you're in class right now, or don't feel like watching a dramatization of rape, the audio is: "67% of teenagers have been abused or assaulted whilst under the influence of alcohol. Don't kid yourself. Buy your children alcohol, and they could pay the price."

My initial reaction was to yell "Holy shit!" in a room full of people. This exclamation was followed by a good two to three minutes of rare speechlessness.

And then I tried to think of how one might justify why this ad's message, or at least its intentions. Binge drinking among teens has been a huge issue in Australian politics for the past year; in fact, last year the government imposed a tax on mixed drinks (or "alcopops"), the result of which is that teens are now just opting for hard alcohol instead of for Mike's Hard Lemonade. So I can understand why an ad that aims to decrease alcohol consumption among teenagers might seem like a good idea.

But victim-blaming, and now, the all new parent-blaming, in which parents are deemed partially responsible for the rape of their children, is not the way to approach this problem. As for the claim that "67% of teenagers have been abused or assaulted while under the influence," those numbers seem unreasonably high, and I'd like to know how the reported survey defines "abuse or assault."
But statistics really aren't the point here. The point is that no one deserves to be raped, regardless of whether they purchase or consume alcohol.

Faith and reproductive rights

"Growing up in a Christian home, I was taught by my father – also a Baptist minister - that God has given each of us free will and the responsibility to exercise it according to our understanding of God’s plan. As a young African-American man growing up in the South in the 1940s and as a minister in Washington DC, I saw firsthand how Black women and poor women suffered because they had few or no choices about an unintended pregnancy, even if it would damage their health or cause great hardship in their family. Some of them were maimed in back-alley abortions; some of them died. I believe it is a sin to force women to have a pregnancy they do not want – and, if a child is born, a sin to deny that child basic health, education and housing. "
This is what Rev. Dr. Carlton W. Veazey has to say today in his blog post on RH Reality Check. It's an interesting approach to the religion and reproductive rights debate, and Veazey believes it's important "to let voters know there are many diverse beliefs about abortion among religions."

Read the rest here, and read other blog posts in RH Reality Check's series "Our Shared American Values" here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vintage sexism: women's suffrage

Apparently the time-consuming task of making the trek to your local middle school gym once every four years to cast a ballot will lead to the wholesale collapse of your household.
Also, masturbation causes blindness.

Can We Afford To Ignore Sexism?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I am proud to attend a university headed by Shirley Tilghman, an accomplished molecular biologist who served on the Princeton faculty for 15 years before becoming the first female president. Throughout her career, she has pioneered efforts to foster greater inclusiveness for women in science (she was quick to denounce Larry Summers' comments about the natural inferiority of women in math and the hard sciences), although a majority of her appointees to positions at Princeton have been men.

At a panel on Friday, she and Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, discussed the challenges facing women in higher education (I didn't attend, because I wasn't aware that it was happening...I wish events on this campus were better advertised!). Tilghman's advice, according to today's Daily Princetonian (link to the article here) was that the best solution to sexism was to ignore it (just like your mother always said to ignore those mean bullies in elementary school). She said that she found it easy to ignore sexism, and instead worked to improve herself as a president.

This is all very well for a woman who has already risen to the highest position of leadership at one of the nation's best universities. But Tilghman's rather empty rhetoric is disappointing. Where Malveaux encouraged women to promote their skills (remember, ladies, we can brag too), Tilghman told the women of the campus to “seek opportunities to expand [one’s] horizons and … embrace [the] opportunity to take leadership.”

Even for women at Princeton, this advice is only somewhat sound. We have already pushed our way past much of the system's latent sexism, or we were lifted above it by the circumstances of our birth. I disagree that women benefit more by ignoring sexism (especially in academia) than struggling against it (imagine if we said the same for racism, or even homophobia), but this outlook is particularly narrow when considered in the context of the millions of women who do not have the privilege of attending a highly ranked university, who are struggling daily against poverty and discrimination because there are no laws which defend them from unfair pay, and who do not have full control over their reproductive functions because the cost of birth control has still not been lowered.

Princeton subsidizes the cost of female students' birth control, insulating them from the skyrocketing costs that resulted from an "inadvertent" complexity in a Medicaid bill which passed in 2007. Likewise, women in the Princeton community are insulated from many of the truly crippling results of sexism. We cannot allow ourselves the privilege of ignoring sexism, just because we don't feel many of its effects. Instead, we need to use our advantages to help women who are falling through the cracks.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Connecticut Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage!

This is a little late, but I just wanted to do a quick hit because it's incredibly exciting. Yay for Connecticut! And let's hope that it doesn't suffer the same kind of resistance that the California ruling has.

This makes me SO happy

By Chloe Angyal
This makes me so happy. I'm talking inexpressibly, unbelievably happy...
The Guardian has the below article today:

"When the first Miss World contest was held in 1951, female beauty was a conservative concept. To even dream of entering, the competition rules stated, women must be aged 17 to 25, 5ft 7in tall, weighing eight or nine stone, with a waist from 22 to 24 inches and hips of 35 to 36 inches.
A 'lovely face', 'good teeth', 'plenty of hair' and 'perfectly shaped legs from front and back' were basic necessities. Intelligence and character were, initially at least, deemed irrelevant, but entrants had to pass a more 'careful inspection for such defects as slightly knocked knees'.

Next week, television viewers will witness the start of a nationwide search that aims to redefine the meaning of beauty. In what is more of a make-under than a make-over, women will be judged on their confidence, sex appeal, spirit and brains, and only additionally on their appearances. More than 7,000 women, of varying shapes and sizes, have applied to win the title of Channel 4's Miss Naked Beauty; only one can win.

The contest demands that entrants shed every last vestige of aesthetic artifice - from make-up and punishing 'corrective' clothing to hair dye, piercings and nail polish, and learn to love their unvarnished, unadorned selves.

Contestants will then to have to prove their intellectual credentials and dedication to the 'natural beauty' cause by devising a campaign to help women of all shapes and sizes redefine their idea of beauty. The winning campaign - which must be explained to a panel comprising The Observer's Kathryn Flett, founding editor of men's mag Loaded, James Brown, and fashionista Mica Paris - will be put into action over the next year and written about by the winner in a regular magazine column.

Fashion stylist Gok Wan, who is co-presenting the programme with musician and actress Myleene Klass, says this modern-day beauty contest is desperately needed. For some contestants, he said, the challenge of leaving their house without first subjecting themselves to a punishing grooming schedule was too much. Others, however, leapt at the chance to peel back the heavy layers of make-up they had worn for many years.

Although more than 50 years of feminism have passed since the first Miss World, Wan says women still suffer from 'beauty fascism' controlled by an industry that holds up 'mad, fake, unachieveable ideals' that make women so miserable they resort to increasingly desperate measures to conform.
'I'm flabbergasted by the increasingly restricted, stereotyped and narrow image of what beauty has become for women,' he said. 'Even magazines that purport to show a "natural beauty" achieve it by airbrushing out that woman's unique features then airbrushing her back in again.

'When I was doing How To Look Good Naked [see photo, above -ed], I was shocked by the lengths to which women went to attain a preconceived idea of beauty. They created armour for themselves by slapping on loads of make-up, they damaged themselves terribly with plastic surgery, fake tans, fake nails and hair extensions. Their efforts to achieve this impossible ideal was endless and it was madness.'

Wan added: 'I'm not dissing make-up; I love the fashion and beauty industries. I just want women to realise that they don't have to conform to these stereotypes to feel sexy and gorgeous. It is only when a woman realises how beautiful she is in her natural state that she will be able to freely choose how much make-up she wears and when she wears it.'

Klass agreed to co-present the show because, she said, she spent years unable to leave the house without make-up. 'The more I started working, the more my weight and the way I looked became an issue,' she said. 'I'd be told I had got a job, but only if I could lose a stone in two months. I wore make-up so thick every single day for four years that it was like a mask. I imagined that no one could possibly like me if I wasn't wearing that mask, because I didn't like myself without it,' she said. 'I was unable to leave the house without it.'

One of the women who applied to be Miss Naked Beauty, which begins on Channel 4 on Tuesday 21 October, was Shona Collins, a 20-year-old classics student at Bristol University.
'According to the fashion industry, I'm very far from what a beautiful woman should look like,' said Collins. 'I'm 5ft 4in, a size 12 to 14 - depending on the day and the shop - and have prominent teeth because of a brace I wore as a child which pushed them forward.

'This argument that real beauty lies within is not a new argument but it is a very pertinent one,' she said. 'At university, I'm surrounded by beautiful, intelligent women who are miserable about the way they look. There is still a huge emphasis on how women look and the pressure on us is ridiculous.'

Sue Murphy, head of features at Channel 4, said she commissioned the programme in a bid to reintroduce feminism to her younger viewers 'by stealth'. 'Feminism has gone out of fashion,' she said. 'The beauty debate in recent years has become polarised, and the new generation of women are afraid to call themselves feminists or learn about its politics; a fear that has left them without the tools they need to stand their ground against the pressure.

'It occurred to me that I could subvert the traditional beauty contest format with the message that there's not one image of beauty perfection. I wanted to get across the message that if women strive to achieve that impossible image, they will be unhappy.'

But Wendy Steiner, author of The Trouble With Beauty, believes the battle is an unwinnable one. 'The argument that women shouldn't be judged on their outward appearance is an old one that has largely been absorbed, but it hasn't won over the majority of the population because it's ultimately simplistic and potentially hypocritical,' she said.

'It's naive to pretend beauty doesn't matter: there is strong proof that beautiful people have an easier passage through life. They get the better job, are paid more, get more successful husbands. Beauty, whether natural or artificially enhanced, is unevenly distributed across the population and a beauty contest is the epitome of this inherent unfairness in life ...'

But Julia Morley, widow of Miss World creator Eric Morley and now chair of the competition, has defended the original concept. 'Women's lib said it was wrong for women to look glamorous and beautiful,' she said. 'But Miss World is fun, it is fashion. We should have some spectacular, family shows.'"

Love Your Body Day

By Chloe Angyal

This Wednesday, October 15th, is Love Your Body Day. LYBD is an initiative of the Now Foundation, "to help raise awareness about women's health, body image and self-esteem. Since 1997, Love Your Body has given girls and women the tools and the encouragement to just say no to the air-brushed, cookie cutter images that Hollywood and Madison Avenue are trying to sell."

For the past few years, the Now Foundation has run a poster competition for LYBD, and I’ve included some of my favourites here. I hope they make you as happy as they make me.

There was a time when I thought that all that “beauty comes from within” stuff was a bunch of crap. But as I’ve gotten older (and ever so slightly wiser), I’ve come to believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that being pretty just doesn’t mean that much in this world.

Take a moment to think about all the people you love, and you’ll realize that it’s not their looks that make you want to have them in your life. It’s their kindness and their humour and the way they make your world a better place. They might be ugly. They might be stunning. The point is, it doesn’t matter whether they’re stunning, ugly, or somewhere in the middle, because you love them for reasons that have nothing to do with looks.

Of course, physical beauty never goes astray – we’re all biologically driven to pass on our genes, and we’re all culturally trained to find some things attractive and other things unattractive. But when it comes to spending time with people, rather than just mating with them, personality is so crucial.

It’s easy to forget this. I do it myself sometimes, and spend way too much time, energy and effort on my appearance, rather than on my personality and intellect. And whenever I find myself doing that, I think about the two index cards that are stuck on my wall.

They’re from a campaign the Eating Concerns Advisers ran last year, where we asked people on campus to anonymously write down what they found beautiful. Both of mine were written by straight guys, but we had a whole mix of people contribute cards. These two say:

Beauty is… When a smart girl makes a knockout comment in precept.
Beauty is… Confidence. There are not so great looking girls who are confident and great to hang out with, but there are great looking girls with no confidence who just bug the fuck out of you.

These cards make me smile, and in a world where it’s easy to forget, they remind me what’s really important in life, what people are really attracted to and what makes us really, truly beautiful.