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Miss World was an indefensible festival of condescension not only towards women but also towards developing nations and racial minorities (Miss South Africa was white; Miss Africa South was black). ‘Oh yes, now she’s not bad, not bad at all,’ my dad would say from his Parker Knoll armchair, of Miss Denmark. ‘Wait until you see her in a swimsuit.’The three of us would then wait excitedly for the swimwear stage of the proceedings and usually my mother, who for some reason had an uncanny eye for knock-kneed women, would be proved correct.From the waist down, the bare-legged Miss Denmark resembled the letter X. We know that old-fashioned beauty pageants, in which the contestants were actually required to turn round and show their behinds to the overwhelmingly male judges, demeaned women.But aren’t we all supposed to know these days that it is offensively superficial to judge anyone purely on the basis of what they look like, let alone to make them turn around so they can have their bottoms assessed?And speaking of bottoms, how much further down the barrel can Channel 4 scrape?
True, it can’t so easily be accused of rampant sexism, since it’s men and women alike who parade for the delectation of the judges (by which I mean the one judge on the show and all the others at home, assuming there will be any audience left by the end of the series).
When only two potential dates are left, they parade naked while the contestant runs the rule over them, and while this doesn’t quite happen literally, in Monday’s opening programme one aspiring suitor was rejected because his penis was too big. The show’s message, loudly amplified by Richardson (the only person who doesn’t get naked, since the contestants eventually have to strip off, before striding off hand in hand with their dates), is that as two people weigh each other up as candidates for a possible relationship, clothes are a distraction, an irrelevance.