I wasn’t intending to write this blog. Not at all. I’d rather write about science–in fact I have two or three drafts that I have been thinking about for some time, and would much prefer to write. But like a moth drawn to a candle’s flame, here I go.
I am a father. I am a husband. There are two very close females in my life. And I am a human (although there is some dissent on this issue from my various foes and detractors). For these reason, when I read about gender bias, my blood pressure skyrockets.
Imagine the mercury as I read the following article, in the Israeli newspaper “Yediot Achronot” (translated loosely as “latest news”):
RELIGIOUS SCHOOL EXPELS BEAUTY QUEEN
Outstanding student from central Israel pays heavy price for taking part in local beauty pageant. ‘All the dresses I wore were modest,’ she tells Ynet. Education Ministry: Student chose to ignore school’s instructions
A principal of a state religious school in central Israel has expelled a student for taking part in a local beauty pageant and winning the contest.
Maayan Mader, an outstanding student and a representative of the school’s student council, decided to sign up for a beauty pageant in the city of Gedera about two months ago, after ensuring that the contest did not include swimsuits or provocative clothing.
“At the end of the event, when I was declared the winner, I felt like the happiest person on earth. I never believed I would win,” she recounted in a conversation with Ynet. “We’re a small community and everyone supported and applauded me, and there was no doubt that this was the greatest experience in my life.”
Mader’s euphoria was interrupted two days later, when she was summoned to the principal’s office and expelled from school for taking part in the beauty pageant. According to the principal, the contest’s participants wore sleeveless dresses – violating the school’s rules, which require modest clothing.
‘School cannot intervene in private life’
“I was in shock and didn’t know what to say,” Mader told Ynet. “Even in my worst nightmares I never thought that a beauty pageant would cause such a mess, especially as I was strict about wearing modest and unrevealing dresses.
“I have a lot of respect for the school’s rules and procedures, but the principal cannot intervene in my private life and tell me what to do. This is my last year in school and I want to graduate in the best way possible. I feel helpless, but I believe everything will be
okay,” she added.
Mader’s furious parents turned to the local council head, who promised to help.
“It hurts me to see my daughter like this,” her mother said. “She went to the pageant for fun, and when she was announced the winner I felt very proud and happy. We must not forget that she is about to take her matriculation exams and the school must not destroy her future like this.”
The Education Ministry said in response, “When the school learned of the student’s participation in the beauty pageant, her parents were summoned and informed that such a contest contradicts the values of religious education.
“The student chose to ignore the instructions, and the case is currently being looked into by the department for state religious education.”
Religious residents protest decision
Many of Gedera’s religious residents slammed the decision to expel Mader.
“I am a religious woman, but with all due respect, this is not Iran,” said a woman named Ester. “The contest was very respectable and the girls were charming. It’s a shame that the Education Ministry has decided to spoil this experience for them.”
Meir, another resident, added that “it was a beautiful event which brought Gedera’s religious and secular residents closer.
Unfortunately, instead of using this event to initiate joint activities between the sectors, the Education Ministry is sparking feelings of polarization and alienation.”
The event’s producer, Guy Harari, said he had reached an agreement with the council head that the pageant would not includeswimsuits and revealing clothes due to Gedera’s large religious community.
“I come from a traditional home, and I’m aware of the sensitivity among the religious community, so I made sure to make this promise to council head Yoel Gamliel, who is a religious man himself.
“We must remember that these are not haredi (ultraorthodox-S.C.) girls, but observant girls whose bodies were not revealed during the event,” Harari added.
“It’s a shame that instead of supporting the community, the education system is doing the exact opposite. Instead of appreciating the contest’s huge contribution to the community and to the girls, they are only looking at the negative aspects.”
So as a male who considers himself a feminist, how am I supposed to react to this story? The situation is so awful, and so anti-female, that I don’t even know where to start.
Beauty contests are an insult to the human race. The whole idea is simply degrading, and every cell in my body is crying out that we MUST teach children from an early age that people should be judged by their actions, and not their appearances. I truly see the IDEA of beauty contests not only as repulsive, but as a serious threat to ever achieving gender equality.
However, it is a two way street.
The young lady notes “At the end of the event, when I was declared the winner, I felt like the happiest person on earth. I never believed I would win. We’re a small community and everyone supported and applauded me, and there was no doubt that this was the greatest experience in my life.”
As long as mothers and fathers support the participation of their daughters in these so-called competitions, they are basically legitimizing the treatment of women as objects. And yet, one reads only encouragement of this practice by families, friends and neighbors.
How ironic that the caption over the picture of the young woman in question said “Iran in Gedera?” (the town in Israel where this occurred). The amazing thing is that the article is written mostly from the standpoint of how unfair the religious school is for expelling the young woman for participation in an event that is unbecoming to a religious young lady.
So we are faced with a double insult–religious discrimination against the freedom of the girl to do as she pleases outside the school, and to dress as she sees fit. Yet at the same time–what an IRONIC situation, no one is paying the slightest notice to the fact that beauty contests are immoral (except, perhaps–again ironically, the religious school principal).
With a mess like this, how does one even begin to fight gender bias?