Normally, many women would regard a beauty pageant as ‘demeaning’ to women, a throwback to the days when a woman’s lot was to aspire to ‘help children and wish for world peace’ while shuffling from one high heel to another while smiling in a swimsuit.
Occasionally, though, the background to being crowned ‘Miss….wherever’ is an entirely different ball game.
Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman has just been crowned Miss Iraq (you heard that right).
“Miss Iraq could enlighten the thinking of Iraqis, especially those who live a life of hundreds of years ago, who do not want to witness a life that is developed and improved,” she said prior to the finals, an event from which some participants withdrew following threats. “It is true that we live in a conservative Muslim country, but not a backward one.”
The easy, lazy, blinkered view is to regard places like Iraq as ‘full of radicalised rag heads’. Some, on the other hand, are trying to adopt a more modern, outward looking country, defying the odds to participate, defying the odds to attempt to emancipate women we often regard as being subjugated in a patriarchy.
It’s strange to think of a beauty pageant winners as an icon for feminism, but in this context, that’s exactly what it is.
Congratulations to the winner, and to all of the other women who participated. We wish you all, and your country, a safer, brighter future.