A father looks lovingly at his baby daughter, watches as her tiny hand grips his finger, and coos, “One day, sweetie, I want you to grow up to be the best bikini contestant ever.”
Or, instead, “I will be so proud of you when you become a wet T-shirt contest champion.”
Nope, not very likely. Standing on a stage to be judged as nothing more than a prized heifer is not something most people would wish on their little girls.
Most people wouldn’t hope that a little girl would grow up in a world that tells her that how her legs or her breasts or her hips or her hair appear to other people are of prime importance and should somehow determine her worth.
Most people wouldn’t hope that thousands of little girls would develop eating disorders in their quest to attain some impossible body image.
Most people wouldn’t hope that a survey of little girls would show that some would rather have a parent die than be fat.
Most people wouldn’t hope that little girls would grow up thinking they are only acceptable when they put toxic chemicals on their faces in the form of makeup and on their hair in the form of dye in order to look somehow prettier or younger.
Most people wouldn’t hope that little girls would be so dissatisfied by the miraculous body they were born with that they would end up spending millions of dollars annually to have their bodies nipped, tucked and carved into shapes determined acceptable by some outside force.
Most people wouldn’t hope that little girls would hear themselves regularly called bitches and ho’s in modern music.
Most people wouldn’t hope that little girls would grow up knowing their work is worth less than someone who happens to be male, and their chances of living in poverty are far greater.
Most people wouldn’t hope that little girls are the victim of rape, assault and murder every day, based on their gender.
Most people wouldn’t hope that little girls would grow up knowing there are transition houses all across the country to hide them from violent attackers.
Most people wouldn’t want all this.
So why, when so many of us, both men and women, want so much more for our little girls, does Sturgis North want to hold a bikini contest in Sicamous? Good question.
Opposing bikini contests and wet T-shirt contests is not about being a prude or being a moral judge, and it’s not about saying men are bad. It’s about fighting sexism. All of these things, from eating disorders to poorly paid jobs to domestic violence, are rooted in sexism, in the belief that women are somehow worth less simply because they’re women.
You may recall that old cigarette ad that declared, with respect to women, ‘You’ve come a long way, baby.’
Clearly not far enough, when an organization in 2011 still wants to keep blatantly perpetuating the sexism that is ruining our little girls’ lives.
– Martha Wickett is a reporter with the Salmon Arm Observer