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Dethroned: was it fair that Zara Holland lost the Miss GB title?

By Caragh Medlicott

This June a buzz of controversy was caused when Zara Holland – winner of the Miss Great Britain beauty pageant- was stripped of her title. The pageant formally removed her crown following a scene in reality show Love Island which, without any graphic detail, showed Zara having sex with a fellow contestant, Alex. A statement was released on twitter by Miss Great Britain, claiming Zara had her crown removed as ”feedback […] received from pageant insiders and members of the general public is such that we cannot promote Zara as a positive role model.” And it is as this point I would like to call total bullshit. There’s been a lot of debate around whether it was right Zara lost her title, but I’m going to say that there is straight up no good reason for the actions taken by the pageant.

Now while there is something to be said about the problematic nature of the beauty pageant industry, that is a conversation I’ll leave for another day. The facts are the Miss Great Britain organisation knew, and had agreed, to Zara being on the show. Their vague and –frankly- slightly pathetic reasoning for de-crowning Zara can be translated simply as an old fashioned attitude which implies sexual women are somehow morally questionable. What else did she do that would mean she could no longer be upheld as a ‘positive role model’? Perhaps some would argue that it is specifically the fact she had sex on a TV show, but were the organisers really so surprised this happened on a show where the main aim is for the contestants to couple up? It is not as if the scene was in any way explicit, so it can’t be claimed it was to do with that. In sum, their statement is ridiculous and groundless.

Really this can all be related back to that tired old societal hypocrisy; we love women to be sexy, but also shame them for being sexual. It seems particularly ironic that it was a beauty pageant which condemned Zara’s action. A beauty pageant which –whatever way you try to spin it- places a lot of emphasis on women’s attractiveness and sexiness (bikini round ring a bell?) It’s fine for Zara to be sexy? Yeah. But to have sex? Nuh uh. What kind of message is that…?

The upshot of all this is, there is no reasonable defence for Zara’s loss of title. I certainly haven’t seen much backlash come back to bite the other involved, Alex, it takes two to tango after all. Now maybe that’s because he isn’t Mr Britain (a bodybuilding competition, not a beauty pageant, in case you’re wondering) but then maybe it’s just because he’s a man. And the same rules don’t apply. It’s been said a million times before but evidently it needs to be said again, it is time we dropped this double standard. Women have sex, and it’s about time we all get over it.

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