“It’s for a good cause,” a friend announced, when she encouraged me to attend a charity dinner a few weeks ago.

It was only when I arrived at the venue on the night that I discovered the event was being held in conjunction with a beauty pageant. I’m not a fan of such contests – they are misogynistic activities that have no place in the 21st century. Nonetheless, it was a little too late to opt out – and like my friend said, it was for a good cause.

After we were seated at our assigned table in the hotel’s ballroom, we ordered a drink and chatted with the other guests while waiting for the VIP to arrive.

Well, we waited and waited and waited … until our blood sugar levels were so low that we were all in danger of lapsing into cannibalism and eating the serving staff – who were idling by the door to the kitchen.

At this stage, we were all feeling a little irritated by the lack of consideration shown by the VIP: a man who obviously thinks it’s perfectly fine to keep hungry people waiting, just so he can make a grand entrance. And to think that we had all paid good money for this privilege.

When the VIP finally showed up, I was on the verge of adjourning to the hotel’s coffee garden to order a snack.

I shouldn’t have abandoned my forage for sustenance so quickly, because we had to sit through several long speeches before we even had so much as a sniff at anything edible. In fact, when the first course finally appeared on our table, rumours were circulating that a starving man on a neighbouring table had devoured one of the hotel’s floral arrangements.

While in the middle of my soup, the contestants sashayed onto the stage one-by-one and introduced themselves attired in casual wear. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dinosaur from the dark ages, but names like Sapphire, Tiara and Moonbeam seem a little too contrived to me. As if the young women are trying too hard to give the impression that they are shiny, sparkly things.

When the women next appeared on stage – as we were tucking into our main course – they were clad in swimwear. That seemed to pique the male interest greatly, but I felt slightly embarrassed that members of my sex still allow themselves to be objectified in this way.

And don’t tell me that such pageants are empowering! There’s nothing empowering about parading around in swimsuit while people ogle your body. It’s demeaning.

There’s also something sad about a woman who allows a surgeon to “enhance” some of her body parts so that it will increase her chance of winning a crystal trophy, a year’s supply of cosmetics and barely enough money to buy one of the extravagant gowns she wears on stage. And why do some women think it’s attractive to have lips that look like two engorged leeches stuck to their face?

Trying to jolly things along, everyone on our table gave their opinion as to which woman deserved to win.

Then came the moment of truth: the question and answer session.

Some of the contestants looked as if they were about to faint when they heard their questions. Nonetheless, all of them rallied and answered reasonably well, except for my favourite.

When she was asked what she thought were the most important things in life and why, she immediately answered: “Money, happiness and health.”

“Money?” I whispered to the other people on my table.

“At least she’s honest,” said a friend.

There followed several murmurs of assent around the table.

“But what happened to family and friends?” I said, not quite believing the collective reaction. “And what about world peace? Don’t all beauty queens want world peace?”

“Who cares about world peace when you come from a poor family and don’t have enough money to pay for the basics?” said another guest.

My fallen favourite didn’t make it into the top three.

The top three girls, who were each presented with a sash, an enormous hamper that threatened to snap their delicate arms, and a huge bouquet of flowers that almost obscured everyone on stage, hadn’t mentioned money.

The winner that evening had talked about integrity, honesty and compassion. Oddly enough, she wasn’t even half as convincing as my Miss Money Face.

What a farce! I would have mentioned world peace. We need it now more than ever.


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