#BLM, Comment

Influential figures across all communities need to be held accountable for racism

When a friend told me Miss Swimsuit UK 2019 had been stripped of her title after a controversial ‘All Lives Matter’ Facebook post, my initial reaction was: does this really matter? Personally, I didn’t know a Miss Swimsuit UK competition existed. I was disappointed to find out this is, in fact, something people actually spend time and money on, but didn’t think any more of it. After all, if I haven’t heard of her, surely she doesn’t hold any influence over the general public and will simply be dismissed as another racist idiot?

I am, of course, completely wrong there. Modelled around the slogan: “Be Confident, Be Fun, Be You!” (sickening, I know), the competition claims to create “glamorous, accessible role models” today’s social media generation can “aspire to and emulate.” To me, it is simply an unfortunate product of societal expectations of beauty under the guise of female empowerment. 

Just as I am into Musical Theatre while some of my friends are into video games, I can respect some people’s genuine enjoyment in being involved in such competitions. It just so happens one of my role models is Lin-Manuel Miranda, a man with an insane talent for composing, whereas theirs may be 23-year-old Jasmine Archer-Jones, the 2019 winner of Miss Swimsuit UK. 

After her Facebook rant in June, all signs of Jasmine’s win have been erased from the organisation’s website. In a series of posts, she questioned the innocence of George Floyd and expressed her support for the condemning phrase: ‘All Lives Matter.’ Her Instagram bio mocks the stripping of her title by saying: “STILL A UK SWIMSUIT WINNER 2019/20,” but the current Miss Swimsuit UK is now 2018 winner Kianna Louise. 

As you may have guessed, the competition doesn’t have a particularly diverse history: five out of the previous six winners being white brunettes (the sixth was a blonde, don’t get excited). This lack of diversity means the captive audience will most likely be a very similar community, making it all the more important for the winner to be a beacon for tolerance and acceptance.

This brings us back to the argument of intersectionality. If the title-holder is meant to be broadcasting a message of female empowerment, this must be applicable to everyone, not just one person’s narrow-minded view of who counts as female. You can’t be a feminist if you don’t support the Black Lives Matter movement. Feminism advocates for equal rights for all women and that includes Black women. 

Personally, I neither condone nor value the competition, but I can recognise it is important for all influential figures to be held accountable for racism. Not just the politicians – all figures. While we may shrug off the stripping of her title as an unimportant action, that ‘unimportant action’ is actually broadcasting an intolerance of racism to a large group of people, setting the standards and expectations for a generation of future Miss Swimsuit UK-to-bes. 


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04/08/2020

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Dolly Carter