Gemma Styles: Ex-Miss GB - Role Model Or Bad Influence?
"Love Island fever has gripped the nation."
Love Island fever has gripped the nation. Stick a bunch of single people in a pressure cooker of sun, cash prizes and TV exposure and tell them to couple up - pretty much a recipe for shenanigans. I actually haven't seen too much of it, don't know how I managed to miss the boat, but it just so happens that the first episode I watched was a contentious one.
One former contestant, Zara Holland, entered the Love Island villa as this year's reigning Miss Great Britain - but after getting to know new arrival Alex Bowen rather ~intimately~ in the house's private bedroom sort of bit, she was stripped of her crown by the pageant organisers, who now feel that they "cannot promote Zara as a positive role model moving forward." Ouch.
Honestly, I didn't know that Miss GB was really a thing. Mention beauty pageants to me and all I really think of is Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, sneak-eating pizza, chatting about world peace and hiding a gun down her pants in the name of safety. Side note: the organiser of Sandy B's pageant was a bit of a witch. Hmm.
Real life Miss Great Britain bosses released a statement following Zara's de-crowning, saying that they've taken the decision with "deep regret" and have "no problem with sex." In my mind, those two things cannot be entirely true - if you regretted it that much then you wouldn't have done it, and if you had no problem with sex then why would that have been the catalyst?
I struggle with this a little bit. Would I want to bed a relative stranger on national telly? No thank you. But the notion that a young woman can no longer be seen as a positive role model because of her sex life..? My feminist leanings can't get on board with that one. For years - well really, forever - women have been held to entirely different standards than men when it comes to their sexuality. Classic phrases such as "lay back and think of England" portrays women, especially English women in this case, as vehicles for men's pleasure, just getting on with it despite their own lack of will. I mean come on - what a load of sh*t.
The fact of the matter is that, was this a Mr GB situation we were looking at, I find it very difficult to believe that a man would be unable to be a positive role model 'cos he got his leg over. While many people's gut reaction is that of shock or disapproval, we do need to keep a check on these double standards and think about the messages that they send. Are the Miss GB bosses telling young women that they shouldn't be having sex? What gives them that right?
Whether or not you agree with what Zara got up to, the fact that she had sex with someone does not negate her ability to be a role model for young women. I don't know enough about the pageant to tell you what role model traits won her the crown in the first place, but I'm guessing virginity wasn't a necessary category. If people are worried about young girls being influenced by people having sex on TV - Love Island probably isn't the show for them to be watching.
While pageant organisers might be worried about Zara giving a negative message to young women, I'm more worried about the message that they themselves are putting out: that these same young women shouldn't make their own decisions based on their desires, that they should be ashamed of their sexuality... and that they're not allowed to make mistakes. Zara happened to regret her actions, and that's down to her individually, but I just think it's sad that the basis for this regret seems to be based in shame.