Ailish Caroll-Brentall (Wales, Atlantic College 09′-11′)
Once a year, Atlantic College is graced with the spectacle that is Cinderfella, a beauty pageant in which men dress up like women. Past years have never failed to spark controversy, and this year was no exception. Don’t get me wrong. It was funny (in bits when I wasn’t dying of vicarious mortification), and it was for a good cause (a phrase that could get you off the hook for a multitude of sins), but I found it hard to deny the undertones. The aim was to be a woman for the night, and we got overtly sexualised dance routines, hugely vacuous answers to questions and a pregnant chick the size of a whale in fishnets. The only minimalist thing about the night was the outfits. I understand that the idea of Cinderfella is to parody femininity, but the implication of that portrayal is still that that is the epitome of womanhood to some degree, albeit exaggerated.
I think the thing that gets me is not so much the mockery of women – I partake in that far too often to knock it – but the two dimensional, unoriginality of said mockery. Hell, there is a plethora of things that we’re supposedly bad at that you could laugh at: driving, reading maps, being strong, being independent, being intelligent, wanting more in life than a husband, planning ahead, divorcing ourselves from our emotions… the list goes on. So in Cinderfella, do we then instead see the exaggeration of what the men on stage idealise from women? It might explain the fact that there were subtle (and not so subtle) charades of lesbianism between the contestants – something that a lot of straight guys I know seem to fantasize about without having any interest in LGBTQ rights, or, often, actual lesbians. Or, perhaps more disturbingly, is it how the women in this college, who ended up prepping the contestants before they went on stage, think the men in this college idealise women? God, my head hurts… I don’t know. All I know is that there is a hell of a lot more to every female I have ever met, even boring ones, than what was shown on that stage.
I mean, I suppose it was better than last year in the respect that working women were this year represented, even though they were nurses and secretaries… And there was a mother, even if it was fairly unrealistic that someone nine months pregnant (with triplets, by the look of the size of her… or him) would be able to walk in heels, though I’d be damn impressed if they could. But I can’t help but feel that the whole thing would be better, more intelligent, less humiliating for the participants and, fine, I’ll out and out say it, less deprecational and misrepresentational of women, if it were more considered. For example, the guys wouldn’t have the dangerous moments of teetering, as they would have learnt the art of opportunely timed sisterly hugs to steady themselves while in heels. Not every answer to the questions would have been based around the theme of ‘I’m a slut, and that’s pretty much it’. Maybe some people would have dressed to suit their colouring, shape and style. I mean, midi lines are so in this season.
Perhaps I’m going overboard. Perhaps there is no reason that people acted the way they did. Perhaps I’m reading into it all way too much, and it was just because promiscuity, lack of self respect and single motherhood are all funny, plain and simple. Or maybe, just maybe, there was something in Cinderfella that shows that, as long as it’s for entertainment, it’s completely OK to objectify and devalue femininity. But, truth told, my resentment is probably just because I’m envious of the fact they all have better legs than me.
-United World College Student Magazine-