May The Best Girl Win

By Lois Gilhooly

May the best girl win. What image does this phrase conjure up in your mind ? Personally it paints a picture of a beauty pageant, girls being paraded on a catwalk in front of a crowd who give their judgement on these women- choosing which one they view to be more desirable than the others. Essentially pitting them against each other.   


Despite how you interpret this phrase, I assure you that they will all generally follow the lines of competition between girls- rivalry even. But what for? The top grade in the class? A place in the school sports team? A job promotion? No. As soon as this phrase is said and in every context I've ever heard it used it denotes to rivalry between two women over a man. With this information the people in the crowd of my imaginary pageant suddenly became men. Men rating women or choosing them out of the crowd of girls who are presenting themselves and competing against their fellow women for the attention of these men. 


But why? Why is this the image that comes to mind when I hear this phrase? How is it that someone of liberal and feminist upbringing like myself has these degrading, misogynistic and frankly harmful views of female rivalry? It is because it’s been permanently engrained in our societies beliefs for an immeasurable amount of time, similar to when society told us that planet earth was flat not spherical. 


Historically speaking, women did have to be chosen by men. It’s a fact.  In 1540’s Anastasia Romanovna was chosen by the Tsar of Russia- Ivan The Terrible to be his Tsaritsa from a large number of eligible women (it’s estimated to be anywhere between 500-1500),who were brought to the Kremlin for the sole purpose of choosing a wife and she was simply picked out of a crowd. Another example is the ancient tradition among Southern- Eastern American Indians for the selection of the Chief’s Wife he would instruct his Chief’s men to bring him the tallest and most beautiful of all their daughters and she would be his wife. Or even closer to home- The Debutante Ball’s which was only abolished by the Queen in 1958. Of which the original purpose was to present newly deemed marriageable woman to society and to eligible bachelors. In conclusion it has been a mundane feature in our society that women must compete against each other for men and the competition too often based on materialistic qualities like wealth, beauty and hereditary position. 


This then poses the question of why was it so fundamental within an array of cultures to put so much emphasis on a competition between women for which the reward was marriage? The answer is simply because it was a reward to be married. Even in this century, in our own beloved Britannia there was a time when we women could not physically support ourselves, we had no property rights, no right to suffrage, no right over own children and were viewed as property. In these dark ages it was impossible to survive or to be respected without having a husband to care and provide for you. And of course women could not chose their own husbands as they were just delicate beings who had to wait for the honour nee the privilege of being chosen above others for their hand in marriage.


But there was never a Debutante Ball for the marriageable men to be presented to the women. Never has there been a procession of men for a Queen to choose a King. Nor would you expect a female chief to order a chief’s woman to bring her most handsome son to be married to her. Now I hope these examples seem exceptionally unusual to you and the reason they are so, is because we as women have been educated over thousands of years to believe that men are of a higher rank to us and as such are entitled to choose whomever they please; who aesthetically entices them, who is the most established, and that we are just lucky to be there. The most clearest example of this I’ve ever found is the in ancient Egypt, their word for Queen translates into English as ‘the King’s wife’. This simply reveals the truth of history as women viewing themselves and being told that they are lesser to and dependant on men. As a result it has become a second nature to yearn to be seen as possessing these qualities within ourselves that will be seen as desirable to men.


However our society has evolved astoundingly in the last hundred years. Women have received the right to vote, we have equal education, it is no longer frowned upon to be divorced, we’ve had two female prime ministers and their are laws in place to prohibit discrimination based on gender. Undeniably women’s rights have quantum leaped over the last hundred years. So if politically and economically we are closing in on complete equality why are we socially so far behind? Why do we still see fellow women and girls as competitors for the attention of men when we are so close to equality, we are not dependent upon them and we do not need to conform to their definition of a perfect woman. 

The real question that I have been wanting to address is why do I think of men as choosing me instead of me choosing them? I have nothing to prove to them and owe them nothing, their attention is not an honour or a prize. In this new-age of girl power we need to abandon this  outdated and orthodox view that has been forced upon us. In this revolutionary day and age women are not dependant on men for the protection and stability as we once were- their opinions and attention is worth just as much as ours. Collectively as women we should recognise this and act upon it. I should not need to compete for the attention of someone who views me as their equal.   


We should support, encourage and further each other in every way we can. The only person who can change how we are viewed ourselves is us, the only people who can stop this ancient rivalry is us. I want my pageant to be filled with women who have nothing to prove, who support each other and help each other grow to become empowered forward thinking women who will change the world - the crowd be damned.