Can Lisa Hanna Ever Be More Than A Beauty Queen?
Why do the most strident criticisms of Lisa Hanna always seem to revolve around her beauty, or the products thereof? For how much longer must she be punished for representing Jamaica in the Miss World competition? And for how much longer are we content to pretend that this unsurpassed ugliness isn’t the consequence of sexism? Many of us stood high on our soapboxes criticizing the Minister for daring to wear a bathing suit at the beach. The Reverend Fr. HoLung simply could not countenance her support for reviewing the country’s abortion laws, and so he too took a jab at her body. And now, in an unprecedented move, her colleague, Dr. Dayton Campbell, has sought to discredit her leadership by taking aim at what is now so obviously an easy target, the fact that she won the Miss World crown. These examples, though different, spring from the same poisoned seed of sexism and misogyny. They must all be rejected.
I think most reasonable people agree that Dr. Campbell has the right to support any candidate he chooses, attend any meeting he chooses, and voice any opinion he chooses. However, that agreement ends when it becomes clear that instead of using those rights to make criticisms founded in fair and objective reasoning, Dr. Campbell decided to descend to the lowest possible denominator. It’s easy to ignore the sexist implications of Dr. Campbell’s rant, and many of us did. But we should ask ourselves, what is the intent of a line of questioning which begins by declaring “a nuh Miss World dis”? It can only be raised in the conversation to demean the contributions Ms. Hanna has made to her constituency, and by extension the country. I take no position on whether those contributions may be found wanting, or whether Dr. Campbell’s quarrel is justified, I will leave you all to debate that. But I will stand against the continued use of Hanna’s beauty, body and the incidents thereof, as weapons against her credibility as a leader and politician.
Dr. Campbell’s brutish comments find refuge in the repugnant stereotype which says any woman who decides to enter a beauty contest has no further substantive contributions to make to society. As a friend of mine opined, “we just can’t take them seriously.” Such a conclusion furthers unhealthy and damaging ideas about a woman’s worth vis-a-vis her level of comfort with her body and her beauty. To be sure, the idea of a confident, sexy and even scantily clad woman is not inconsistent with intelligence, hardwork and concern for fellow citizens. We must rethink the way we approach the subject of the female body. It is wholly nonsensical to hold the view that once a woman is crowned a beauty queen, then she cannot credibly excel or contribute in other spheres of national life.
Hanna need not conform to our latent misogyny in order to prove her mettle as a politician. She is entirely within her right to use social media to reach the youthful demographic she has been entrusted to manage. As long as the Minister’s conduct remains within the bounds of propriety, she owes no one an explanation for her “profiling”. What’s more, it should be clear to all that the Minister continues to be a subject of fascination for Jamaicans, evidenced not only by her poll standings, but in the reception she receives online. Contrary to Dr. Campbell’s assertions, an individual’s standings in the polls is an indication of leadership. In politics, particularly Jamaican politics, one really only needs to be seen to be doing well. That perception can quickly become reality. Several of our most recent leaders who have reached the dizzying heights of power bear testament to that truth. Perhaps Dr. Campbell was outlining what he would prefer, but he was certainly wrong on what the reality is.
Miss Hanna must now realize that she is a prospective leader in the PNP, people nuh stone fluxy mango. Dr. Campbell’s comments should embolden her beyond endurance. She must gather her wits about her, and strengthen her record; she may yet be PNP President. The inconvenient truth is that another woman, at another time, faced sexism of an entirely different nature in that very party. Let us hope this isn’t intended to be a trend.
I’m willing to wager that once again the boys may find that a woman is every bit suited to play their game.