For years, universities in the Czech Republic have held beauty pageants for their female students. The women who compete tend to look like beauty contestants anywhere: slim, young, able-bodied, large of hair, heavily made up, clad alternatively in evening gowns and bathing suits. The events have grown controversial in recent years for, um, obvious reasons, but this year, Prague's University of Economics might have finally taken it too far: the school teamed up with a local tabloid to host a twerking contest during the pageant, where uncomfortable-looking women twerked in booty shorts and bikini tops for the chance to win internships at unnamed large companies. All together now: Yeeesh.
Miss VSE is the pageant for female students at the University of Economics, held this year at a nightclub in Prague. Judging by the photos, the twerking contest directly followed the swimwear portion of the evening. The contestants wore shorts emblazoned with the logo for eXtra, a local tabloid. A video of the event quickly went viral — the woman who shot it, Mia Čermochová, uploaded it to Facebook with the succinct comment "pretty sad." Other observers complained to NOVA, a local news site, that it looked like "the casting of a porno." Here's a portion of what went down:
"As a journalist I monitor these stories closely," she tells us. "Me and my colleagues at Radio Wave organized a whole week of content about sexism and sexual harassment last month. What seriously bothers me in this case is the sexualization of female students under the patronage of a university in a way that probably wouldn't be allowed in any all-republic beauty pageant contests. Since the video went viral, it has triggered a lot of slut shaming on social media. It is worth mentioning that only one girl out of ten refused to twerk, because she found it demeaning. Still, to me the main culprit here is the university that sold its students to cheap promotion."
The beauty pageants happen in six different university systems across the country. Charles University, also in Prague, recently cancelled theirs, after protests from female students during last year's event. But Biriczová says it's "not surprising" that the contests have been mostly allowed to continue year after year, explaining, "Czech universities have a very high tolerance towards sexism and sexual harassment in general. According to two separate academic research studies at the universities, about 2/3 of students have some experience with sexual harassment in soft forms and every tenth student experienced physical attacks, stalking or rape."
Biriczová also contacted university rector Professor Jana Machková for comment. Machková is unhappy, telling her in a statement through a spokesperson, "The University of Economics does not organize the competition and Mrs. Rector Machková is definitely not a fan of similar events. However , because it was already the 6th year, she agreed to continue with it. The competition was organized by the magazine Studenta.cz without any negative experiences in the past. Mrs Rector was very unpleasantly surprised with what happened on the final evening. No member from the university will accept patronage over the event next year."
Update, 5:30 p.m.: Biriczová reports that the event, not surprisingly, has already been canceled for next year. Here's a statement she received from the university's public relations department:
Prof. Ing. Hana Machková, Rector of the University of Economics was appointed to the position on April 1, 2014 and did not want to begin her term with banning the pageant contest with a five-year-old tradition. Therefore, she agreed to a patronage of the VŠE for 2014. However, she refused a personal patronage over the competition because she as a woman does not like similar contests and also rejected the invitation of the organizers (of Student Media) on 20. 11. 2014. On the other hand, she did not see the problem in the fact that the students participated in the competition because it proceeded without any problems during the last years. The VŠE did not organize the competition and was not involved in any activities with the exception of a promotion on the campus. After seeing the video and the comments in the press, Mrs. Rector came to the opinion that Miss VŠE 2014 has significantly damaged the reputation of the school. Therefore, the management of VŠE decided that it will not allow to any entity to use the VŠE brand for organizing the competition Miss next year.