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Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

John Scott Masthead
May 15 2012 at 10:41

When I was a young boy, I felt slightly awkward at seeing my father dress up as a woman for a fancy-dress party.

He went as the main character in Kathleen Windsor’s novel Forever Amber, a bestseller regarded as sensationally daring in its day.

Somehow he enveloped himself in a figure-hugging amber-coloured gown from head to foot, with my mother’s padded bra to give him uplift and make-up to hide his five-’o-clock shadow. My brother and I weren’t too sure that this was how dads should look.

But at least everyone knew he was a man imitating a woman and next morning he was very chipper because he had won first prize for doing so.

Unlike Christian Pyl, who won the Miss Campus beauty competition at South Cape College in George last month without the judges realising he was a male student. It has apparently caused an uproar in the town, with many claiming he should now be stripped of his/her title.

They say he is beyond the pale, as it were, and certainly his very name is an arrow directed into the heart of George’s feminine pride.

If you think those wanting FW de Klerk deprived of his Nobel Peace Prize for saying Bantustans weren’t so bad after all are cross, you should hear what the good folk of George have to say about the prettiest boy on campus winning a prize of R1 500 to have his hair done in a local salon.

It was, some claimed, “an humiliation for women”.

It certainly was. How could a mere male be more beautiful than all the women the college had to offer?

On the other hand, it doesn’t say much for the beauty of the college’s young women, either. Either the really pretty ones didn’t enter the competition, or there simply weren’t any pretty ones – or not prettier than a man in make-up and a dress.

Christian, aged 19, didn’t transgress by transdressing. The rules merely stipulated that entrants had to be registered college students, without mentioning gender. His fellow entrants knew he was a man because he used the women’s dressing room. Perhaps recognising him as a threat, they asked him not to compete against them. Why didn’t they inform the judges?

I say good luck to Pyl, for proving a point, though I’m not sure what the point is.

I’m surprised they still have beauty competitions in this day and age. I thought that feminism had put an end to such parades. Not like the old days when the Miss World contest dominated international headlines.

Once again my father comes to mind. On a cruise up the coast, by himself, he found he was sharing the ship with South Africa’s very first Miss World, Penny Coelen, and returned home with movie film of himself in conversation with her.

During my first year at university, a tall and striking young woman named Sheila Badenhorst-Durrant was chosen Rag Queen. Like her father, a National Party MP, she went into politics and, as Sheila Camerer, was elected to parliament. For the past few years she has been ambassador to Bulgaria.

It just shows you what beauty queens can aspire to.

I have no idea what Christian Pyl’s aspirations are, but whatever they are, he won’t get there by staying dressed as woman. Miss South Cape College Campus is probably the pinnacle of his cross-dressing career.

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