What if the beauty imperative led to an 11th Commandment: “If thou are female, thou must be beautiful”?

I was not surprised to hear of a proposed a beauty contest for nuns. In our beauty-obsessed era, the pursuit of beauty, even in its most extreme forms, rarely surprises me. Saddens and infuriates me yes, but surprises me, no.

The Italian priest who proposed the contest, Antonio Rungi, expected 1,000 contestants for his “Sister Italia” online contest. According to the Times Online,

Father Rungi, a moral theologian with his own blog, said that the nuns would not wear swimsuits or revealing outfits. What he valued most in a woman was “inner beauty”. Asked for his feminine ideal, he replied: “Well, I would say Sophia Loren.”

The contestants must be aged between 18 and 40, and can be either full members of an order or novices. Father Rungi said that he expected many who applied to be young, attractive – and non-Italian. He said: “Do you really think nuns are all wizened, funereal old ladies? Today it’s not like that any more, thanks to an injection of youth and vitality brought to our country by foreign girls.” He said there were nuns from Africa and Latin America who were “really very, very pretty. The Brazilian girls above all.”

So “inner beauty” equals Sophia Loren? And foreign girls??? Brazilian GIRLS above all? Uh, Father, aren’t these females actually WOMEN, not girls? This sexist language use of yours undercuts your claim that nuns “are often not sufficiently appreciated by society.” Wouldn’t it be a tad more appreciative if you did these nuns the honor of not infantalizing them by calling them girls AND not objectifying them by rating their hotness (by country of origin no less!)???

Thus, as his comments reveal, Rungi is sexist, ageist, lookist, and, perhaps above all, lacking in the ability to critically anaylyze what such a beauty contest (and the supposed ‘need’ for it) says about culture, society, and religion.

According to Rungi, nuns have both a “physical and spiritual beauty” and carry out work in which an “attractive presence” is an advantage. Yeah, because the work of say, Mother Theresa, would be so much better is she was hot. (Alas, Mother T would not qualify for the contest even is she was still alive due to being a “wizened old funeral lady” and well past the 40 cut off.)

Rungi further claimed that beauty is “not just the plasticised beauty you see on television. There is also such a thing as a chaste ideal, which comes from the heart and the soul, and has a beneficial effect on those who come into contact with it.” Yet, this “chaste ideal” supposedly ahs to come from the “heart and soul” of someone between 18 to 40 who is easy on the eyes.

Rungi didn’t propose an equivalent contest for priests or monks. Guess men don’t need to live up to a “chaste ideal” or prove they are not “old and dour.” Guess they are not expected to live up to the beauty imperative in which they will be judged above all by how they look. Guess I must have missed that 11th Commandment about female beauty when attending Catholic school oh so many years ago.

Alas, Rungi has cancelled his plans for the beauty contest. Apparently a number of people just don’t get that “beauty is a gift from God” to be judged on the internet via photos (habit optional).

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9 thoughts on “What if the beauty imperative led to an 11th Commandment: “If thou are female, thou must be beautiful”?”

  1. Most shocking is that Rungi seems to see himself as enlightened and progressive. That is even more disturbing than when a man fesses up and says, “Yeah, I like those Brazlian chicks, so sue me, I’m a pig.”

    “Wouldn’t it be a tad more appreciative if you did these nuns the honor of. . .not objectifying them by rating their hotness?” A former male friend of mine rated my looks in comparison to a group of other women, and I felt like a slab of meat. I’m glad to hear Rungi’s little project bit the dust. –CC

  2. It’s good that the Catholic Church is becoming less skittish about sexuality…but not this way. Laid-back attitude toward sexuality does not = shallow crap out of a Heinlein novel.

    Incidentally, here’s a quote from the Satanic Bible. Just something to think about…

    “It is the “Devil” who caused women to show their legs, to titillate men – the same kind of legs, now socially acceptable to gaze upon, which are revealed by young nuns as they walk about in their shortened habits. What a delightful step in the right (or left) direction! Is it possible we will soon see “topless” nuns sensually throwing their bodies about to the “Missa Solemnis Rock”? Satan smiles and says he would like that fine – many nuns are very pretty girls with nice legs.”

  3. Good god. No pun intended. This Rungi is a sexist jackass. I have often railed against the notion that the only aspect of a female that is given weight or consideration is whether she is deemed attractive by men, and as you say, it’s infuriating but not surprising to see it in action once again. Given most religion’s oppressive stance on women, I’m not the least bit surprised to see this surface in a Catholic church.

  4. Of course he didn’t suggest a competition for priests. The Catholic religion has never been about empowering women. It has historically asserted a gender hierarchy based in the man created doctrine of the bible. That 2000 years after the the death of Christ that they continue on with this misogynistic message wrapped in a false doctrine of forgiveness and a higher power. These are the same people that find the idea of a divine feminine to heretical. Okay enough ranting…I’m not surprised, only disgusted once again.

    1. ‘The Catholic religion has never been about empowering women’. The Virgin Mary seems to be female, and You could say that in many countries she is decidedly the most important figure in the Church. In addition, there are many ‘positive’ women figures in the Bible. I am not a Catholic, but I think Your judgement was a bit harsh.

      1. True about the virgin Mary. But, the key is the VIRGIN part… For the most part, women are only celebrated in mainstream religions for their mothering/wifely “duties” — and only if they are “pure.” There are positive female figures in the bible, to be sure. But, overall, Catholicism is not about empowering women. They can’t even be priests! As the joke goes, “What positions of power do women hold in the Catholoic church? Nun.”

  5. Christina,
    Yes, that he misguidedly sees himself as ‘progressive’ is worrying. I read he offers sermons on the beach so as to reach the multitudes while they are in their bikinis. Yeah, how progressive!

    Rachel,
    Thanks for continuing to read and comment!

    Nihilunder,
    Well, I wouldn’t say this is any indication the Catholic Church is becoming any less skittish about sexuality. Come to think of it, what does objectifying women have to do with sexuality anyhow? Isn’t that more about sexism than sexuality?

    Smirking Cat,
    “Good God.” Ha! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Renee,
    “The Catholic religion has never been about empowering women.” Too true, too true. A Catholic friend of mine has a joke he is quite fond of — “What positions of power are there for women in the Catholic Church?” Answer: none (otherwise known as nun).

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