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.