Stop Slut-Shaming Love Island's Zara Holland

Courtesy of ITV
You might not know Zara Holland by name, but this week she is making headline news. Not because she's currently Miss Great Britain, but because – according to the Guardian – she had sex on national TV last Wednesday. The consequences of her decision to have consensual, sober sex, with a man (a Wolverhampton scaffolder named Alex Bowen), albeit on TV, have been considerable.

At first the beauty queen, 20, from North Ferriby, faced judgement from her fellow housemates on ITV 2's Love Island where she currently is a contestant. Secondly, she has been de-crowned by The Miss Great Britain Organisation. And finally, she has been publicly lambasted.

For those of you not familiar with ITV 2's reality tv show that fetches an average 1.2m viewers, with spikes closer to 1.5m people tuning in, it is a show about dating, shagging and a £50,000 cash prize. The simple premise is that, if you're single for too long, you get chucked out of the house. Cue people flailing around for the nearest warm body to grant themselves immunity. Cue large amounts of flirting, bitching, heavy petting and sex.

New contestants are introduced every week to kick the bees nest, which is exactly what happened when Alex entered the Majorca villa last Wednesday. For those who have been watching, you'll know that Zara's not had the best luck. In fact, she's had no luck and has been growing increasingly insecure about her "single status". So what luck, that on Alex entering the house, the show's writers grant Zara a pass to spend a night in the private hide-away with a man of her choice. Zara chose Alex on account of that fact that, well, she fancied him, and he was coming with no baggage (he'd been there less than 24 hours).

Add a night-cam into the mix, some well thought out editing to show a busy Zara under the sheets emerging licking her lips, and come Thursday, she'd been de-throned.
Courtesy of ITV
The Miss GB organisation confirmed her dismissal from the title on Thursday with a tweet that read: "we can no longer promote Zara as a positive role model."

Then the official statement continued: "Following recent actions within ITV2 show Love Island it is with deep regret that we, the Miss Great Britain Organisation, have to announce that Zara Holland has formally been de-crowned as Miss Great Britain.

"As an organisation we have not taken this decision lightly, we are close to all of our winners and wherever possible stand by them during their rein. That said, we feel we have no choice but to make this decision under the circumstances.

'The feedback we have received from pageant insiders and members of the general public is such that we cannot promote Zara as a positive role model moving forward.

"We wholly understand that everyone makes mistakes, but Zara, as an ambassador for Miss Great Britain, simply did not uphold the responsibility expected of the title."

It is important to note here, that those in "couples" (most of them have been in a relationship for a matter of days) have frequent sexual intercourse in the communal bedrooms. Zara expressed immediate distress over her actions: 'You know when you're in the moment and it just happens. That's really not like me at all. Why couldn't we have just gone to sleep?'

After the news broke online that Zara's title would be handed over to runner up Deone Robertson, the internet exploded with memes and comments both mocking Zara's much discussed pride at her GB title, criticising her behaviour or just brutally slagging her off.
Caroline Flack seemed to be one of the first to call time on the inherently misogynistic public slut-shaming of Zara.

People who followed suit took up on the Miss GB institution's choice words "positive role model", arguing that branding her as a negative role model promotes gender inequality and signals the policing of women's bodies.

The irony is that beauty pageants are held up by the commodification and objectification of people like Zara's bodies, so this decision seems rankly hypocritical. It is hard to see their decision from any other angle; they have simply refused to stand by a woman (who they've endorsed) because she chose to have sex.

This response felt like too little too late:


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