Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Jury out on Cara's Stormont stunt

There are various ways of making a point about equality and the role of women in society. But in a conservative place like Northern Ireland it might not be the best way to do so by appearing in an outfit which draws attention to its relative lack of cover rather than to the argument itself.

This dilemma arose in a weekend conference at Stormont, The Alternative Ms Ulster, to mark International Women's Day. The event attracted a range of speakers. The broad theme was about the way in which gender equality and women's place in society can be promoted.

A local actress Cara Park gave her point of view, but this was somewhat overshadowed by her physical appearance in a striking dress which, from a particular angle, showed that she was topless.

In one sense she had a point in saying that a woman can go topless and in her case shoeless if she wishes, but there is more to this than the bare facts of her presentation.

There is a time and place for everything, but Cara Park's action raises the point as to whether Stormont is the right place for such a presentation, especially as a Miss Ulster beauty contest scheduled for this landmark venue recently did not take place.

Some people might say that Stormont has had more than its share of exhibitionists over the years, and that the behaviour of some of our politicians is more offensive than anything which takes place at an event to mark International Womens' Day.

That said however, there is the added point about the whole question about the portrayal of women in our society.

Some feminists would argue that women are degraded by the way in which the female body is exploited to sell all kinds of products, including some tabloid newspapers.

It would seem therefore that Cara Park's presentation at Stormont ran contrary to the traditional feminist view about furthering womens' rights and their place in society.

The general public, including the readers of this newspaper, will no doubt make up their minds on this issue. They can decide for themselves whether Cara Park was right, or whether she scored an own goal.

Rightly or wrongly she has made headlines, and perhaps that in itself has raised the issue to a wider public which probably would not have even noticed a more conventional presentation.

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