Miss Albania

January 31, 1992

To convince itself and the world that it is no longer Communist but "normal," the Albanian state is holding a Miss Albania contest. Which is not how they do it at Atlantic City.

Albanian young women are no doubt the equal of the world's best. But for cosmetics, they must go to the black market. And for the loan of dresses, to the state television costume shop. And for practice walking, there are only three mirrors available.

This is not a great tradition. The Albanian soul that was suppressed under communism and may now re-emerge is Muslim. Young women are not supposed to display their bodies, bathing suits, to male eyes.

But to the winner, the Ministry of Youth will pay $600 and a ticket to travel. Outside Albania.

There is, in the West, a body of thought holding such competitions to be degrading, trivial, juvenile and misleading to young women. Albania does not know about that. Albanian women have to be liberated enough to hold such a competition before they can become liberated enough to stop it.

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