Miss Ghana and Inna Patty: #MeToo and #TimesUp

Esther A. Armah

Miss Ghana and Inna Patty. Pageants, profile and pimps. Headlines with escalating rumours and  accusations of exploitation and deception.  Some of the winners of the Miss Ghana pageant have been making multiple serial allegations that the pageant is a scam, its owner is little more than a pimp and its promises are empty offering a path of extortion and manipulation.

The story goes back to December 2017 when Inna Patty, owner of the franchise holding company, Exclusive Events, which runs Miss Ghana was accused by three former Miss Ghana Queens of trying to rent them out to high profile men.  The three making the accusations are Stephanie Karikari (Miss Ghana 2010), Antoinette Delali Kemavor (Miss Ghana 2015) and Giuseppina Nana Akua Baafi (Miss Ghana 2013). The most recent, Margaret Dery winner Miss Ghana 2017 has just resigned after a social media post alleging the pageant is a deception, and warning aspiring young women not to enter.

These former Queens described Miss Ghana as a glorified escort agency masquerading as a beauty pageant. Each told stories of being asked to court men for sponsorship. The Miss Ghana 2015 winner Antoinette Delali Kemavor alleges she was told by Inna Patty to be “sweet” to a man from whom they were seeking sponsorship and who was apparently that shocked after she told him that she was not going to ‘sleep over’ at his place in Nungua in Accra. She further shared that she refused to be sexually exploited after she was taken to what she called a ‘Big Man’s’ house to have dinner at 10pm.

She alleges that other Miss Ghana winners and contestants had what she describes as “terrible experiences” with what we call Oga Men or Big Men; to whom they were linked by Inna Patty to raise money.

Inna Patty took over the Miss Ghana pageant in October 2011. She is CEO of Exclusive Events – organizers of Miss Ghana – and is a 2004 winner of Miss Ghana. Miss Ghana is a national beauty pageant, dating back to 1957, the year of Ghana’s independence.

I am not a big lover of pageants.

I think they are problematic and often exploitative. They are about the scrutiny of women’s bodies. They teach young women that beauty – a certain kind of beauty – is passport, purpose and power. It is the focus on appearance above all else, usually measured and judged by men, which is cause for most concern.

There are global pageants that are deeply problematic. Across the USA, the teen and child pageants are, for me, the most dangerous. One example is a show like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. They groom little girls to obsess over their appearance and egregiously treat other girls solely as competitors. For those little girls who become teen contestants and then older contestants, being taught that women are your competitors in beauty and bodies, is a poor recipe for a successful and powerful life.

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This competitiveness in the realm of looks, beauty and bodies is an element of society that spills into multiple sectors – from pageants to politics to media to business and beyond. It nurtures a culture of superficiality; and it creates the kind of insecurity and fragility that is destructive and debilitating.

When it comes to gender, society nurtures girls and women to believe they are each other’s competitors, primarily for the attention of men; and that the attention of men is the ultimate accolade. Pageants exacerbate this teaching.

However, when women collaborate rather than compete, they build and they broker.  Even as society nurtures women to treat each other as competitors, we can choose to be collaborators and cheerleaders for one another’s dreams, vision, purpose, passion and mission.

A woman’s body is, of course, hers to do with as she chooses; unbossed and unbought by anyone.

I also recognize that, for many of the entrants to Miss Ghana and globally, pageants offer an opportunity for young women to travel beyond their borders, they open doors and offer opportunities to unknown worlds and possibilities.

Of course, all pageants are not the same. I recently learned about the Miss Tourism Ghana pageant. It requires girls to learn about the culture, tradition, environmental beauty of Ghana’s 10 regions. I was invited to attend the finale of Miss Tourism at the National Theater; and was moved by the young women finalists who shared information, history, culture and traditional practices from particular regions. It was like a fabulous, fun and beautiful history lesson. For those with great delivery and who had done their research it made me want to visit particular areas of Ghana; I loved and appreciated that. In fact, it was more education with music, fun and cultural dance – than the traditional pageants where physical assets are the overt element to be lauded, applauded, scrutinized and critiqued by huge audiences.

So, I write not to defend or attack the Miss Ghana pageant itself; my focus is the ways in which young women’s bodies, dreams and work are being allegedly exploited – they are being treated as property, as safe cargo.

Why safe cargo? These beauty pageant winners become property where the power players believe their exploitation is safe; the target is easy and their behaviour will go unchallenged.

The allegations against Inna Patty have continued; with the call out getting stronger and the accusations piling up.

The Miss Ghana pageant has a long, rich, complex history. Right now, the brand is taking a beating.

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Inna Patty was interviewed on Starr FM’s Sunday afternoon radio show, ‘Starr Woman’. Her brand under attack, she went on the offensive. Her response to being accused by previous Miss Ghana winners and contestants of essentially being a pimp was: provide proof or shut up.

That is the tried and tested response by exploiters or sexual abusers to their accused.

She instead counter accused; claiming this was deliberate sabotage., that it was ‘ugly’, ‘reckless’ and ‘petty’.

Be clear, there is nothing petty about being accused of pimping out young women in order to raise money. It is a serious allegation. And, it requires more formal investigation. She further goes on that the pageant will in future be doing thorough background checks. That suggests there is something sinister about the backgrounds of those making the allegations – it essentially maligns them. That too is a well-used trope by accused exploiters and abusers of women.

Dismissing the allegations as ‘sabotage’ is an intriguing response. Given that Miss Ghana winners benefit from the crown, the prize and the opportunities, it makes little sense for such beneficiaries – these winners – to sabotage such opportunity.

In this moment former Miss Ghana queens speaking their truth about alleged disturbing experiences within this pageant is a particular power – from Tweets to interviews and beyond. Each is finding strength from the other, as they share their stories and learn how deep the potential rot of this Miss Ghana franchise as run by Inna Patty may go.

It seems Miss Ghana is having its own pageant #MeToo moment.

This is the movement where women speak out and up against the powerful accusing them of sexual exploitation and harassment. Of course, Inna Patty, is not doing the harassing, but is allegedly creating the circumstances, providing the men so that the sexual exploitation for money or contracts may happen and allegedly pressurizing the young women. It lead to the companion #TimesUp movement. With that, women all over the world tell their accusers; no more, your time is up and your day is done.

As the stories continue, it seems Inna Patty’s calls to her accusers to shut up are not being heeded. Instead, the allegations and the accusations are getting louder.

Some of Miss Ghana’s winners, it seems, are telling Inna Patty: #TimesUp!

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YOU ARE INVITED!

#safeCARGO: a brand new powerhouse play

Written and Directed by Esther Armah

Featuring Pearl Darkey & Kwaku Ankomah

ONE NIGHT ONLY!

Wednesday 22nd August at 6pmSHARP

British Council, 11 Liberia Road, Accra

FREE ADMISSION!

Performance + Post performance Q&A moderated by Anita Erskine

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