SINCE it began more than 50 years ago, hundreds of hopefuls have taken part in the Miss Oxfordshire competition.

But now it has been postponed because not enough women have put themselves forward to take part.

Miss Oxfordshire is held every year to find a woman aged between 17 and 24 who can represent the county both at the Miss England competition and at various local events over the course of the year.

After only nine people entered the 2013 competition, the grand final, which was set to take place on December 5, was put back to drum up more interest.

David Douglass, who has been organising the Miss Oxfordshire competition for two years, said: “Postponing the competition is not the end of the world.

“We just didn’t have enough entries. I don’t know why – maybe it was too early.

“We like to get about 15 to 20 people taking part in the final but it is not a big deal that it has been postponed.”

Mr Douglass did not know when the Miss Oxfordshire competition had last been delayed.

But the postponement has sparked questions about whether such a contest should be taking place at all.

Natalie Brook of Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre said: “I think competitions like Miss Oxfordshire are representative of a society in which we objectify women. Their bodies are seen as commodities. Obviously each individual has to make their own decision about whether to take part or not.

“But this is about a wider societal attitude where young women feel that they are affirmed in some way on the basis of their looks.”

But Mr Douglass said: “I have worked in this industry for 25 years and we are one of the few countries where we keep asking whether beauty pageants have had their day.

“If anyone bothered to sit down with these women it would transform their ideas.

“They are bright, academic and well-rounded people. We have had lawyers and soldiers taking part before.”

And Miss Oxfordshire 2011 Kirsty Beer, who has entered the competition again, urged people to take part.

The 22-year-old dance teacher from Cumnor said: “The whole experience of being Miss Oxfordshire is amazing and I had so much fun.

“I got involved in charity events for Sobell House and with Oxford United.

“Beauty pageants have changed a lot in recent years. They even have an eco round where you have to make a dress from recycled material.”

Since the competition’s final was postponed, more women have come forward and the total number of entries stands at about 20.

Once all the entries are in a shortlist will be drawn up and the girls on it will take part in the final, which is now taking place on Wednesday, February 13, at The Living Room in Oxford.