In my last post, I told you not to be ashamed, for any reason. Well, I am not ashamed to say that I participated in a beauty pageant at age seventeen. Our group of girls very much resembled the pageant as seen in the movie Dumplin, minus the protest, Texan accent and awesome drag queens.
I’m not really for beauty pageants. I don’t remember why I entered the competition, but my friend and I participated together. The contest itself created a lot of tension between the participants—some of them took the crown very seriously.
The pageant differed a bit from the ones you may have seen on TV. Sometimes our city simultaneously hosts a male beauty pageant, but none of the guys wanted to participate that year. There was no bikini contest, instead, we had to create an outfit ourselves. I had a blast creating my dress out of shredded magazine pages. By shredding the magazines I wanted to make a statement against unrealistic beauty standards. The bust was weaved paper, the bottom was layered shredded pages that flared out. My shoes and purse had cutout photos glued onto them and I had a paper flower on my wrist. One of my friends and I spend hours making it. (Thank you.)
What I dislike about beauty pageant is that they objectify women and treat them like they can only be successful if they meet the criteria set by the pageant organization. In the end, the “winners” are praised and showered with gifts and attention as a reward for being “perfect”. It’s a self-reenforcing toxic patriarchial cycle and it needs to stop. All women are different and shouldn’t be measured against one another. An extroverted Miss Congeniality isn’t better than an introvert who keeps to herself. It’s a false representation of society. It omits diversity and leads to shame.
The expectations and standards dreamed up to represent the ideal woman are unsustainable, especially because they’re ever-changing. Pageants and other media promoting the perfect woman will lead to the demise of half of the population. Women are already spending too much time and money on superficial and materialistic things like fashion and cosmetics. Some of them will go on to suffer from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and other all-consuming obsessions with their appearance. This can lead them to life-altering choices, such as cosmetic surgery or suicide, in the worst case scenario. All of this only to conform to the fabricated norm and be considered beautiful. This path is treacherous and unhealthy for us all.
Beauty pageants have had their time. They might have done some good in the past, however, I doubt the good outweighs the bad. It’s time to let them go, to focus on more valuable things. Pageant supporters will argue that the competitions are great for women because they teach them public speaking, self-discipline, and build their confidence and character, which is useful for their careers. I argue that there are better, more efficient and diverse ways to gain these skills and that not everyone needs them. Some women will never speak in public, and that perfectly suits them. We should be encouraging young women to find something they love doing and support them in follow that path; self-assurance and confidence will follow. Women are diverse and we need to treat them as such.