Pitting women against each other, simply on the basis of looks, is an inherently flawed notion, and one that society at large, has indulged in, for as long as one can remember. Case in point, beauty pageants.
Yes, occasionally, pageants have become the stepping stone for deserving women. But for the most part, the structure and myriad unsaid rules of beauty pageants make them a regressive competition, and here’s why they just need to stop:
1. The undue importance on women’s looks.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with caring for your looks. But for society to convince thousands of women that their looks are all their worth is sexist and problematic. Add to it the celebration of only a particular kind of beauty (unblemished skin, sharp nose, etc.), and beauty pageants can single-handedly be held responsible for promoting insecurity in women. How else do you explain awards like “Miss Beautiful Smile”, “Miss Sparkling Eyes”, and whatnot?
2. Promoting only a single body type as beautiful.
From height restrictions to body dimensions, it’s no secret that only a particular body type is considered “beautiful” by pageant organizers. But why? Who decides what body type is beautiful?
3. Arbitrary rules for eligibility.
It is not enough for a woman to be single. She also has to be single, never been married, and not be a single mother. Not only is it a flawed system, it further pushes the narrative that only women of a particular age, and with a particular history, are worthy of contesting.
Mrs Sri Lanka’ beauty queen injured in on-stage bust-up— Amberali (@MohdAmber8) April 6, 2021
image captionThe Mrs Sri Lanka winner was accused of being divorced
Pushpika De Silva
The winner of Sri Lanka’s biggest beauty prize has suffered head injuries after a brawl broke out on stage.#beauty pic.twitter.com/RetXm72yLz
4. The objectification of women.
Two words: Swimsuit rounds. Need I really say more? Being fit and being desirable in a way society deems fit are two very different things. And swimsuit rounds cater only to the latter!
Yes, as of 2018, Miss World has dropped the round but thousands, if not more, contests still go on much the same way.
5. Skewed expectations from participants and winners, adhering to flawed ideas of morality.
Examples of men indulging in immoral behavior, across industries and professions, are too many to count. And yet, while most men went on with their lives, beauty pageant winners have had to relinquish their title because organizers either disapproved of their dating lives or because an incident from their past was deemed “immoral”. Not exactly fair or lovely, right?
On July 23, 1984, Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America, after Penthouse magazine announced plans to publish nude photos of Williams pic.twitter.com/6l0k3Jm1mq— RetroNewsNow (@RetroNewsNow) July 23, 2019
And if you thought this is ancient history, only recently Miss Papua New Guinea Lucy Maino had her crown stripped, because she posted a video of herself twerking on her “private” TikTok account.
6. Promoting ageism.
Most beauty pageants don’t allow women over 25 to apply, promoting the unhealthy belief that a woman’s beauty “fades” with age.
7. Limited to no attention on a woman’s skills, other than communication and presentation.
Yes, communication skills and the art of presenting yourself are skills important in all fields. But they aren’t the only skills worth developing. While a woman is free to choose which area of life she wants to focus on, beauty pageants convince young women that it is all about beauty… and that one question round!
8. Especially in India, a myopic focus on the entertainment industry being the only obvious career choice.
There are pageant winners who went on to develop careers in completely different fields, often fading into obscurity. But that does not make their work any less worthy of attention. And yet, these winners, or alternate career choices, are rarely, if ever, celebrated or even acknowledged by pageant organizers themselves.
Like most things in the world, beauty pageants are not all bad. But they do promote an unhealthy obsession with a woman’s looks and cater to flawed moral standards. It’s high time these pageants either move on with time or frankly, just stop.