By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com
Are Beauty Pageants Archaic, Demeaning and Sexist?
A friend posted on Facebook this morning that he’d just seen the Miss USA contestants on the Today Show and he can’t believe such an “archaic, demeaning and supremely sexist” thing still exists. Predictably, the men were quick to chime in with comments like, “It will exist as long as men enjoy watching beautiful women…and women enjoyed being watched” and “no body (sic) forces these ladies to be in these things. They want to do it. It is their freedom of choice.”
Perhaps equally predictably, I chimed in with: “Kinda like how nobody “forces” a woman to work as a prostitute/have sex on camera in pornographic films/stay in a abusive relationship, right? So long as men enjoy exploiting women … and women enjoy being exploited by them. Not demeaning or misogynistic at all, nope. Right-o.”
Because goddammit, I hate beauty pageants. No matter how much emphasis they try to put on scholarship and being smart and thoughtfully answering serious questions about world problems, there’s just no getting away from the fact that beauty pageants are first and foremost about putting the bodies of young women on display for men to judge as beautiful, or not. The fact that many of these young women have been training for tiaras since toddlerhood, honing and shaping themselves into some bullshit testosterone-driven sexual fantasy of the perfect Barbie doll woman, that they actually take this competition seriously and try to posit it as anything more than the purely misogynistic, hyper-sexualizing of the female body that it is, makes it that much worse. Why do we let beauty pageant standards define how our daughters have to look in order to be thought (or to think of themselves as) beautiful?
On the other hand, I admit that I don’t tend to feel the same about burlesque, in part because burlesque tends to celebrate a much wider spectrum of what constitutes female beauty, and in part because when I watch a burlesque show, it feels like watching women who are in active control of their sexuality, whereas beauty pageants seem to be just about passively offering female bodies up for display and ogling. I guess other folks might disagree, though, and find burlesque to be more exploitative because it’s inherently more sexual in nature than just parading around in a pageant.