It’s 2021 and beauty pageants with their century-old traditions have still managed to be a thing in a world fueled with sexist remarks. The contests provide a platform for candidates to present themselves in front of the world so they can represent an entire generation of women — most of who are insecure about their body, life, achievements, skin color, weight, and, well, beauty. They are prepped to become the leaders of tomorrow but with unrealistic beauty standards that promote stereotypes all over the world. The contests don’t allow married women, candidates with kids, or those who have passed the tender age of 21 to be a part of the event. Oh and not to mention the height restrictions set among the candidates. I can go on and on about the irrational restrictions that these contests set to pedestalize women’s body type to the world and yet somehow they have managed to remain a trendy topic.
Talk about the objectification of women in every possible way — from beauty standards to society’s unrealistic obsession with physical beauty, and over-sexualized outfits. These contests have endless issues. A woman getting judged on her beauty on a platform where everyone can ‘judge’ her forces them to play a role to compete in a patriarchal society. I cannot understand that despite having evidence of the many psychological effects beauty contests have on people, the tradition has overwhelmingly captivated the world with its controversial stance on beauty standards. Why do we need a tall, fair 23-year-old model with luscious hair, flawless skin, and a skinny chiseled physique to represent women when women come in various shapes, colors, and sizes? I, for one, would never understand.
However, here’s why I think beauty pageants should become a thing in the past and so should most women.
Severe mental health impacts
Titles like ‘miss perfect smile’, ‘miss flawless skin’ define how women’s physical features should be like. Research suggests how a large number of women develop low self-esteem from such projections and many even become victims of body shaming. Isn’t it time we reject these notions of beauty standards so women of all sizes and shapes feel appreciated for who they are in real life? I think it is.
The winners of these contests have to constantly make sure that they are working out day and night to remain ‘fit’, adopt expensive skin-care routines, hire personal trainers, and diet experts — meaning one has to be able to afford these luxuries to remain relevant. This only means that beauty is meant for the rich and that natural or god-gifted bodies don’t mean much. The fact that beauty belongs to a particular class in society makes me cringe with sadness.
What even are these child beauty pageants?
Apart from adult contests, parents of young children make their children take part in events where they compete with girls of their age. In what world does this seem normal to people — especially when other children their age struggle to drink clean water around the world, these contestants struggle to accept rejection at such a young age. It is just ridiculously sad that these young contestants are groomed to believe that if they do not fall into the conventional beauty standards then they are not beautiful. Talk about toxic environments!
Over-sexualization of women
Objectifying and sexualizing women in the modern world is not uncommon but these pageant platforms overdo it on a different level. In a world, where the idea of sexuality is tabooed and somehow associated with being ‘bad’ — it is confusing to see how the very concept is at the core of beauty pageants. The message that the contestants are made to portray to the world can be done in less revealing clothes as well. Even children are made to copy adults by making them sway their hips to walk around the stage like it’s a normal thing for children to do. They are made to believe that the future revolves around being pretty when there are countless issues with how society treats women in different parts of the world.
Redefining beauty at its worst
Think about it — in a world where hunger is considered such a massive social issue, do we really need girls starving themselves to fit in a world where acceptance of people of all sizes is nothing but a myth? Beauty is meant for everyone and not just a specific group, race, class, or body type. Instead of focusing on ‘beauty with brains’ as one of the many parameters of self-worth, we should probably learn a thing or two about ‘humans with souls’. Perhaps this could be eye-opening for some.
False portrayal of empowerment
Contestants are asked difficult questions on changing the world or making the world a better place for women and so forth. However, none of them truly understand the real meaning of empowering women. You know why because they have never been part of societies where female genital mutilations happen or where child marriage is common or where women get raped when they are out in the villages to relieve themselves because they don’t have a bathroom.
When we talk about empowerment, we need to be able to bring perspectives into our minds and conversations to be really able to help women in need. I really don’t see how a woman in shining outfits, sparkly eyes, and high heels can change the world for women when she can’t even eat whatever she wants without checking with the show organizers.
Pageants’ wrongful stance on success
Don’t get me wrong, but I am not hating on the contestants. Some so many individuals are beautiful, talented, ambitious, and goal-oriented and genuinely want to do good. However, we don’t really get to know about their personalities or struggles all the time, do we? Our perception is clouded by how they walk in high heels, how short their dress is, how well they speak English, how confident they are, or maybe how flawless the skin looks under heavy makeup. We don’t really see beyond these and definitely not their professions because we are distracted by the wrong portrayal of beauty standards.
So who actually benefits from these pageants and what do they prove? Other than high-end fashion houses and brands endorsing their products, I don’t think the whole game is anything more than a money-making business for the organizers. The problem with such ‘contests’ is despite trying very hard to remain well-rounded, it will never be able to convince us that the unrealistic standards are not specifically designed to reduce its contestants down to one dimension. They are and will remain contests where women are made to compete where others control the way they should appear and represent themselves to fulfill unrealistic beauty goals.
One thing I understand is that no matter what these contests will try to portray to the world, they will always remain inherently toxic, misogynist but sadly never empowering.
This post was previously published on Medium.