Beauty Parades

A question was posed by a poster pageantL "What do you think about beauty pageants?"

Hmm…that's actually a tough one, because I have mixed feelings;

Free Choice:

Women choose to participate in beauty contests, just like I chose to participate in modeling, and others chose to participate in prostitution – an extreme example I know, but I believe these activities fall along the same continuum.

Feminism

I believe in letting others live the life they want, so I don't believe that beauty pageants should be shut down, in order to help some feminist agenda. Does the objectification of women in beauty contests somehow hold down us all? Ahhh…I think we have a hell of a lot more to worry about. At least these girls have brains, talent, and some substance.

Child Involvement

Jon Benet Ramsey completely and totally freaked me out. To see a mere child, in full face makeup, posing somewhat sexually, in front of an audience of cheering moms and fans, is just disturbing.

But once again, if you want your child engaged in these activities, I'm not going to stop you, or judge you. I just pray to god they turn out half way normal after the experience (somehow I feel like this little one posted on  the right is already too far gone, maybe its the cult like stare in her eyes).

A Personal Journey

The way we treat our bodies and the way we choose to represent ourselves in this life is a very personal journey. For myself, the act of modeling taught me one thing. I don't ever want to have a life that revolves around what I look like. Ever. It is the most painful, hollow, frightening place, at least it was that for me.

But I will not sit in judgment of others who choose to make their looks a part of who they are.

A model, a beauty queen, a prostitute….to each her own.

-mamaV

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7 Responses to Beauty Parades

  1. sannanina says:

    I DO have a problem with these contests – although I don’t think they should somehow be prohibited, and it certainly will not keep me from befriending people who think those contests are swell, either. (I do, however think that the contests involving pre-puberty children should be stopped. I don’t think a parent has the right to enroll a child in something like this.)
    You say that you never want to live a life again that revolves around how you look like, because it is an empty life. I understand this, but truth is also that people (both men and women) who fit society’s beauty ideal have on average an advantages over people who don’t fit the ideal. For example, there is research showing that a conventionally beautiful woman is more likely to get offered help in public than a more plain looking woman. (When I remember it correctly it is not so much about not wanting to help the plain looking woman, but more about not noticing her.) Other research has found that even beautiful children are treated and evaluated more kindly, for example by teachers.
    I don’t judge people for doing this – it is afterall a subconscious thing. Actually, I probably do it myself to some degree (although I personally don’t fit the beauty ideal at all). But that does not mean that I don’t think society as a whole should not work against this and in my opinion, these contests do exactly the opposite when it comes to women – they somehow strengthen the idea that beauty is more important than anything else.
    Maybe this is even more true for contest which emphasize that their contestants “also have brains”. Having “brains” almost comes as an afterthought, like in “our girls are beautiful and, oh yeah, they also have brains”. This makes me to some degree angry, because I have seen situations where in my opinion beauty should not be the main criterium and yet it often is. As a person that is seen as not beautiful by most people I do carry part of the consequences of that, because even in the situations when my looks really should not be important at all they clearly are influencing how other people evaluate me.
    The thing is that the contestant in the article who said she would rather have beauty than brains because if she wasn’t beautiful nobody would listen to her anyways was to some degree right. It is – fortunately – not always true, for example, I truly never consciously experienced that I was evaluated worse by a professor at my university because I am not beautiful. But there are situations when this is true and while this is problematic for beautiful and not so beautiful women alike because being judged mainly on your looks is not a great thing, as a not so beautiful woman I have a hard time not to feel somewhat bitter about it.
    The article mentions that these contests provide a chance to be in the spotlight for the contestants. I understand the need to be in the spotlight very well – I love being on stage, acting, or even just presenting a paper. It is exciting, and I have to admit that I enjoy having the attention of the audience. The problem is that as a not so beautiful woman I have a lot less opportunities to be in the spotlight, and I am not talking about modeling or beauty contests here. I have acted a lot, and although I am for a non-professional quite good at it I have only once since I was a teenager played a role that wasn’t an old woman. I still got interesting roles, and I am thankful for that. Yet I find it frustrating. There are also dancers who are really good in technique and expression but who end up in second line because they don’t fit the beauty ideal, and singers whose looks seem to be more important than their voice (not to talk about that women of certain body shapes are often discouraged to learn to dance in the first place). And it is often not even that the audience would not enjoy their performance because of their looks – it is that they frequently never get a chance to try out if the audience would like watching them or listening to them. To my mind this is seriously screwed up.

  2. kay says:

    hey mama,
    as someone who competed in pageants i can tell you that they are weird, i have done things that would never be thought of in the “normal” world..like applying products to various parts of my body to drawing on a six pack with lipstick…yes i know..(rolls eyes)
    i am from the south and i unfortunately embodied that southern belle little pageant girl image, and i do think it played right into my eating disorder…my nana would reward me with ice cream if i won, since i couldn’t eat it normally because there were swimsuit parts..
    of course the pre-proffesional ballet couldn’t have made things any better, i think that always having to be “the winner’ or wanting to be thought of as beautiful..did bad things to my head…now i value my estuteness, and ability to converse in 4 languages, my goals to be an ambassador…i am not saying i have been completely freed from the other mindset because i think we all want to feel like we are viewed as “good looking” but it isn’t at the top of my list
    love ya
    kay

  3. smudgeruk says:

    The photo of the child – that is a photo of her, right? It looks like a little doll! I find the child pageants so disturbing. I’ve seen documentaries about them, and what always strikes me is that it’s often their mums that seem to revel in the victories, that enjoy the prize money, that push and push their little darlings…
    The only minor gripe I have with what you’ve written is that it is important to remember that a lot of women don’t actually *choose* to become prostitutes. Eastern European women are frequently trafficked illegally into Britain, lured by the promise of well-paid jobs, and find themselves kept locked in brothels as sex slaves. Not a lot of choice for them.

  4. mamaV says:

    Hi Sannanina: Thank you for your in depth perspective. I read every word of it and I agree with it.
    However, I am a realist. I believe that the reality of the world, is the reality of the world. Beauty is king, and I don’t see this changing on a broad scale. Therefore, I have always encouraged women to look at the reality, and then make their own sense of it.
    Is it fair? No.
    Is it hurtful? Absolutely.
    Do you options? I believe yes.
    To that I say- what are you going to do about it? Sit around griping, or make the most of yourself and all your talents and abilities so you shine?
    Let’s look at this from the beautiful person side. I fit the stereotypical blond haired, blue eyed beauty. Even as I age, I am on the high side of the beauty scale. I know this and do not deny it because it would be fake if I did.
    Do I have an advantage? Yes
    Do people listen to me more intently? Yes
    Do they think I am smart because of it? Yes
    Do some hate me because of it? Yes
    How does this leave me feeling? Sometimes shitty, sometimes good.
    Here’s why-
    In the business world, I have a step up, I have their attention and I get my message across. But I know inside its because I fit the beauty ideal. That is frankly scary. Its not like I am thinking inside “hehehe, I fooled them, too bad for the uglies. I am thinking- “that was kind of b.s., was I taken seriously?”
    On the dating side, the boys love you, but do they love you for you? Na. They love you for the trophy factor. I had more guys “fall in love” with me than I would care to remember…but were they in love with me? No, they were in love with what I looked like.
    Maybe you read this and think- who cares, I would rather be you. That’s fair, just don’t believe that its easier because beauty carries with it a burden that can’t be understood unless you live it.
    My motto is stay classy (got that from Will Ferrell, cracks me up, but its true). Flaunting beauty is so totally lame, but don’t dress or act down either. Be a class act. Be you, be smart, know the reality of the world, and don’t ever, ever count on beauty getting you in the door.
    Does that make any sense?
    Love,
    mamaV

  5. sannanina says:

    mamaV – I absolutely get that being beautiful has its down side (just as being rich, and even being smart does). And I am certainly not going to sit at home pitying myself for not being beautiful, hating beautiful people because they have advantages over me. (There are many reasons why this would be stupid and unfair in itself. For one, beautiful people have not created this inequality. In addition I myself have many advantages over other people in my life that I never did anything to deserve.) I just want people to be aware that on average beautiful people have advantages over not so beautiful people and that beauty pageants to some degree support this dynamic.
    In the end I am not so much bothered by pageants (although I do think they objectify women and that they are anything BUT truly empowering and although I will not support them for those reasons). What bothers me more is that in many instances people are not just subconsiously but quite openly judged on their looks even in contexts where looks should play a minimal or no role at all. For example, I really have a problem with people commenting on a singer that “she is beautiful” before saying anything about her voice – if they would say first “she has a wonderful voice” and then “she is beautiful” I really wouldn’t have that much of a problem with it, but unfortunately this is often not what happens. I also believe that in the end this kind of thing hurts everyone who is truly talented in a certain area – a not so beautiful person might not get a chance in the first place, a beautiful person might be stuck asking herself if she would be successful even if she wasn’t beautiful.
    I completely get what you say about dating, and I think it is true for many other areas as well. But it cuts both ways. When people don’t pay attention to me I am stuck with thinking if they don’t do so because of my looks or if I have a flawed personality (or in other areas, if I am not smart enough). I cannot rule out either possibility… after all if I am truly not suited for a specific task I want to know that so I concentrate on something else, and if I have a weakness in my personality I want to know that, too, so I can work on it. Also, if a guy pays attention to me I, too, have to question his motives – because some guys go for girls that are not mainstream attractive because they think they are “easy to get”, or worse, some guys fake interest just to make a joke out of you. Fortunately most guys (certainly most grown-up guys) are not like that, but in addition to that a lot of perfectly nice guys have reacted quite negatively to the thought of me being attracted to them – something which makes it really hard to show any signs of being attracted to someone at all.

  6. anon says:

    “In the business world, I have a step up, I have their attention and I get my message across. But I know inside its because I fit the beauty ideal. That is frankly scary. Its not like I am thinking inside “hehehe, I fooled them, too bad for the uglies. I am thinking- “that was kind of b.s., was I taken seriously?”
    On the dating side, the boys love you, but do they love you for you? Na. They love you for the trophy factor. I had more guys “fall in love” with me than I would care to remember…but were they in love with me? No, they were in love with what I looked like.
    Maybe you read this and think- who cares, I would rather be you. That’s fair, just don’t believe that its easier because beauty carries with it a burden that can’t be understood unless you live it.
    My motto is stay classy (got that from Will Ferrell, cracks me up, but its true). Flaunting beauty is so totally lame, but don’t dress or act down either. Be a class act. Be you, be smart, know the reality of the world, and don’t ever, ever count on beauty getting you in the door.
    Does that make any sense?” –mamaV
    mamaV,
    Yes, it makes sense, to a degree. In what way does it apply is the more apt question, I think. First, to what beauty standard, or ideal, do you refer? Presumably, the image of some soon-to-be emaciated starlet (Keira Knightley?) or seasoned class act (Nicole Kidman? Angelina Jolie?) plastered across magazine covers as potential sufferers of ED’s. I won’t even bother with the issue of class here, but did you, or do you, ever once take into consideration issues of race, class, sexual orientation, or other issues that would account for discrimination? Do you think opportunities afforded to you would be equally available to black or Latina women, or women without financial means (in the US)?
    “Just don’t believe that its easier because beauty carries with it a burden that can’t be understood unless you live it.”
    Okay, this is the quote I take issue with the most. You act as if beauty is the worst form of oppression a woman can experience. I think many out there would argue that you’ve got it pretty damn easy. The most offensive part of your statement is the complete disregard for the experiences of women who are not, by society’s standards, considered beautiful, and, in fact, considered invisible due to race, class, sexual orientation, and age (to name a few discriminatory factors (none that include the unfortunate case of having to be perceived as ‘beautiful’). In other words, get over the beauty thing. Sorry, I understand it was an issue for you, but I really do not believe that being beautiful (or achieving a standard of beauty) is at the core of most (and I emphasize *most* and not all) ED’s.
    “Let’s look at this from the beautiful person side. I fit the stereotypical blond haired, blue eyed beauty. Even as I age, I am on the high side of the beauty scale. I know this and do not deny it because it would be fake if I did.
    Do I have an advantage? Yes
    Do people listen to me more intently? Yes
    Do they think I am smart because of it? Yes
    Do some hate me because of it? Yes
    How does this leave me feeling? Sometimes shitty, sometimes good.”
    These final lines of your post, to me, are quite disturbing. Not only a blatant recognition, but almost an embrace of a “shitty,” yet “sometimes good” way of privileging standards of beauty (at least yours and those you prescribe to), over, what?, an image of womanly beauty that supersedes anything you could imagine outside your own narrow perception of femininity or the ‘feminine’ ideal. Hate to break it to ya’, but you are a white, attractive, middle-upper class woman, living the so-called American dream (easier to achieve for some than others). Of course you experience the “sometimes good,” and in fact “most times better,” than non-white US women who face (not just the reality of not melding with society’s pathetic notion of beauty, based on a non-blonde hair, blue-eyed, thin version of beauty, to which you seem to subscribe), but also the harsh realities of racism and sexism, to say the least.
    Ultimately, though I understand what motivates your blog, I am troubled by a cause that elides so many significant components to various forms of eating disorders. I feel you too easily collapse a complex and multi-layered issue(s) into simplistic monoliths that only serve to impinge, rather than promote knowledge of, the diverse and manifold reality of an ED sufferer.

  7. pageantL says:

    Hi, mamaV, I was the one who originally commented about pageants. I want to point out that the competition of won in the interview portion most of the time (which is 30% of the judging). That’s why most of the time it isn’t the prettiest contestant who wins – but those off course are the serious pageants like Miss USA and Miss America where holding a title is a job, so the judges pick someone who will be able to not only give speaches in front of hundreds of people but also handle the media well. When a winnder cannot fullfill those duties she is often dethroned for the runner-up (or if innappropriate photos show up of her online, as it happened to a few big time winners in the past few years).

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