The mere existence of beauty pageants seems to contradict everything that feminists over the years have strived for. Despite great efforts in the women’s movement for equality and less gender bias in our society, Miss America pageants is seen as a setback in many people’s eyes. Pageants now perpetuate women’s passive role in society. It backs the stereotypical idea that all women need to be successful are good looks. After all, the pageant itself is based primarily on the physical characteristics that our society has deemed conventional of the time.
The picture below shows the Miss America protest in 1968, as the rise of feminism and the civil rights movement was beginning to show speed and progress.
Not only do pageants serve as a tool to place women in a subordinate role similar to the 1950’s era, but also it creates an unrealistic body image for women of all ages. At a young age, girls notice the appearance of the pageant contestants and assume that is how everyone should look. Little do they know, that the contestants represent a small portion of our society and in no way reflect an ‘average’ woman. These young girls will never live up to the expectations that they assumed was necessary. Mature women are also affected by these pageants. Men see the contestants and fantasize that their own girlfriend had the same striking qualities. So, as women we try and live up to these expectations. Nevertheless, the majority of us fail in comparison.
Another negative aspect of how beauty pageants affect our society is the proliferation of ‘child pageants’. Now at a young age, girls are subject to the immense time and effort of looking the part of a beauty contestant, mostly at the urge of a mother trying to live vicariously through her daughter. We are now seeing girls at the age of four and five getting spray tans and fake nails. Contestants at the age of 10 are now worried about their bodies and whether they have what it takes to be considered beauty pageant eligible.
Here is a video that shows the trials and tribulations of young girls having to compete in beauty pageants.
If you have the time then check out this article written by Amanda Angelotti, a former beauty contestant, who gives an insider scoop into pageant life and its true anti-feminist realities.