Home Web Specials 2016 Web Specials Is there ever a positive side to beauty pageants?

Is there ever a positive side to beauty pageants?

Women protest Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, NJ in 1968 - Photograph: Daena/pinterest

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Women deserve to be treated like people and not like some prized farm animal on display, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

On a personal level, I have to admit, beauty pageants make me queasy because it sends out a pretty clear message that only beautiful women succeed in life.

Beauty pageants and other similar events where women are made to prance around all dolled up with fake smiles plastered on their faces have increasingly becoming more controversial.

The negative impacts they have will definitely resonate especially on young girls.

The pressure to look good and the expectations society presents to a large number of women can lead to adverse psychological effects – body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders and plastic surgeries, to name a few.

The unrealistic expectations and societal pressure set out the bizarre idea of perfection – one dictated by men and driven by illusory values that stem from misogyny.

Beauty pageants and reality shows which promote pageantry values (i.e. Next Top Model, Toddlers & Tiaras, The Swan, etc) highlight hyper-sexualisation because female contestants are judged upon appearance and harshly criticised in the most demeaning manner.

As a result, women and young girls grow up in an environment where their self-confidence and self-worth are viciously destroyed.

In recent years, these pageants have been repackaged and rebranded as something positive and beneficial for their contestants, but, unfortunately, the grim reality is that such ideas feed into a larger and more destructive cultural framework that dehumanises women.

For instance, pageants like Miss Universe offer scholarships and present platforms for women to step up – when packaged nicely, one might truly believe that such organisations are the beacon of women’s self-empowerment.

Unfortunately, reality presents something else – the conditions cemented before a woman can achieve this, having been judged and pre-judged only reinforce distorted standards of beauty.

Pageants and reality shows that focus on superficial beauty objectify our bodies and undervalue women’s minds.

Unfortunately for some of us, getting rid of pageants is not a feasible solution; like it or not, pageants will be around for a very long time.

Why? Simple economics. The profits generated from these pageants will override logic and reason.

However, as a feminist, I ultimately believe it is a women’s choice to participate in such events.

I don’t want to speak ill of the women who participate in such events; participating in pageants does not make you a bad person.

However, those who intend to participate should (at least) brush up on their cultural references, current issues and look beyond “world peace” as the token response to any questions thrown at them.

The sad truth is, despite the progress women have made over the decades, there are still plenty of reminders of how far we still have to go – we are still struggling to fight for basic rights like the wage gap and to end sexual violence.

It just seems a bit bizarre that while feminism is increasing its influence in the Malaysian socio-political sphere, the average Malaysians still cannot seem to figure out a way out of this conundrum, with something as obviously misogynist and retrograde as beauty pageants.

Women are so much more than looks; we have brains and personalities.

We deserve to be treated like people and not like some prized farm animal on display.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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