Gender and Sex

How Beauty Pageants Shape The Perception Of Women

Article by Alexandra Sabalier
June 22, 2018

      Beauty Pageants might be considered a ridiculous tradition to many. The fact that their sole purpose is to judge and categorize women based on their physical assets might be considered simply obnoxious. However, for one reason or another they have been part of the American traditions for decades, and as of now, they are deeply-rooted in most societies.

On this issue, feminists have been one, if not the most, outspoken groups to deter beauty pageants and the compensation to women for fitting into a standard of beauty. Although, I never fully comprehended this until now, there are more than one feminist movements, and each of them has a central belief on what needs to change in society in order for women to truly achieve equality. For purposes of this paper I will focus on the ideologies of liberal feminists, and radical feminists to compare the contrast on their perspectives on beauty pageants, and the effect they cause in how women are perceived by the society.

The first Beauty Pageant in the United States was the Miss America Beauty Pageant. The first contest was in 1921, and from then, the contest has included a swimwear section in which the contestants walked the stage wearing only swimsuits. However, almost a century later, the pageant coordinators have made the decision to give an end to the swimsuit part of the competition, banning the contestants from parading the stage wearing their bikinis. The purpose behind this is supposedly to allow the competition to be one based solely on talents, intelligence, and ideas.

This decision has been the first taken by a beauty pageant to change the course of the contest. However, although I consider this decision to be a logical one because it serves its purpose of channeling the focus of the contest beyond the physical qualities of the contestants, I wonder how much does this really serve to empower women who compete in these type of contests. The issue that arises then is that of whether this campaign of banning the swimwear section out of a beauty pageant truly serves to empower women, and to reverse the 'sexual objectification' of the female bodies.

Although I consider this decision to be a logical one because it serves its purpose of channeling the focus of the contest beyond the physical qualities of the contestants, I wonder how much does this really serve to empower women who compete in these type of contests. The issue that arises then, is that of whether this campaign of banning the swimwear section out of a beauty pageant truly serves to empower women, and to reverse the 'sexual objectification' of the female bodies.

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