The efficacy of beauty pageants is often debated. Some people argue that pageants contribute to self-esteem and self-worth, while others say the process is degrading and can lead to prolonged and permanent psychological issues.
According to pageant operators, the purpose of these events is to promote body positivity and to encourage self-care, but are pageants doing anything to ensure girls and women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds are viewed through an objective lens?
Efforts Toward Change
In recent years, the world has witnessed transgender participants both disqualified and welcomed to compete in pageants. Additionally, many pageants are now presenting more diversified talent, and efforts have been made to include pageantry options for plus-sized individuals. Finally, the Miss America pageant eliminated its swimsuit competition in 2018. While many positive changes have occurred and continue to occur, are they enough to distract from the pedestal of commercialism that seems to dictate the terms of beauty?
A Steep Hill To Climb
It is impossible to ignore the underlying problem of conventional beauty pageants: women are rated on their appearance, which dictates their success. It is a cynical message, to say the least. The idea that a select few women represent the cultural ideal of beauty and that all women must alter their appearance to conform to such standards if they wish to be deemed beautiful is ludicrous and insulting.
A platform where women compete based on appearance is degrading, and it has a long history of promoting body-shaming, low-self-worth, and eating disorders. While pageants stand by their mission to promote body positivity, the reality is counter to the desire.
Winners of beauty pageants might feel the sense of self-worth and accomplishment that comes from taking home a prize and trophy but is that self-worth built on the individual presence or outsider appreciation.
Finding Worth From the Inside Out
Beauty pageants are trying to create more inclusive environments, and some of the messaging is starting to include a more body-positive focus. However, the presence and popularity of pageants are still problematic from a self-esteem standpoint. As a woman, the constant and daily battle is proving you are more than your body.
The sexualization and objectification of the female form is nothing new; it is engrained in society. Pageants epitomize the belief that physical form means more than psychological value. While telling women to look inward to find their beauty and power is simple, it is not a straightforward process.
Women are bombarded every day with magazines, social commentary, and any number of mediums and personal relationships telling them how to look and act. The idea of physical beauty becomes an obsession, and unfortunately, pageants continue to promote it.
There is no way a beauty pageant can ever promote the idea that inner beauty — confidence, intelligence, compassion, etc. — is more valuable than external beauty because it is a competition based on physical attributes above all else.
Realizing All Women Are Beautiful
All women, all people really, are beautiful; it is a message everyone should get behind. Your physical appearance does not and should not represent your worth to yourself or society. Your goal in life should be to be as healthy and happy as possible so that you can live as long as possible.
Beauty pageants are trying to change. Still, as long as they promote physical worth as equivalent to self-worth, they continue to fail.
How do you feel about recent beauty pageant changes, and do you think it's enough?