Is there ever a positive side to beauty pageants?

Syerleena Abdul Rashid
The Malaysian Insider
22 January 2016

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 it has 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 sets 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 judged and pre-judged only reinforces distorted standards of beauty.

Pageants and reality shows that focus on superficial beauty objectifies our bodies and undervalues 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 do 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.

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 ending sexual violence.

It just seems a bit bizarre that while feminism is increasing its influence in the Malaysian socio-political sphere, 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. – January 22, 2016.

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  1. #1 by Sallang on Friday, 22 January 2016 - 4:33 pm

    After Pakatan win in GE14, and come to power, to change the rules of the pageant, ‘No swimsuit’, and all races can participate in Malaysia only.

  2. #2 by good coolie on Friday, 22 January 2016 - 10:01 pm

    Have beauty contests for men, too. Topless!

  3. #3 by Justice Ipsofacto on Saturday, 23 January 2016 - 11:00 am

    Well at least they are all concerned about “world peace” too you know.

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