There are lots of things I don’t understand. Drinking, partying, religion, drugs, reality television, celebrity worship; they’re all about doing something demeaning because someone told you it was cool (and maybe you’ll get some money out of it.) It’s gotten to the point where I have basically given up trying to figure them out.
But there’s a deficiency in my knowledge that I feel I should strive to correct. I’m of two minds when it comes to beauty pageants, and they’re constantly at war with one another. On one hand, I think that if a bunch of girls want to stand around with fake smiles, coiffed hair, and dresses that look like they went out of style along with powdered wigs, more power to them. Girls like looking pretty, and pretty girls like being looked at. What’s the big deal?
On the other hand, I can’t help but think the whole thing is kind of sexist. Yeah, these days they put more emphasis on scholarship, smarts and world peace, but ultimately the competition comes down to women putting their bodies on display for people to judge.
Its also an issue of choice. No one forces these women to turn themselves into Barbie doll people, but no one exactly forces women to become prostitutes or porn actresses either. These professions exist because men find women desirable, and despite their inherent exploitative nature, some continue to enjoy their patronage.
There’s this comic I like to read called Sinfest that likes to take jabs at things like American imperialism, fanatic religion, gluttony and anti-intellectualism. It’s very irreverent, and had a tendency to make people really angry, which made it an instant favorite
for me. But lately the author has been doing storylines dealing with feminism, and I can’t say that I like it as much anymore.
Now, it’s his comic, and he’s entitled to his opinion, but for a while I couldn’t help but think that the storylines had lost their subtlety and wit. I felt like they were becoming preachy, and dull, and I was somehow losing my favorite comic. Then I took a second to stop and think about it; maybe his style hasn’t changed, maybe it isn’t preachy or different, maybe he just finally hit on something that I don’t 100 percent agree with.
I honestly still don’t know what to think about beauty pageants or feminism in general. Sure, bra burning might be taking things to an extreme, but God knows there’s still enough gender inequality to make a compelling argument that misogyny still exists.
Ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to be up to people like me (i.e. men) to decide whether women should participate in beauty pageants anymore. It’s going to take a shift in women’s collective consciousness, and a decision as to whether they believe pageants are inherently demeaning.
Because the determination has to depend on what women think about the practice. Decide to wear a pretty dress because you like people looking at
you, or don’t because you don’t, and you’ve still made a decision based on someone else’s actions.
Do what you do for you, and no one else.