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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Beauty pageants continue to create harmful beauty standards for women

    The first modern beauty pageants took place in the United States in the 19th Century, with the first Miss United States pageant held at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in 1880, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

    Today, beauty contests are popular in many parts of the world. The largest pageant is the Miss World competition, which attracts billions of viewers in 120 countries each year. 

    Unfortunately, beauty contests advertise a definition of female beauty to which only a minority of women can realistically aspire. They  aggressively encourage eating disorders and cosmetic surgery, and at the very least make women feel ugly in comparison to this beauty pageant “perfection.” 

    Exalting a woman for beauty alone reduces women back to beings that only exist to be looked at—this is a shame, when in almost every other aspect of life, there have been great advances in women’s equality.

    Pageants based on judging women solely on their looks enforces the subjugation of women, because qualities such as intelligence are unfortunately not seen as part of the “ideal” femininity. 

    In addition, the feminine ideals promoted by beauty contests are very culturally specific and western—it really does not matter how many African women win the Miss World pageant, they can still only do so if they take part in the swimsuit competition. 

    In many countries, this is not considered an appropriate thing for women to do, and can cause backlash for women who dare take part in the swimsuit portion of the competition. 

    This sort of cultural clash has led to protests and violence of beauty pageants in many countries. In 1996, demonstrations against the Miss World pageant were led by feminists and Hindu nationalists in India. Miss World protests in Nigeria in 2002 resulted in more than 200 deaths and led to the contest ultimately being moved to London.

    A minority of societies and governments are considering a ban on beauty contests. However, I feel that a ban is a very blunt instrument with which to attack the institution of pageants. 

    Banning beauty contests would do so little to destroy the ideal of beauty pageants promote—these standards are already deeply embedded in society. This is the problem that should truly be addressed within the currently existing pageant system. 

    Pageants could also be opened up to include men, somewhat leveling the playing field for men to be judged more on their looks. 

    The pageants could also be changed in scope to include a broader ideal of beauty and promote other characteristics besides beauty alone in young women and people in general.

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    Beauty pageants continue to create harmful beauty standards for women