Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Are Beauty Pageants necessary?

     On June 16th, 2015 billionaire businessman Donald Trump announced his intentions to run for President. While he is among a number of Republican candidates vying for the White House, remarks made during his announcement regarding immigration as well as the Mexican and Mexican-American community has sparked outrage for being outright discriminatory, bigoted, and inflammatory. The fear mongering comes from claims Trump has made that suggest all Mexicans who illegally cross the border are “rapists” and “drug dealers,” only later elaborating on this point a few days later following media backlash by stating that such criminal activities are not unique to Mexicans but rather all people who enter the United States undocumented from the southern border, whether the be Mexican, Central American, or South American.
     In response, Univision, the Spanish language American broadcasting giant, broke a contract with Trump and refused to air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, pageants which are facilitated by Trump enterprise The Miss Universe Organization. NBCUniversal, the other owner of The Miss Universe Organization later sided with Univision in their own refusal to broadcast the program on their own networks. While the decision to cut ties with Donald Trump stems from the insensitive comments he has made about Mexican immigrants, any talk of beauty pageants brings into focus a different conversation, one which begs the question as to whether or not beauty pageants are even a necessary component of a supposedly modern culture and that if events like Miss USA and Miss Universe are inherently at odds with the values of a 21st century America.
     While various beauty pageants over the years have tried to emphasize their focus on scholarship and intangible non-physical qualities like congeniality, intelligence, and generosity, there is something intrinsic within these pageants that passively displays women’s bodies for judgment on their appropriateness and acceptability. Pageant culture has run rampant in the United States, especially in the past few decades, where women will begin preparing for such events as Miss USA from infancy a la Toddlers and Tiaras. To watch grown women paraded on stage dressed in identical bikinis awaiting judgment from predominantly male judges seems almost too archaic to be congruent to what it is we’re used to in the media. While women experience objectification and commodification on many levels and in many avenues, there is something so blatant and overt about pageants which creates a sort of dissonance that is difficult to reconcile. If we aspire to become a more feminist society, we must abandon the notion that women’s bodies are public spaces in which we can project our criticisms and judgments.