Beauty pageants say they’re changing – don’t believe them | Gender equality

There’s something amiss in the land of sequins and hairspray.

In August, the Miss Universe pageant announced that it would expand the group of eligible contestants to include married women and mothers at the next pageant in 2023, removing the 70 rule. age forbid them.

An internal memo announcing the policy change states: “We all believe that women should have the right to self-determination over their lives and that personal decisions should not be barriers to their success.” The move has been welcomed as a nod to inclusion and a step away from sexist expectations.

Also in August, a Miss England contestant broke the history of that pageant to become the first person to compete bare-handed. By ditching makeup, 20-year-old Melisa Raouf says she is “embracing imperfections and imperfections”. This is not the first time women have tried to defy the standards in beauty pageants. Last year, during the Miss Universe pageant, Miss Bahrain Manar Nadeem Deyani refused to wear a bikini in the swimsuit competition, instead she only wore a black outfit.

That’s all well, but here’s the hard truth. Policy adjustments and small acts of rebellion from participants cannot obscure the fact that beauty pageants have become increasingly jarring and out of place in our time.

To qualify for Miss Universe, the highest international beauty pageant, women applying in each country must be between 18 and 28 years old. The contestants were technically assessed in three categories: evening wear, personality interview and swimsuit competition. However, the most important requirement, which today is little acknowledged in writing, is that women must be stereotypically thin and beautiful.

Of them Skin color may varyBut in the midst of so many changes and nods of integration, there is still no place for wide noses, defects or stretch marks in beauty contests.

Officially, the Miss Universe organization will let us believe that beauty is not a requirement at all, let alone the basis of this money-making business, which makes $5 million in annual sales. five. It describes itself as a comprehensive, global organization that “celebrates all cultures, backgrounds and religions” and provides participants with “the tools to influence positive change.” personally, professionally and philanthropically”.

In other words, a mission sounds very noble.

Other beauty contests inspired by Miss Universe. For example, the slogan for the Miss South Africa pageant is similar: “Face your strength. Embrace your future. Nodding to the advancements that women have made in society, beauty pageants are quick to remind us that contestants are people with careers and ambitions.

However, to see a revolving door of women judged on how much they express femininity and march on the stage certainly feels like going back to the distant past in which women were seen but rarely heard.

After all, the expectation that contestants must be childless and unmarried has a fairly clear historical basis: using young, beautiful and virgin women as bait to attract business is how The beauty contest begins.

In 1920, the owner of the Monticello Hotel in Atlantic City launched marketing conspiracy to extend the business season beyond Labor Day in the United States. He sold the idea to fellow business people who saw monetary potential for all of them: What about a parade of 350 pretty girls to attract tourists? Incidentally, 1920 was also when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote, after a century of often fiercely pro-feminist campaigning. Years later, this parade turned into the spectacle it is today.

Of course, beauty pageants have been trying to maintain a presence in societies that are more likely than they used to be when it comes to seeing women make up the majority of college graduates who are the mainstay in the industry. families and world leaders.

One notable misguided attempt to transition the pageant to modern times took place during the Miss Peru 2018 pageant. During the swimsuit competition, the contestants paraded around the stage in yellow bikinis while a screen was displayed. Large background screened newspaper headlines narrated real stories of men’s violence against women. “Man kills woman and her child”, “Man strangles woman with rope”, “Stalker stabs pregnant woman, runs away”, “Drunk man beats wife to death” and “63 women raped every day” read the headlines while a local artist sang a heartbreaking song about women’s empowerment.

Clearly troubled by its awkward position in the modern world, the competition managed to present itself as alive to the Latin American and Caribbean awakening against male violence directed against women. , also known as “Ni Una Menos“movement.

At the end of the day, however, these superficial policy changes represent marketing strategies with expiration dates. These must be indicators that the organizers know that the future of beauty pageants is unpredictable.

Viewers of Miss Universe pageants worldwide have been steadily declining for decades. Public disinterest is the clearest sign that this ancient institution and its hundreds of branches – where women are considered captured and abandoned one by one – have been too welcoming to them.

No amount of lipstick or makeup can change that. It’s time to abolish them.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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