I’ve never understood the point of beauty pageants. Women parading in bathing suits and gowns, and being asked “thought-provoking” questions and answering “my hope is that there will be world peace one day,” always made me cringe. Out of curiosity, I wondered what the rules were to participate in beauty pageants and I was quite amused. According to http://www.missteendreamusa.com, you must be of excellent moral character. How is that determined? Is there a “morality” quiz that’s given to the contestants beforehand? Another rule is that all “delegates should be in good health and of sound mind during all aspects of the Pageant process.” Again, how is that determined? What if you’ve struggled with mental illness in the past? Are you disqualified if you have a panic attack during the pageant process? There are too many blurred lines where one could be discriminated.
I thought about my teen years and how my family would’ve reacted if I had told them I was interested in being in a beauty pageant. I also thought about the women in my family. My maternal grandmother was a strong woman from Haiti who raised eight children with practically no help from her husband. He passed away at a young age while living abroad and my grandmother stayed a widow until her death. Despite the little education that she had, she was able to raise her children alone, which was practically unheard of at the time. She fought against sexism, classism, and racism and was able to strive for excellence despite these challenges. She was a wonderful and intelligent woman who had a heart of gold.
My mom and my aunts all immigrated to Canada and the US and also fought again similar encounters (race, class, sexism). These struggles were battled while obtaining a college/university degree, while finding and keeping a job, and striving in a workplace, and doing all that and more and keeping a household running. I couldn’t ask for better role models.
With all these exemplary models surrounding me, and knowing their stories; I wouldn’t think of parading in a gown with a sash and being scored on my looks. Women before me have gone through too much.
I also think about Therese Okoumou, a 44-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. On July 4th (American Independence Day), she decided to silently protest against President Trump’s no tolerance policy on immigration and migrant children who have been taken away from their parents. She did that by climbing up the Statue of Liberty and sitting on the monument’s base. I was amazed at this woman’s courage, composure, and determination. I don’t know many women who would go to that extent to make their point. Despite not saying anything, Therese made an influential statement that will not only empower other women but especially those who have had their children taken away from them.
Are beauty pageants still relevant in 2018? I believe there are some aspects that can be. I see nothing wrong with empowering candidates on exploring their self-confidence by showing them the effects of daily exercise and other tools, such as creating a budget that they’ll be able to use in the future. Beauty pageants can create organizations for women that don’t involve competing with their looks. As much as I love watching YouTube tutorials on creating that perfect face contour, there needs to be a balance and maybe encourage more girls in leaning into sports and future careers in engineering and science.
Maybe if we created more organizations to empower young girls, there would be more women world leaders. That would also mean that the gender pay gap would be something of the past, right?