Friday, May 15, 2009

Publicly Sponsored Beauty Pageants

The recent flap about a Miss America contestant’s answer to a controversial question has put beauty contests in the spotlight. For a number of years my town has held a beauty pageant as part of its annual Independence Day celebration. For the record, I think this is a misuse of taxpayer funds and a misuse of city government’s title and resources.

To me, the whole concept of beauty pageants is inane, yet there is a whole pageant industry that promotes the concept. Demand for this kind of entertainment obviously exists. Still I question the morality of it.

A few weeks ago, the front page of the community section of our local newspaper featured a large color photo of some young women that were competing in the swimsuit portion of a different local beauty contest. These girls did not look like benign catalog models. Some of their swimwear was rather minimal. The angle of the photo, the …uh… clothing, the body makeup, the high heels, and the stances made it look an awful lot like porn.

You can argue all you want that only the willing are involved and that prizes are awarded for factors other than physical beauty, such as talent, scholarship, etc. But as stated in this Wikipedia article, “Although some competitions have components that are not based purely on physical appearance, “unattractive” contestants are unlikely to win, no matter how talented, poised, intelligent, educated, resourceful or socially conscious they are.”

The desired ‘beauty’ qualities promoted by these contests unquestionably lead some (perhaps most) contestants to engage in unhealthy practices. A very narrow ideal is promoted that relatively few girls and women have the physical capacity to achieve. This type of thing is already far too prevalent in media and it certainly fosters unhealthy perceptions and practices.

I have often told my wife that I seriously hope that our daughter never develops an interest in beauty pageant competition. Ditto for drill team dance. All too frequently I see girls dressed like trollops and performing dance moves that would be considered morally reprehensible were they performed on a stage on the Las Vegas strip. Most of these are groups that are sponsored by our public schools. I’m not too thrilled about cheerleading either.

OK, so I’m an old stick in the mud. Actually, I think people ought to be free to participate in these kinds of activities as much as they want — as long as it doesn’t happen on the taxpayer’s dime or under the rubric of government. And as long as it doesn’t cross the line of child abuse, which I think may be the case in some instances.

I believe that government should in no way lend credence to beauty pageants and similar activities. I do not believe these kinds of events are in the public’s best interest. Yet, if I were to go to the city council and state these sentiments publicly, I’d be treated as a pariah.

1 comment:

Frank Staheli said...

For the reasons you state, I was glad that my oldest daughter didn't participate in our city's beauty pageant. I'm reasonably comfortable that my 14-year-old will not either.

I agree that they're a waste of time. However, as you said, if I were to suggest that my city save money by cutting the beauty pageant from the city celebration, they'd think I was insane. After all, who'd ride on the float in our city parade and about all of the other parades in Utah county?