Pageantry or Problem?

Pageants are like politics; you avoid the topic because people always have a strong opinion one way or the other. It’s bad enough Uncle Bob is a Republican and Aunt May can’t stop bringing up Healthcare, no need to throw Beauty Pageants into that grease fire.

With shows like TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, the pageant world has fallen under daily public scrutiny. The young women who choose to shine under spotlights must suffer harsh criticism and open distain.

Yet, the women that glide across the beauty pageant stage can stand tall, for they walk in the footsteps of some of the fiercest and most powerful Goddesses in Greek Mythology.

It was Athena, Goddess of War, Hera, Goddess of Marriage, and Aphrodite, Goddess of Love that competed against each other for the title of most beautiful in history’s very first pageant. Their judge, Paris of Troy (yes, that Troy) eventually named Aphrodite the Fairest, as she promised to gift Paris the most beautiful mortal woman as his wife, Helene. So started the Trojan War, but that’s neither here nor there.

The stereotypes and stigma that surround modern day pageants may be very unfair considering the origins of the practice. Women who compete in pageants suffer the assumptions that they are merely objects, worth nothing but to stand there and look pretty. Tall, skinny, and traditionally blond with white skin, the women fall under fire for focusing so heavily on the physical and not on anything more “substantial.”

There is the argument that pageants provide scholarships and opportunities to the contestants, but though that’s true, the women are viewed as unintelligent or exceedingly shallow. It may surprise some, but the Miss America Pageant is heavily focused on the academic, earning the status as the largest provider of scholarship money to young women in the United States and throughout the world. The winner, and several of the runners up, earn scholarships to any University or higher education of their choice.

For my research, I wish to wade into this sea of spray tans, scholarships, and controversy. My own notions of this world are few, for I was never a pageant child and I’m not sure my mother would know false eyelashes from lint. I want to dive into the unknown, the surreal, and find out more about this aspect that so deeply affects the world’s notion of my gender.

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5 thoughts on “Pageantry or Problem?

  1. Great project, Jessica! I agree with you about the incorrect public perception of pageant competitors. My wife covered Miss America for a number of years (back in the 1980s – yes, we’re old) and was pleasantly surprised to see how intelligent, well-spoken and talented the women were. By the way, as lovers of all things New Jersey, she and I are thrilled that the pageant is back in Atlantic City. Enjoy!

  2. Hi Jessica,

    I think this is a great world to explore, considering how big pageants have become on television and as an activity for younger girls. Would love to hear about the information you find if you actually attend a pageant. I think you were looking more at the adult pageants rather than the kid’s ones, right?

  3. Great topic, Jessica. I wonder if we can dove-tail my roller derby research with beauty pageants. There is a certain exhibitionism in both.

  4. Hi Jessica,

    Is there a certain age group that you’re targeting as part of your research? It seems like the younger age groups take pageants as seriously as the older ones do. Do you find that to be true?

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