Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do Beauty Pageants Serve Any Purpose in Today’s Society?

There are beauty pageants, and contestants, of all different shapes and sizes. Thousands of awards have been given to young girls around the world for being “the most beautiful girl”. But is it really all just glitz and glamour? Or do the scholarships and self-esteem boosting competitions really help young women across the world?

Miss America:
The most popular beauty pageant, of course, is Miss America. Miss America was not always as glamorous as it is now. “It started out as a promotional gimmick -- dreamed up by Atlantic City businessmen in 1921, as a way to keep tourists in town after Labor Day.” According to Leonard Horn, the former CEO of Miss America, “It was one of the first, if not the first instances of the marriage between advertising and the beauty of the female form which was ingenious because from then on many, many advertisers thought they could get more attention by putting a good looking woman into the picture.” However, many people oppose Miss America as well. In 1968, a group of feminists went to the Atlantic City Boardwalk to send the message across that Miss America is “an image that oppresses women in every area in which it purports to represent us.” Beauty pageants are so popular that no matter what people do, there will always be “lovers and haters”.

The Incident:
The “haters” would most likely use one of the more recent examples, Lauren Upton’s (Miss South Carolina 2007) response to why some Americans cannot find their country on a map. Many Americans also thought the video of the incident was sheer entertainment. In a recent article talking about Miss Pakistan 2010 Catherine Porter from the Toronto Star commented saying, “she is nothing like the cute, bubbly Miss South Carolina Teen USA who became a symbol of pageant vacuousness and a YouTube sensation three years ago, with her answer to why one-fifth of Americans can't find the USA on a map. (She sputtered on about South Africa and then Iraq. Watch it if you are feeling glum. It's a sure pick-you-up).

One of the top reasons why women enter these contests is to win scholarships. These opportunities available to any young woman who wishes to compete is what advocates beauty pageants would say they are all about. The scholarships are awarded to:

  • Miss America Winners

  • Miss America runner ups

  • State competitors

  • Local competitors

  Horrific Truth About Pageant Life:
JonBenet Ramsey
Six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, pictured above, was found beaten and strangled just hours after she went missing in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado in 1996. She was a child beauty pageant contestant with, still today, an unsolved murder case.
 During a Larry King Live interview with Lin Wood, the attorney for John and Patsy Ramsey, Wood discussed the problem the Ramsey family faced with the police department. When asked about whether there was any information that the Boulder Police would deliberately frame the family, Wood replied, “You know, Larry, there was -- evidence was established that there was, in fact, a plan by the Boulder Police Department to leak information accusatory to the Ramseys to the media, in an effort to convince the public that they were guilty, to pressure them so that somehow they might confess.”
Murder because of fame, uncommon yet possible, is high on the list of reasons why Miss America pageants do not serve a good purpose in society. There is much opposition of beauty pageants, especially child ones, but some people are saying they are good for children.

Opinions Differ:
            Jane Treays filmed two child beauty pageant stars, Brooke and Asia, in 1995 competing for the title of Charm Pageant winner. Treays then interviewed them separately ten years after competing to find out what happened to those childhood stars. When asked how they were now, 15-year-old Brooke said, “The pageants helped me…gave me confidence, helped me focus.” Unlike Brooke, Asia still competed in them and has won eight titles in the last two years. She said, “It’s cute when little kids tackle those adult songs. And I regularly teach pageant techniques to young neighborhood girls.” Although their lives turned out very differently, neither of them was negatively affected by the pageants.

Personal Opinion:
            All of the evidence, good and bad, has an impact on whether or not beauty pageants serve a purpose in today’s society. Depending on someone’s personality, they could be more focused on the fact that they provide scholarships, or still be baffled by Miss South Carolina’s response. There are hundreds of reasons why beauty pageants do and do not serve a purpose in today’s society; it’s a matter of personal opinion. Even though I have never been to a beauty pageant, I think that they do serve a purpose in society. The scholarships and lessons learned are extremely beneficial to young women and offer a great opportunity to them. Just like Brooke said in her interview, the pageants help young girls become confident in themselves and focus on schoolwork. After researching beauty pageants, there is a part of me that wishes I participated in them!

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