There She Is ….

I’m having a debate with my daughter over Miss Universe. She says that, in almost-2022, beauty pageants are still a big deal to most people. I am equally sure that beauty pageants are not a big deal to hardly anybody. When I was growing up, Miss America was a big, wholesome deal. And Miss Universe was a big but perhaps too sexy deal. Then the world spun and it seemed embarrassing for women to parade around in evening gowns and swimsuits and be judged for how they look. (No one is fooled by the inclusion of the grade point average or the earnest answers about current events …) What I wonder is how pageants still survive and how it is that some young women are still game to glue eyelashes and hair extensions on themselves for a panel of oddly qualified judges to measure and assess. I’m told that for some young women from underprivileged backgrounds, this is a ticket to influence and success … and maybe I believe that. The newest Miss Universe if from India and triumphed over runners up from South Africa and Paraguay. Undeniably, these are breathtakingly beautiful and accomplished young women. But this way of celebrating that beauty is pandering to a stereotype that a generation of mothers (some equally beautiful and accomplished) have dedicated their lives to eradicating, out of respect for their daughters. Daughters are the same as sons and if sons completed in this peculiar a fashion, people would be embarrassed. People would find it unbecoming and rightly so. My own daughter asks me, if you remove that path to power for a young woman, what would take its place? Something else, I guess. I don’t know what. But it’s not good enough to suggest that an institution with a few things right with it and so many other things wrong with it persist because it’s some kind of tradition. My daughter says I am being elitist and even reverse-sexist for considering beauty pageants demeaning. But I have friends who were Miss This and That … from Miss Teen USA to Miss Texas to Miss Green County Lakefront Follies. And the comments they heard … and had to overlook as the price of the pageant mindset were often disgusting and sometimes frightening. So if it were up to me, there she is would be there she goes … like so many other things we once thought were a favor to women until we thought it over.

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