When people think of pageants they automatically assume the stereotype that pageants are contests for tall, thin, young, barbie girls, however, this is not true. The first Miss America pageant started on December 7, 1921, when a hotel owner in New Jersey wanted to extend the summer tourist season and 15-year-old Margaret Gorman was crowned the first Miss America. Since this day, pageants have developed and evolved from once creating the perfect homemaker to empowering women. Many bans and restrictions have been lifted, as the society evolved, like allowing blacks and married women to compete.
Pageants have always experienced controversy and protests since they began, claiming they diminish women. Recent controversial topics include the discrimination of transgenders, where equality is taken away, and the issue of child beauty pageants, which has harsh criticism for sexulizing and pressuring kids. With talent, interviews, and public speaking, pageants are moving away from aesthetics and towards developing contestants to be intelligent, well spoken, and kind. Pageants are beneficial for young women, including transgenders, but should not be allowed for children.
Participating in a pageant opens many new avenues for everyone, not just the titleholders. Pageants allow girls to have a platform and benefit the community with more involvement. Having a platform allows titleholders to be role models and spread awareness of serious issues. For example, “Nicole Johnson, Miss Virginia, Miss America 1999, like Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995, suffered from a disability–diabetes … This became her platform as Miss America. ” (Martin and Watson 118-119). By winning the pageant, t gave Johnson the ability to raise awareness about her own personal issue, diabetes. Nooruddin, a pageant winner and University of Georgia graduate, advocated for the “Beauty without Barriers” program, which teaches internal beauty. According to Nooruddin, “The peer mentoring group pairs local, state, and national beauty queens with middle school girls to talk about important issues like body image, bullying, and cyber safety” (qtd. Roleff 53). Pageants allow titleholders to discover or create their own programs they can advocate for and connect with the community.
Allowing girls to be role models and help others, this program specifically helps girls with their confidence, values, and discusses major issues that middle school girls face. Pageants influence girls to get involved and benefit others, which in turn, benefits themselves. Pageants promote girls to be the best versions of themselves and improves personal growth. Through pageants, winners can earn scholarships to help financially further their education or teach them leadership qualities.
According to Horton, “The Miss American Coed Pageants have awarded more than $12 million in scholarships and awards to women of many ages with qualities that help them become ‘the leaders of tomorrow” (qtd. in Roleff 28). Programs like the Miss American Coed Pageants encourage girls to become educated leaders by awarding millions of dollars to help their futures. There are also gains for girls that come free with participating in a pageant. For example, Nooruddin states, “The girls must focus on other benefits of pageantry like stage presence, meeting new people, improving interview skills, poise & grace, etc. ” (qtd. n Roleff 53). Pageants help girls with facing stage fright, making new connections throughout communities, practice interviews for jobs, good posture and appearance. These benefits can transpire to helping contestants in their everyday lives. Despite all these benefits, however, many criticize and disagree with pageants. Opposers of pageants claim that they objectify girls bodies and diminish their confidence. Some opinions are that pageants are a way for girls to show off their bodies. For example, Miss Teen USA has had girls, as young as 16, walking in revealing bathing suits on national television (Wilson).
Putting girls in these uncomfortable positions, for all to see, is objectifying their bodies and having a nation look at the girl’s body instead of the girl. Also, some remark that pageants are outdated and no longer evident. According to Flores, “It’s no coincidence that the same pageant that gave us a gay marriage question in 2009 has followed up with an illegal immigration question in 2010” (qtd. in Roleff 37). Critics dispute that the pageant is becoming irrelevant so, Donald Trump has to create controversy to stay in the press and make pageants relevant again. However, critics do not see the whole story.
Pageants give girls confidence in who they are. Pageants are constantly adapting to society’s needs and help girls of any size. For example, Miss California Teen recently stopped the bathing suit portion and replaced it with athletic wear (Wilson). Wearing bathing suits on national tv might be uncomfortable for some, but the girls are not forced to walk in bathing suits. Instead of having the bathing suit portion, the pageant has changed it to athletic wear for teens. Having girls show off their bodies is not a bad, it’s empowering. Plus, showing some skin encourages girls to stay active and healthy.
Pageants are offered for anyone and everyone. There are many different types of pageants for girls to compete in. According to Nooruddin, “Last June , I completed in a pageant that was specifically designed for women under 5’5 tall thus giving an equal opportunity for young women to become role models and promote their platforms” (qtd. In Roleff 53). There is no type of ideal body, girl, or pageant. Pageants like this petite pageant offer opportunities to girls of all sizes and shape, like plus-sized girls Pageants are helpful to those who want to get involved and can think for themselves, but are not for children.
Child beauty pageants should be banned. When the children are young they can easily, and are, sexulized. Children are young and innocent but beauty pageants at a young age negatively impact them. “Parents can also contribute to the sexualization of their daughters in very direct and concrete ways – for example, by entering their 5-year-old daughter in a beauty pageant in which she and the other contestants engage in behaviors and practices that are socially associated with sexiness: wearing heavy makeup to emphasize full lips, long eyelashes, and flushed cheeks, high heels to emulate adult women, and revealing “evening gowns”” (debatepedia. debate. org). Having children dress as sexy women shows how many pageant parents cannot be trusted with putting their child’s welfare at stake. The children become easily sexulized, leading to the possible threat of pedofiles. Tankard-Reist argues that child beauty pageants teach children to value appearance because, “Competing in these events very young children are taught very early that their only value comes from their appearance and the way they look.
This in turn leads to emotional problems, eating disorders and a distorted sense of self worth and self esteem” (debatepedia. idebate. org). Children are easily influenced and impressionable. By being taught that value comes from makeup, dresses, and etc. it can lead them when they are older to harmful conditions like anorexia. Also debated in the pageant industry is transgenders. Transgenders should be allowed in pageants because for equal equality. Since transgenders are already at a disadvantage in respect to winning.
Seen in this light, the exclusion of a would-be pageant contestant on the basis of birth sex misses the apparent goal of the activity: if someone who was not born with, or does not currently have, a “female” body succeeds nonetheless in dazzling the judges with his/her feminine beauty, then sex is an irrelevant factor for inclusion in beauty pageants. ” ( Bialystok 623). They are no real threat to girls competing because they do not have the natural advantage of being feminine. Critics cannot claim the issue of “fair play” if it is worse for the trans community. Transgenders are already being accepted.
For example, Miss California USA allows transgenders to compete, only if they have had complete reconstruction (Wilson). The pageant world is already making adjustments and are spreading equality. Overall, pageants are not exclusive events and they can benefit anyone, from transgenders, to the community, to the girls themselves. Pageants help contestants gain confidence in themselves. Pageants help young adults and older but negatively impact children. Pageants empower women and inspire women to be the best versions of themselves. Pageants should stop being stereotyped.