Beauty pageants don’t negate women’s rights feminist ideals

In today’s enlightened society, we respect women for their capabilities, achievements and accomplishments. We know that it’s not what a woman looks like on the outside that really matters, but rather her personality, charm and brains. For years, feminists have fought for women’s rights (to vote and be treated equal to men). While all this is well and good, would it be blasphemous to say that perhaps, in certain circumstances, feminists have restricted women as well?

Consider beauty pageants: The reason we do not have beauty pageants at the College is because the feminists here believe that such pageants are degrading to women. But is that so? These competitions are not just based on looks, but also on talent and responses to questions asked by the judges.

But to play devil’s advocate for a minute, the only part of the contest that could be defined as degrading would be the swimsuit part. Even that argument is debatable, because it’s not just how sexy you look, but how well you walk and how much confidence you exude.

However, to agree with the feminists and state that beauty pageants are demeaning would mostly imply that the women who enter such competitions are shallow and vapid, and that the people who run the contests only do it to put women on display.

To contest the first point, all the women who compete in the Miss America pageant are talented, intelligent women.

According to the Miss America Web site, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko entered the pageant in 1988 to pay for nursing school. When she won, she used the money to pursue an advanced degree and fulfill a dream of opening a hospice for the terminally ill in her hometown. There are countless other examples of women who have pursued careers in different fields thanks to the scholarship money provided by the Miss America Scholarship Fund.

But even watching a pageant, I am astounded by the talent these women show off to the world. They play instruments, sing, dance and act so well that you would believe that was their chosen path in life. And when I watch these women, as I know others do, I don’t see just a beautiful, sexy woman strutting; I see the many positive qualities each of these women possess, and it’s amazing to watch.

Also, the people who run the pageant really care about women. They offer scholarships so that women can get an education. Pageant contestants aren’t just winning a crown; they’re winning a degree. The Miss America Organization is one of the nation’s leading achievement programs, and it is also the world’s largest provider of scholarships for young women. Last year, more than $45 million was given to those who dared to achieve. Not only is this money for the Miss America winner, but it is also given to those who compete in the state and local competitions.

On a final note, the feminist movement is all about choice: to give women the right to vote, if they choose to; to have an abortion, if they choose to; to have sex and not be labeled, if they choose to. Giving women the right to choose what they want, rather then being told what to do, really empowers women. But we must remember, restricting beauty pageants because someone said it is degrading doesn’t give women a choice.

If you personally feel that it’s degrading, then that’s OK. But to decide for someone else what is degrading is not anyone’s choice to make. It’s wrong to restrict beauty pageants here at the College because doing so takes away choice from women. Don’t we deserve to make our own decisions?