Even with the best will, you cant reform beauty contests they just need to disappear
The bikini ban brought in by the Miss America contest manages to feel both welcome and absurd. The all-female organisers of the 97-year-old pageant are responding to #MeToo by ditching the swimwear round (four years after Miss World got rid of it). It’s being replaced by an “interactive section” where contestants explain their achievements and goals. They can also wear “whatever they want” in the eveningwear round and there will be “all female shapes and sizes”. Miss America wants to stop being viewed as a pageant, more as a competition that helps smart young women pay for college. Which sounds workable – just get back to us when the contestants are allowed to wear paper bags on their heads.
There’s been a backlash to the ban from former contestants and what one could only assume to be time-travellers from 1972, who strongly feel that women should have the right to express their inner beauty, academic brilliance and profound insights on environmental issues via the medium of the string bikini. While those running Miss America should be applauded for ignoring the naysayers, what about the biggest, most female-positive change of all – stopping Miss America altogether? In fact, ditching all beauty pageants? And I include those creepy ones where eight-year-old girls are tarted up to resemble the death masks of meth-addicted Baby Janes.
While there are male equivalents to these contests, these mainly focus on bodybuilding, with the contestants sometimes resembling steroid-infested, fake-tanned police lineups. While it’s undoubtedly intriguing to see how intense exercise and “supplements” can manipulate the human form to the point that it becomes its own tangerine-hued bouncy castle, the only plausible response to some of those involved seems to be to scream and run. Yet the female pageants manage to be worse, because of history, context and the fact that, despite all the earnest cheerleading for intellect and personality, they primarily revolve around an anachronistic grading of female looks.
There lies the problem for Miss America and any other pageants wishing, however sincerely, to modernise. Just restyling as a competition (that happens to feature gorgeous women), getting rid of bikinis and allowing in token plus-size contestants doesn’t alter the fact that the entire premise is the notion of beauty as the only female currency that truly matters. There can’t be any nods to #MeToo or anything else powered by the newly invigorated female resistance, when their very existence undermines the fact that it should be what women say and do that counts, not how they look. In this way, an “empowered” beauty pageant becomes… just a very pretty-looking oxymoron.
If Miss America truly wishes to ring the changes, it should consider disappearing altogether. In the meantime, regarding the “whatever you want” eveningwear round, one hears The Handmaid’s Tale look is big this year.
Raise a glass to Gwent police and its plan for drinkers
A scheme in Gwent, south-east Wales, means first-time, drunk-and-disorderly offenders who get involved in minor fights could avoid fines and prison sentences by attending a behavioural course.
In the same way that motorists are sent on speed-awareness courses, the drunks would attend the moderately priced class, but avoid further penalties. The police and crime commissioner for Gwent, Jeffrey Cuthbert, said: “When people consume substantial amounts of alcohol, individuals can act out of character.” Quite.
Read more: www.theguardian.com