Throughout the years, one of the main arguments against pageantry is that it counters feminism. The public claims that pageants keep women in the past, and encourage judgment of a woman based on her physical presence, instead of the internal qualities that should really define her.
Pageantry aside, feminism has been attacked from every angle, especially in recent days. Is it still relevant today? Is it still needed? What even is feminism? Women on both sides are passionate about their opinion, and even some men have shared their views on the female pursuit of equality.
The conflict between pageants and feminism not limited to people who aren’t involved with pageantry. Former titleholders struggle with the notion of putting their title on their professional resume, and career women wonder if past pageant photos of them that show up on a Google search may hinder their search for a job. What once made them so proud, and they worked so hard to earn and even harder to maintain is now almost an embarrassing piece of their past.
Perhaps the most conflicting aspect of the Miss America Organization representing itself as a scholarship organization over a beauty pageant is the Lifestyle and Fitness category in swimsuit. If it isn’t about how pretty/tall/skinny you are, why is there a bikini competition? Many people believe MAO should drop this category, and replace it with academics, or a scored community service section. But for others, the Lifestyle and Fitness category is just another form of empowerment.
Alexandra Curtis, a longtime pageant competitor with titles in both the National American Miss and Miss America Organizations, recently released a blunt, heartfelt article addressing this exact matter; How does a swimsuit competition effect pageantry?
Below: Excerpt of “Baring it All” by Alexandra D. Curtis
If you know anything about me, you are likely aware that I am a vocal feminist and an avid pageant competitor. I am well aware of the fact these traits may appear to be contradictory. Then again, if you know me, you are aware that I have always been a bit of a “contradiction” and I have the innate ability to break shallow or misguided perceptions.
I have been asked every question in the book: “As a feminist don’t you think the swimsuit competition is objectifying to women? Doesn’t this set women back?,” “Do you have to starve yourself? Don’t pageants promote unhealthy lifestyles and negative self-image?,” “As an educated woman, don’t you think it is degrading to parade around in a swimsuit?,” and my personal favorite, “How do you expect to be a reputable politician, or even win an election with those half-naked pictures out there?” Somewhere along the lines the unfortunate misconception developed that women who wear swimsuits on stage can’t possibly support gender equality, lead truly healthy lives, be a qualified to lead, or be downright intelligent. Quite frankly, I speak for many women in pageants when I say I am sick of these questions. It is about time I opened up about my own experiences to debunk some of the misguided perceptions people have developed about women in swimsuit competitions.
There have actually been individuals who have had the audacity to tell me that I am the “anti-feminist” because I vehemently support pageantry and swimsuit competitions. These tend to be the same individuals who believe pageants are “irrelevant” and “objectifying.” Interestingly enough, these are typically people who have never competed in pageants and don’t understand how empowering it is to be comfortable enough with your body to walk across a stage in a swimsuit. The swimwear or “Lifestyle and Fitness” component of pageantry exists to build role models who are health conscious and fitness oriented. Truthfully, it has done much more for me. I have not only been immersed in a network of women who encourage and inspire each other to be the best version of ourselves through health and fitness, but I have developed a thick-skin and unmitigated self-confidence. The strong belief in myself that I have developed through pageantry is greatly responsible for my work in the advancement of women.
Now if we contestants felt degraded or objectified, we wouldn’t participate. Free will is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? As women we need to be supporting and uplifting each other. Instead of shaming women for having the confidence to wear a swimsuit on stage (or live television for that matter) we should be ecstatic that we are are comfortable in our skin and not afraid to put ourselves out there. Pageantry has been extraordinarily positive in my development as an independent and empowered woman. I have seen women support and encourage each other more though pageantry than I have seen anywhere else. Swimsuit competitions are not to blame for setting women back, but shaming women for their choice to compete in them is. And hey, not every woman is going to have the opportunity to walk down the runway in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, but thanks to pageantry, we all have the opportunity to have our own Angel moment on stage. Self-love and confidence are vital to uplifting the status of women. Rock on.
Read the full article here.
She couldn’t have worded it better.
And the public agrees. In just 24 hours, this Syracuse University political science graduate student, Running Start intern, and pageant queen has singlehandedly shaken the structure of the contradictory view off women.
Erika Harold, Miss America 2003, has been exactly where Allie is now. As a titleholder, Erika promoted self respect, abstinence, and the prevention of bullying and youth violence. She wore a swimsuit on stage both as she competed for Miss Illinois, and later as she took the Miss America crown. After graduating from Harvard Law and working as an attorney, Erika Harold has begun taking the steps towards taking political office. Although she did not secure the Republican Congressional seat this year, she is undoubtedly resilient, and her legislative future has yet to be determined.
Pageantry does not define you. You define you. Pageantry is a tool to increase confidence and public speaking ability, connect you with others in your field, inspire you to pursue your passions, and provide platform so that you can change the world. The stereotypes that try to tear you down are only as powerful as the misguided perspective behind them. By competing pageantry, you are given a voice. So speak up for equality, change, and justice. Reach for your goals, aspirations, and dreams. And do not let someone else define you, or your self worth.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2