Monday, July 2, 2007

Beauty contests

Not long ago, a friend of mine participated in a beauty contest and was quite successful – 3-rd place. Some time before the contest, she called me excitedly and asked to vote for her and cross my fingers for her. I knew she was expecting me to call her later and congratulate her for her success.

But I couldn't make myself do it. I just couldn't.

Seeing my friend – whom I've known for about 12 years – right there on the catwalk, wearing nothing but translucent underwear… it was more than I could handle. How on earth are young women encouraged to sell themselves so cheaply – and look so happy about it?

Half of the participants were as young as 16. You wouldn't know when you looked at them. They tried their best to behave like mature women, with unrestrained sexuality, showing off their body without the least bit of shame. But I knew – and I'm sure deep down they knew it, too – that it's simply not true. They were girls. Teenage girls deprived of their flower of youthful innocence.

I know I risk being called a prude here, but I have the following problem with beauty contests:

1. They don't focus on true beauty, but on a perfect body and pretty face.
We don't know if a particular participant is a selfish, immoral, ungodly person. Does she model truly beautiful femininity? Is she a kind, intelligent, friendly person? We don't know. She wins or loses based on her outward appearance alone.

2. They promote exploitation of young girls and teach young girls to put all their efforts into maintaining their external beauty.
Most of the participants in beauty contests are young – much too young to be exposed like they are to lusts of unworthy men and worldly desires. Traits and skills that will be important to these young women in their future lives are not promoted. They are only taught to be pretty dolls.

3. They create an unrealistic and unhealthy ideal of youth and beauty.
Most of the women who participate in beauty contests are very young and very thin. My friend is tall and skinny, and can eat as much as she wants without gaining weight. But she is an exception from the general rule. Do you know how many of those girls are depriving themselves of proper nutrition? And how many of them already have eating disorders? What about older women (I mean older than 30)? Why does it seem that models disappear after the age of 25? Is a 30-year-old mother, happy and relaxed and with a healthy glow over her face, less desirable because she put on some extra weight?

Let's face it; what we often have behind that catwalk and those gleaming smiles is promotion of promiscuity, eating disorders, immodesty, unhealthy lusts. And this is called a beauty contest?

***
Disclaimer: when I read this post again, I realized I might have made a generalization here. I'm not saying this is what always happens at these events, but it happens often enough to be a source of concern.

18 comments:

MInTheGap said...

I think you make some good points. These are certainly not the role models we want for Christian young ladies, and yet they are taught to judge their worth based on appearance.

What's really baffling is that in some cases these women are really sweet, just mislead. They'll do things that show that they are more than their body-- though they seem content to only show that part of them and put themselves on display like a slab of meat.

Mrs. Brigham said...

I did a few pageants years ago and your thoughts about them are right on target. "Beauty" pageants are dangerous to the participants in many ways and are not at all innocent. The area of the United States I am from is particularly pageant happy; most public schools even sponsor pageants every year. We also have higher teen pregnancy, STD, suicide, and eating disorders rates than most of the country. Perhaps the connection cannot be said for sure, but one certainly does appear to exist.

We have had several people, including strangers, tell us that we should enter Peapod in a "beautiful baby contest". Those seem to be all the rage now. Waiting until your daughter is in her teens before you help her destroy her self-worth, purity, and innocence is no longer enough it seems :o(

Mrs. H said...

I have to agree with you. People often tried to persuade my sister to be in such things. Luckily, she knew it wasn't right, and always refused. Funny thing is, I believe what made everyone think she was so beautiful, was the fact that she didn't expose herself, and she hated it when men looked at her when they shouldn't (married, with a girlfriend, too old, etc.). She was/is ultra-feminine and sweet, and it showed. True & modest beauty shines, no matter what your age or size. Superficial & immodest beauty fades quickly. I wish ladies (and girls) could understand that.

Lydia said...

Amen, sister! When I was younger, and still now, I used to get those beauty pagent advertisements in the mail...one time, I was even serious enough to raise money and compete, but I never went. I'm glad I didn't.

Things like that just make me sad.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna -

Great post, and no, I don't think you're a prude for listing the reasons you disagree with beauty contests! I think you should be commended for your sanity, for starters, ;) as well as the right attitude toward them.

I think beauty contests send young girls and teens the wrong idea about femininity, beauty and being a woman. Where is the modesty? Why must a woman hide behind a thick mask of make-up and hairspray, but yet so little clothing?

Anna S said...

... Yes, there are beauty contests now for younger and younger girls. This is disturbing in my opinion. A couple of days ago I saw a commercial with a 5-year-old girl who was wearing makeup in a way that made her look much older than she was! I'm sorry, but that's brutal sexualization.

Lindsy said...

>Let's face it; what we often have behind that catwalk and those gleaming smiles is promotion of promiscuity, eating disorders, immodesty, unhealthy lusts. And this is called a beauty contest?

Well said!

Dawn Marie said...

I couldn't agree with you more!
Like minthegap said...many of those ladies are swwet I am sure, but mislead.
I never liked beauty pagents even before I got saved, don't know why, maybe because it all seemed fake to me. Still does seem fake to me now :)
Yeah, the latest thing is now dressing up your baby, toddler and young child and parade them around like they are pieces of meat. It makes me sick. The fact that a monther would actually do that to her child...usually is because she never got to do it when she was younger so she's living her dream through her son or daughter. Ugh...how sad.
Ever see the cost of one of these things for a young child??? It's in the thousands I know that much. Money wasted. And these type of families wonder why their marriage is failing and they are in debt up to their ears and their little beauty star is starting to get a not so nice attitude and ego.

I am glad you posted on this subject. :)

PandaBean said...

The delivery guy at the store I work at has a picture of his granddaughter, who is maybe 7-8 years old, and she's "all dolled up" aka she looks like a hussy! I was so shocked when he brought this picture in! Why on earth would /anyone/ want their daughter to dress up like that, with hair, make-up and the whole bit, to look like a prostitute?! She even has a "coy" "come hither" look/smile on her face. Poor child!

Buffy said...

It's all very shallow and implies that only one girl can be beautiful.

Sheri said...

Anna, oh I wish I had more time to comment on this (maybe I should blog about your topic too), but packing is needed for a trip our family is going on today. However, as a former Miss Iowa (Miss America contestant) I thought I should give my opinion as well. Actually, I certainly agree with most of your comments sister, however I strongly disagree with others. Do I promote pageants right now? No. Have my views changes some over the last several years as God’s worked on my heart? Yes. Would I encourage my daughter’s to be in pageants? No. But I can’t help but share some of the positive things I learned by participating in the Miss America Pageant System.

Are you talking about “beauty pageants” exclusively, or all pageants? In my mind there is a striking difference in “pageants.” Yes, some are based entirely on outer beauty, are exploiting young girls, and are creating an unrealistic view of beauty. For sure! However, I believe that for the most part it’s TV, magazines, movies, Hollywood, the “diet craze,” ungodly parents, a terrible education system, and the media who are doing the best job of polluting our young girls in this regard.

The funny thing about my 1 year pageant experience was that outer beauty was honestly not something I focused on. Yes, I did exercise, get a cute hairstyle, and pick out an evening gown, but most of my preparation was inward. The most important part of the competition, the part you received the most points on for determining the winner was my private interview for the judges; much like a tough job interview. Next in line was my talent (I sang the old Hymn “His Eye is On The Sparrow”), next was my community service issue (I worked closely with “Focus On The Family”, local churches and youth groups) and finally with just a few points each were evening gown and a one-piece swimsuit (that’s a whole other blog). My focus, along with many of the other women was on inner beauty, intelligence, and talent. My first-runner-up had a masters in violin performance; my second-runner-up had a degree in communications and was the baton twirler for the University of Iowa. There were girls that volunteered in Crisis Pregnancy Centers, girls who volunteered a good portion of their free time to nursing homes, etc… girls who were valedictorians for their schools, and most importantly girls who were strong for the Lord with godly morals and character. I guess my experience was for the most part a good one (Not all of course!). Many of the young women I met at the Miss America Pageant had hearts for Jesus and were using their little “title” to bring glory to him, in much the same way as an athlete, a musician, an author, or anyone else who has accomplished something that God gave them a talent for. They were dreaming a dream and working to achieve something they believed in. Esther was the first pageant winner…

Heather Whitestone and Tara Dawn Christensen are two former Miss America’s that are dear friends of mine who shine for Jesus! They both preach the gospel in word and deed and are now joyfully serving Him as wives, mothers, and homemakers.

Oh, I could write so much longer on this topic. I just want you to know that although pageants can be very harmful and dangerous (like the internet and most everything else on planet earth) they can also be a very positive thing… I shall write more next week.

Emily said...

Fortunately, Anna, we don't really have beauty pageants over here in the UK, or any of the whole prom king & queen stuff in high school. It's a blessing! Like you say, "beauty" contests only promote physical looks and allure, and not character. They are dangerous for girls in giving them false ideals about beauty. Nevertheless, beauty pageants or no beauty pageants, there are plenty of other sources that promote very distorted views of beauty, unfortunately. We constantly have to be on our guard, reminding ourselves that beauty comes from within.

Emily said...

P.S. There is an award for you on my blog - because you are a young woman of true beauty, which comes from the heart and from character :)

Anna S said...

Sheri,

I know you used to be Miss Iowa and I have no doubt that what you participated in was nothing like this particular contest - an event that promoted nothing about intelligence, kindness or other positive values, and only showed off the girls' bodies. I didn't want to appear judgmental here. I talked about this particular event and many others that are just like it ('sex sales, so show off your bodies and forget the rest'). Of course it doesn't have to look like an interview for Playboy magazine. It would be wonderful to read your thoughts on the subject and see how it can be done differently.

Melian said...

I agree! I have known at least one beauty pageant winner whose outward beauty belied a selfish, mean-spirited, ugly inward spirit. (I have also known one competitor who was sweet, kind, and gentle. She was considerably less successful.) Because the "winner" was highly regarded, many young women I knew looked to her as a role model. It broke my heart to watch people I cared about place outward, processed beauty above character in their life priorities.

Anonymous said...

Very good post, Anna! I am glad you addressed the subject!

In God's Love,
Jenn

Coffee Wife said...

We should have character and virtue pagents!!

Anna S said...

Michelle, but it wouldn't sell as well as naked bodies do... *rolls eyes*