Why are beauty contests demeaning to women?Why are beauty contests demeaning to women?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is simply a personal opinion.  I find it interesting that the women who participate in pageants and the organizers of the pageants stress that they are scholarship events; however, every year at my high school, I watch my female students spend money that they don't have on dresses, hair, makeup, nails, fake tans, etc.--usually more money than they would win if they won first place in the pageant.  So, I don't see how anyone could justify calling the events "scholarship pageants."

While certain pageants have a talent requirement or require participants to answer supposedly challenging questions, everybody knows that pageant scores are based on appearance.  Women already receive enough pressure from media (print and film) to look a certain way.  Pageants reinforce the message that females have to look like everybody else, walk like everybody else, smile like everybody else, dress like everybody else--and the list goes on.

If Americans want to be honest, most of us watch pageants to see what kind of silly answers the participants will offer in response to the "challenging" questions or if they will slip and fall.  We certainly do not tune in to see America's most intelligent scholarship competition.

If I ever have a daughter, I would never encourage her to enter a pageant.  I do not want men (who make up many of the judge panels) studying and criticizing my daughter's looks, especially if she is scantily clad.  While some argue that pageants provide confidence and poise to young ladies, there are many other ways to accomplish that purpose without spending so much money or sending the degrading message that a woman's worth should be based on her appearance.  High school students can get involved in drama, speech and debate, athletics, etc., to gain confidence and poise.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not everyone would agree that they are, but here are the arguments for this idea.

Mainly, the argument is that these contests demean women because they focus only on what they women look like.  Okay, they have some sort of talent section and such, but really, they are about what the women look like.  Otherwise, they could just take standardized intelligence and fitness tests and not do the evening gown and the swimsuit and such.

By focusing mainly on what women look like, these contests are casting women as objects for men.  They are telling women that what is valuable in a woman is her looks, nothing else.

So these contests portray women as sex objects whose main value is in their looks (and their ability to attract men).

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If one argues that beauty contests are demeaning, there are some immediate supports that come to mind.  The first would be that any competition that judges on the basis of physical looks helps to objectify women in assessing them on the basis of exterior appearances.  It is not as if the women which appear and compete in beauty contests do not need to worry about looks and how they are viewed physically by others.  At the same time, beauty contests help to establish to other women that the way in which beauty pageant contestants look is how all women should look. This helps to contribute to body image distortion in many women.  In this particular reason alone, one could make a very compelling case that beauty pageants are demeaning to women.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beauty contests may or may not be demeaning-it is a matter of opinion. I actually have had some personal experience with this that is negative. I entered my daughter in one of these contests and regretted doing so. I did not like the idea that people were judging my daughter based on her looks. When I entered the contest I thought it was going to be different. I never entered her in another one after that.

I think that it is unfair to judge a person solely on their looks. There is so much more to people than that. I think it is demeaning to females because it stresses the importance of looks. In other words, if you look good, you will be a winner.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Some women do not think beauty contests are demeaning. Their argument is that women choose to look a certain way, and their looks are their power. Of course, while this may be true the main problem with beauty patents is that they set an unacceptable standard of physical attractiveness. Personality is more important.
ainsliejones | Student

After all beauty contest elaburate the most beautiful side of women . It shows women are most talented in from genral knowledge , personality to natural beauty , from what tyoe of dressing style should followd by the women when to wear Evening Gowns , Fall Dresses .

nusratfarah | Student

Bauty contests, though the authorities would start arguing to establish that they prioritise intelligence along with beauty, but, for sure, they expose women's physical beauty much more than their true intelligence. For example, in my country, about a month ago, a beauty contest was held. An extremely stupid girl was elected and, as expcted, she was too idiotic and dumb. I was amazed (and amused as well) thinking what are the criteria to elect the beauty doll!!!

kc4u | Student

In so far as a beauty contest is a highly marketable commodity, it is demeaning to women. Although in a beauty contest it is not merely the physical charms alone which matter, but it is undeniable that the sexual/erotic aspect does play a major role in the contest. Else, the swimsuit competition would not have been included in the contest, a competition which surely commodifies the female body by putting it under public gaze and assessment of the woman's vital statistics. These contests are highly sponsored global events and heavily controlled by the market.

Apart from this, no less demeaning is to answer most silly questions with all the pretentiousness of a winning smile.

mkcapen1 | Student

This is a question with no solid and true answer but personal speculations.  However, having attended quite a few with friends I have always been more shocked at the behavior of the parents versus the actual contestants. 

Beauty contests are based on different criteria and points are earned based on certain things.  While it may look like they are only based on appearance the process is highly structured.  The women in beauty contests or the girls have trained for years to be at each level of the event.

The ways in which the contests are demeaning is that it flaunts a woman's external beauty, causes over stress of a female's sexuality (even young children in beauty contests are made up to look like sexually older females), women are only valued as a decoration, the girls and women are subject to horrid comments by bystanders and other participants families who make negative remarks about them, and they represent a certain stereo-type that is not a nationally or universal standard for the normal female.