Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 17/01/97

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Why I hate beauty pageants

With the recent murder of a junior pageant contestant, it's becoming almost fashionable to attack the entire beauty pageant scene and to point out its many flaws. To be honest, though, everyone could have learnt this much earlier. I've always been opposed to the idea of beauty contests, but recently I've learnt a whole lot more about them and now I hate them even more.

Around nine months ago, a colleague pointed me in the direction of the Web page for Pageant Life, 'The Magazine For Pageantry, Talent & America's Youth'. The page was pretty lame, and tacky in the extreme. What really got me, though, was how the magazine blatantly promoted the fact that all you needed to do to get coverage in the magazine was to give them money. $40 will get your photo in, an extra $10 scores a brief write-up, $225 gets a half page and $425 gets a full page. Nice approach to editorial integrity, I thought, how can they possibly pull it off with a straight face? Against my better judgement, and since it was only $18 to subscribe, I decided to get a copy. What I received shocked me.

Never have commercialism, superficiality, naked greed and sheer stupidity been combined in so unappealing a package. Because everybody is paying to include their articles in the magazine, none of the copy gets changed, so a complete lack of coherence is the order of the day. The tone is one of endless self-congratulation, tempered with frequent defences against a world which assumes that beauty pageants are nothing more than an excuse to focus on superficial characteristics like appearance while raving on in a tacky and sentimental fashion and forcing everyone to wear swimsuits. Literally every scrap of paper the magazine receives shows up on the letters page; have you ever seen a magazine which prints its subscription renewal letters?

As tempting as it is to just rip into Pageant Life itself, though, what's really appalling is the insight it gives into the world of beauty pageants. Probably the worst aspect is the age of the contestants. There's something really obscene about seeing a four-year old wearing a tiara, an evening gown and full make-up, or being told the same four year-old "really looks forward to competing" (remember how much say you got in what you did when you were four?)

The entire world is built around the concept that youth is everything. There are age divisions for every year up until you're around 20, then it all disappears. Once you're over 25, you're only good for 'Mrs' pageants, and you can't enter those unless you're (yep) married. The message: be young, be beautiful, parade yourself in a swimsuit as often as possible, then get married and fade quietly into the background. It's sickening to think people dream of forcing their children to achieve a title like 'All American Young Miss Congeniality'.

The solution. Easy: cancel 'em all, make beauty pageants illegal, round up all the directors and force them all to work in literacy programs or something else that is actually useful. But I can't see the Yanks giving any of it up, as long as there's a buck to be made in it somewhere.

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