Today a guest blog post by Julie Parker, reprinted from her site Beautiful You.
I’m not a fan of beauty pageants. Any competition that requires women to compete against one another in swimsuits; having their bodies scrutinised, judged and scored, is not going to win any awards from me for being a positive pastime for women to be involved in. I guess if a young woman chooses to enter a beauty pageant she knows the chief thing she is being judged on – her body and appearance. While there is of course the important question to answer about education or world peace, such things really run distant second to the swimsuit and evening gown sections and I am sure the entrants, as well as the public, are aware of this.
If this wasn’t enough of a worry, what really concerns me about the latest pageant I have come across is the mixed and degrading message it is sending about wider societal issues. I first learned about Miss Earth Australia from a friend who is a plus size model. Let’s take a look at the Miss Earth Australia entry requirements:
“We are looking for earth-loving participants who will motivate members of their local communities to take action to protect the Earth from man-made pollution. Our candidates must be cheerful, intelligent, articulate, beautiful, knowledgeable about environmental issues and be committed to doing their best to help make our planet clean and sustainable. To be a part of this incredible event, you must (i) have a working knowledge of environmental issues; (ii) be able to talk about pain-free solutions that can be taken at home and at work to reduce wastage of resources and encourage sustainability; (iii) have planted a tree and have encouraged those around you (family, friends, workmates, members of your community) to plant trees.”
Looking into things a little further I found you also must be between 5”6 and 5”11 and of course the usual never having been pregnant or had a child, being born female and of good moral character. Oh – and you can only be a size 8 or 10. Don’t forget that one. Just in case you do forget or decide you might like to push the boundaries with a size 6 or size 12 physique, there’s a none too subtle reminder that all criteria will be “strictly enforced.”
Where do I begin? Since when did a woman’s height or weight have anything to do with her commitment to the environment? Is having knowledge of environmental issues and having planted at least one tree really enough to lay claim to being a positive environmental advocate? What on earth (pun intended) does walking on a stage in a bikini have anything to do with well…anything? Why can’t an entrant have had a child? Is there something about giving birth that means your ability to be ‘earth loving’ dissipates?
I know. I know. It’s a pageant. While I am sure that many or even all of the young women who enter are passionate about the environment, clearly the organisers believe there are other important things that they need to be as well. Like hot in a bikini. The thing I can’t help wondering is how this must look to the many Australian women who work tirelessly in environmental circles every day. Like Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, President of the Australian Rainforest Society Dr Aila Keto or environmental author and campaigner Tanya Ha? While I am sure they want environmental issues to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, something tells me that they won’t think it suitable via a platform like this.
Even though I may hope, I’m not certain there will ever be a time in the near future when beauty pageants won’t exist. A stand alone pageant is concerning enough as it is with the message it sends girls and women about our cultural views of beauty, but when pageants start hijacking an important societal issue we have an even bigger problem. How can we possibly believe that the organisers of this pageant are serious about promoting these women to be powerful environmental advocates when they only require them to have planted one tree and they must meet a strict height and size criteria?
Please Miss Earth Australia organisers. You cannot sell this one wrapped up in a recycled ribbon. It’s time to get off the grass.
This article has since been picked up by nine msn, Beauty Pageants slammed for mixed messages.