Unveiling the ugly truth behind beauty pageants

Justin Le, Staff Writer

A staple of American culture for over a century, beauty pageants have charmed their way into popular culture. Creating platforms to openly judge women — like with the classic pageant Miss America which recently happened — these problematic events being symbols of culture normalizes the objectification of women throughout the country. Despite changing times, pageants have no intent to reform from initial premises. As their troublesome histories remain, it’s clear that it’s time to end pageantry. 


With their extreme popularity, pageants have branched off to numerous areas, notably child beauty pageants. Seemingly endearing and innocent, in actuality, child beauty pageants contribute to the sexualization of children and poor mental health. 


“I’m extremely critical of myself, probably more than the average person,” Heidi Gerkin, a child beauty pageant winner said in an article from The Cut. “I [sometimes have] unrealistic expectations, and I think a lot of that comes from pageants.”  


Child beauty pageants subject young girls to judgment from a panel of adults for their looks. Instilling the idea of how girls should look pretty at a young age is problematic in itself, not to mention the mental health issues raised with it — self esteem issues, depression, and eating disorders. 


From a young age, pageants normalize the idea that a woman’s looks is the only thing that is valuable — as judges scrutinize their beauty. Solely focusing on appearances, women’s talents are disregarded.  It’s clear pageants are outdated, and it’s not in women’s best interest for them to remain.


Following pageant backlash, Miss America attempted damage control on its own event, distancing themselves from being categorized as a pageant by eliminating their swimsuit competition in 2018. Attempting to convince audiences the pageant was still relevant, Miss America became a “competition” of leadership and talent, yet its winners are still all conventionally attractive women. Despite Miss America’s attempt to bury itself under another label, appearances still play an undeniable factor in its “competition.” 


With nothing done to affirm women and girls, a wider issue of misogyny across America is clear. Miss America — and pageants like it — are not talent or merit based. Despite minor changes, pageant standards remain the same as when they were first established. 


Beauty pageants do not empower women. Instead, they instill an antiquated mindset in the minds of people who watch them. The U.S. is better without these symbols of regression that bring women down. 


Although they are considered a part of American culture, beauty pageants perpetuate the objectification of women and patriarchal norms — it’s time to abandon them. It’s long overdue to end pageantry and move to events that actually support women.