Op-Ed: Why Miss Universe is Only Hurting Women
by Jess Greenburg
Over the past few days, comments about Steve Harvey’s blunder at the 2015 Miss Universe contest have flooded the Internet. While many others have expressed sympathy for the contestants or made jokes about Harvey, I’m here to talk about something different: the fundamental issues with beauty pageants such as this one.
Beauty pageants have been around since ancient Greece, but the modern day pageant was created by Phineas T. Barnum in the 1850s. Yes, the same Phineas T. Barnum that found fame running circuses. His pageants didn’t do so well at first, because “respectable” girls didn’t want to parade themselves and be objectified by the populace. Over time though, the popularity grew as girls thought they would gain fame and fortune from these contests. For the most part, they didn’t.
One thing I’ve noticed about Miss Universe and Miss America contests is that hardly anyone remembers the name of the winners, much less the other participants. With this latest controversy, all anyone has called them is “Colombia” or “Phillippines”. During the competitions, they wear sashes with only the name of their country (or state in the case of Miss America). I understand that it shows where they have come from, but I personally think it is degrading to have the world only know you as “Miss Colombia” instead of Ariadna Gutierrez.
Furthermore, the competition promotes catfighting between women as entertainment for the world. The past day, media coverage has largely centered on who deserved it more, if Ariadna is a diva, and if Sarah-Lorraine Riek (Miss Germany) hates Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (Miss Phillippines). Who can recall the last time a bunch of males competed against each other on live TV and then had media outlets badger them about who they hated?
And lastly, if these contests are really about inner beauty, confidence, and philanthropy, there is no need for each section of the competition to be divided into sections based on outfit style. There is no need to specify any outfit, actually. There is no need for the age limit of 27. And the fact that these specifications exist tells the world that you’re only worth something if you’re young and dress “like a girl”.
So let’s change what these competitions are all about, and let’s change what this next generation will see as beautiful. Let’s show young girls and boys that it doesn’t matter if you have the fanciest dress, or if you even wear a dress. Let’s show them it doesn’t matter if you are in a wheelchair or have another disability. Let’s show them that you can wear glasses or braces and be beautiful. Let’s show them that it really is what you do, not what you look like that’s important.