The pretty ugly side of pageants

2010-12-11 09:16

I don’t know what my seven-year-old niece will be doing tonight, but what I do know is that she will not be watching the Miss South Africa pageant.

In fact, she’ll learn a lot more about being a woman by taking a nap during the broadcast.

Why the beauty pageant has been allowed to continue for so long is ­beyond me.

Yes, it is a creature that is as complex as getting the smoky-eye make-up effect right, but I have reasons to believe we should call the pageant what it really is – South Africa’s Next Top Model.

A friend of mine says that the pageant celebrates all that is woman – form, beauty, heart and brains.

I beg to differ.

The aesthetic aspect to ­being a woman, which is the most irrelevant aspect, is one that is ­amplified in this fluffy show.

In a voyeuristic society, why do we still have intelligent, compassionate women (I’m being presumptuous) having to justify their worth for the crown by taking their clothes off on stage?

What irony.

The same pageant that claims to celebrate women ­actually justifies a culture where having crooked teeth or a crooked English accent means there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, a culture that says you’re only a catch if you’ve got doe-shaped eyes.

That doesn’t seem like a celebration of women to me.

There are many women out there who do not look like runway divas and who need to be celebrated.

Yes, there are “woman of the year” and “community builder” award ceremonies that celebrate women who make a difference.

Why aren’t these given as much, if not more, ­prominence?

Will I rest when I see a big, plain, intelligent and compassionate Miss South Africa?

No. I am saying we should not dive into an ideology that worships looks. But, alas, that ­ideology is a multibillion-dollar ­industry.

Next you get the argument that many previous beauty queens have used the pageant as a platform to launch themselves into projects that make a positive difference in people’s lives.

And we appreciate what they’ve done, but that doesn’t make the platform right.

There are many other women out there who don’t walk around on stage in a bikini or have blocked-nose ­accents or win a year’s supply of dry cleaning, yet make a daily ­difference without the privilege of multimillion-rand sponsors.

Please take the cameras and point them in the direction of these women.

They are the real queens.

Moreover, when these women walk around that stage tonight, will we see a person or a number/ dress/ swimsuit/ body? Is it because a woman should be seen and not heard?

Oh but no, they get a chance to speak and display their intelligence.

Really? Are we really going to get a reason to emulate her because she answered the question: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Perhaps I should rejoice in the fact that the show will be broadcast on DStv, so the majority of South ­Africans will not get the chance to see it.

To suggest that my niece, in this day and age, should look up to any woman because she won a prettiness contest is, to put it politely, sad.

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