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Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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22 Responses

  1. RBT
    RBT September 13, 2011 at 11:42 am |

    My pre-debate thoughts are that this is hilarious:

  2. Jbs
    Jbs September 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |

    I’d think it’s unrealistic to expect beauty pageant to disappear entirely; just about everything can attract some small audience. But haven’t they essentially “gone the way of the dodo” as an important cultural force? Ratings for Miss Universe were the lowest ever this year.

  3. OldTrout
    OldTrout September 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |

    Just a question: Why isn’t the beauty contest opened up to include all (women, men, trans, what-have-you). This could even potentially work economically, as we are seeing so many more folks buying beauty products. Very capitalist affirming, which is why, INMHO, beauty contests exist anyway. I’m not really for objectifying people, but I also believe that we each have our strengths, and if yours is beauty (this is largely cultural, of course) I would prefer a specific contest, rather than beauty being part of the competition in every profession, as it seems to stand now.

  4. Sid
    Sid September 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    1) Does anyone watch this anymore?

    2) I’m convinced that most of the “international” contestants are American or European ex-pats.

    3) What is that tacky monstrosity?

  5. Dildo
    Dildo September 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    I still think Ms. Philippines won that.

  6. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin September 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |

    I remember reading about a pageant contestant who had participated at some time in the 1940’s. She had been asked to contribute her opinion when one contest or another was thinking of eliminating the swimsuit competition.

    She was in favor of retaining it because, as she put it, “nothing tests a woman’s poise quite like it.” Well, I guess that’s true if that means you’re constantly afraid that you look somehow less than perfect. I wonder how many women despise swimsuit shopping as compared to those who don’t.

  7. RBT
    RBT September 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

    Well, Miss Tanzania is ready for her post-apocalyptic gladiator fight.

  8. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil September 13, 2011 at 3:26 pm |

    I thought this was the best comment on Miss United States’s costume (from a commenter at NPR):

    “My first reaction was ‘what is Napoleon doing wrapped in an American flag, and what happened to his pants?'”

  9. Brian
    Brian September 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    Why isn’t the beauty contest opened up to include all?

    There are, of course, Mr. Universe competitions – I have no idea about the relative wellknownnesses, though I can name more former Mr. Universes (1) than Miss Universes (0).

    Two shows might be revenuous than one.

  10. karak
    karak September 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    “women still dominate when it comes to the purchase of beauty-related goods.”

    Here’s what it takes me to get ready in the mornings and look conventionally beautiful:

    shampoo, conditioner, razor, shaving cream, bodywash, face wash, skin moisturizer, face moisturizer, leave-in conditioner, blowdryer, pick, brush, curling iron, straightener, hair spray, tweezers, under-eye concealer, foundation, powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow hold, 1-3 eyeshadows, eyelash crimper, lipstick, and I also brush my teeth.

    My boyfriend? All in one bodywash (soap, conditioner, and shampoo). Electric razor. Toothbrush.

    Yeah I mad.

  11. Ashley
    Ashley September 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    Here’s the way I see it. A lot of pageants today aren’t just “beauty contests,” although the beauty aspect of it is largely what is displayed on your TV screen at home, so it’s easy to get the impression that it’s a “Who’s the hottest babe?” contest. This is more of what it used to be. Realistically, nowadays these pageants serve as a platform for women to be role models of the total package: Brains, beauty, accomplishments, ambition, talent, and strong values. These women are usually already outstanding members of their community and the most work doesn’t go into their hair and makeup. I can’t tell you that for sure because I have done this myself.

    Granted that different pageant systems differ from organization to another. Miss America is more conservative and tradition pageant about being a scholarship program more than anything else. Miss USA, which is run by Donald Trump, focuses a bit more on fashion and trends. Then there are other pageants like the ones I compete in that are more about community service and having a cause to stand for. So they all have different focuses, but at any rate I think it is unfair to put these competitions in the same category as, say, MTV’s Spring Break Bikini Contest. That is a contest that is created solely for the purpose of putting women on display for viewing pleasure, but that is not the pageant industry’s focus.

  12. m
    m September 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm |

    I’m sorry that I have no real content to add… but damn, are Napoleon hats a huge turn on, or what?

  13. Beauty Pageants and Feminism « hahayourefunny

    […] From Feministe — In defense of the sanctimonious women’s studies set.. YES: […]

  14. Virgens Kamikazes
    Virgens Kamikazes September 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm |

    “Ideally, beauty contests will eventually go the way of the dodo. The Miss USA pageant is not, by any stretch, good for feminism or good for women as a class.”

    Women are not a class, they are a gender. If you want to be taken seriously, please use the correct terms next time.

  15. Nahida
    Nahida September 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    karak: shampoo, conditioner, razor, shaving cream, bodywash, face wash, skin moisturizer, face moisturizer, leave-in conditioner, blowdryer, pick, brush, curling iron, straightener, hair spray, tweezers, under-eye concealer, foundation, powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow hold, 1-3 eyeshadows, eyelash crimper, lipstick, and I also brush my teeth.

    You use a curling iron AND a straightener? O.O

  16. karak
    karak September 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm |


    Straighten the body, curl the ends around my face slightly. Not *much* curling, but yep.

    And then, since I use all these heating elements on my hair, I must then go out and buy the special products for hair damaged by heating elements. Like… I KNOW I’m doing it to myself but I REALLY like the way my hair looks…ugh.

  17. Ann
    Ann September 14, 2011 at 9:27 am |

    This made my day. Poor Ms. Botswana. What’s up with the club? Or is it a shovel?

    My pre-debate thoughts are that this is hilarious:

  18. Athenia
    Athenia September 14, 2011 at 10:00 am |

    I watched part of the contest and what really struck me was how much it was like a tourism commerical—go to France where you can surf! Isn’t San Paulo a great city? Look at what the girls are doing here!

    Um, can’t we promote tourism another way? Also, can’t we incorporate an actual competition into it? Judging Miss Whatever’s hip bones aren’t exactly my cup of tea.

  19. Nia
    Nia September 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    @ Old Trout – completely agree. The biggest problem I have with these contests is the emphasis on “women-born-women” only – I don’t see it as any different from the anti-trans Michigan Women’s Music Festival. And it pisses me off.

    @ Karak – yep.

    With all that said… what occurs for me, mostly, when I see the anti-beauty contest debate is how similar the rhetoric often becomes to feminist anti-sex worker rhetoric, ie women using their bodies for gain. My personal view, which from my reading reads similarly to what Jill wrote above, is basically that there’s enough cards stacked against us, in this fight use everything you’ve got.

    For me, it doesn’t follow that when society advances beyond patriarchy, whatever that may mean, beauty contests will be old news. Maybe they will reflect a new standard of beauty. Maybe they will actually reflect diversity. Maybe they won’t be racist. Maybe they will be just one of the many ways that people engage in competition.

    I don’t know. I’m tall and blond and like make up, and I use it and get paid. And if there was no patriarchy, I’d probably still be a sex worker, coz I like it, and it beats the hell out of desperate poverty. I can imagine many beauty contestants and models feeling the same way. More power to them.

  20. haley
    haley September 15, 2011 at 2:14 am |

    I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with beauty pageants. I mean, I agree with the critiques made in this article and elsewhere about the ridiculousness and misogyny of them, but I see that as being a problem with our society’s concept of beauty in general. I could just as easily have a “crusty punk beauty pageant” and have all the traveler kids, queer, and punk people come together with some beer, music and a stage and we’d have a jolly time of our beauty pageant. :)

  21. Fawn
    Fawn September 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    The way I look at it, it’s the same reasoning for high school and college sports, which pretty much requires young men to exploit their physical talents to win a chance at higher education and advantage their futures. And people like watching it, and the boys aren’t stupid either. Maybe it’s less a gender issue than a youth issue, but may be both.

    I dunno. I buy all that crap, but never use it.

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