Monday, February 06, 2012

Thoughts on Pageantry

Yesterday, I noted in this blog entry that my 10-year-old niece had won a big state beauty pageant title.

As a liberal, educated woman, I have mixed feelings about any child's participation in these events, and those feelings are particularly keen when someone I love is involved.

I support my niece in what she wants to do - I must, for I love her and I want her to be happy. I am happy that she is successful in what she has chosen. She is learning a great deal about grace, body carriage, and how to look well, which are good skills to have that might take her far in life. She is enrolled in dance, and clogs for her talent - I saw a little skip in her step when she was on the runway yesterday that made me smile. You can't keep the jig out of the little Irish princess, I guess (yes, my father's family hails from the Emerald Isle).

She does seem to enjoy the activities; she loves the outfits, playing dress-up, learning to dance, etc. She has made many friends at these events, too.

My brother says that he has never witnessed the kind of monstrous child-screaming and parental shrieking that one sees on TV shows. He believes most of that is scripted. I imagine some of it is, though the little ones do get tired and irritable as the day wears on.

However, I am sure there are bad pageants, bad parents, and bad contestants. Bad things happen in everything so it is to be expected.

If you look up beauty pageants, you'll find discussion of the pros and cons. Most of the cons discuss price, time involved, and overbearing moms.

Those types of problems are not what concern me. I am concerned that beauty pageants teach these young women that all that matters is how they look. They have "interview" and "personality" components, but really, how much personality comes through in 1 minute soundbite? The child is being judged for something she has little control over - some kids are just born beautiful.

Others are not. And for that alone, they start out life in second place. For some of them, it is all downhill from there.

So perhaps my issues with beauty pageants are really more about the inherent unfairness of society, which judges you on a zillion things every day. Let's face it - the 20-year-old with the big bosom will get the job over the 40-year-old with experience, maybe not every time, but often enough for it to be a standard joke.

The Bible, which I am not fond of quoting but it does come in handy sometimes, says not to judge. Judge not lest ye be judged - Matthew 7. Or don't judge a book by its cover.

But we are a judgmental society. We judge people not only on looks, but actions. We judge on a smile, a frown, hair color, height, width, ethnicity, class, status, dress, vehicle, house, cell phone, sneaker manufacturer. We only judge on the whole person-package after we've taken time to know someone. And sometimes that takes a while.

I am as guilty as everyone else is, of course. We all make snap judgments based on what we see. We depend entirely too much on the visual cues and not enough on other things before we determine who is "good enough."

How long does it take to turn someone from an acquaintance into a friend, after all? A long time. Weeks, at least. Maybe months.

But there we are, judging beauty pageant queens and presidential candidates by the same standards - who smiles the best, who preens the best, who gives what we consider the right answers, whether or not we've thought through the questions.

1 comment:

  1. Here I am trying to catch up and I posted on the previous entry....
    It's wonderful that your niece has found an activity that she enjoys! Too many kids nowadays are sequestered in their living rooms staring at computer screens and game boxes.
    I had all sons so never had to deal with the problems of girls ... I'm sure it is a huge challenge to raise daughters in this time of emphasis on outward appearance, thinness etc.

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