Beautiful Protests: Don’t Dismiss Beauty Queens. The Chinese Govt is Downright Scared of Them & for Very Good Reason!

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 11.01.08 AM

There’s a lot of different ways to protest.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen some of the worst of them over the past few weeks.  But, for the most part, challenging the status quo, the social wrongs we see, or just plain ol’ anachronistic thinking is an incredibly valuable and innate human behavior.  And, tonight being the first night of Hannukah — a commemoration of the Maccabees’s protest against the repressive Greek regime of their day — it’s only fitting to celebrate it!

The more tyrannical or oppressive the object of our protest, the more crafty, clever and creative we must be in our rebellious acts.  We can’t always march in the street or publish our thinking.  We need to use what we have at our disposal.  And that is exactly what a few feisty beauty queens did as they protested against the Chinese government.  Over the course of the last few days, I saw news story after new story highlighting not just one, but two, beauty pageants that have enraged the Chinese government.

At the Miss Earth beauty pageant, the contestant from Taiwan, Ting Wen-yin, refused to change her sash from “Miss Taiwan ROC” to “Miss Chinese Taipei.”  Her explanation: “I was born in Taiwan, my sash now says Taiwan, I represent Taiwan, and I’m going to use the name of Taiwan in appearing at this pageant.”  She also shared in social media the horrible treatment that all the contestants were subjected to like not being served some meals and forced to attend night clubs to flirt with men.  The result? She was reprimanded, banned from certain activities, and not allowed to be in pictures.  Eventually she was kicked out all together. (For more of the story, read here)

Around the same time, another story hit the news stream about Anastasia Lin, a Chinese-born woman who was crowned Miss Canada.  She has been using the pageant’s platform and the subsequent press coverage to speak against the Chinese government.  She has also created films and written essays to share the corruption and repressive acts of her former government.  And the Chinese leadership was pissed.  Majorly.  They tried to ban her from the Miss Universe pageant.  This, of course, backfired creating an even bigger uproar and heightening her efforts that much more.

Needless to say, the Chinese government is super skittish now when it comes to beauty pageants.

What these stories show us is that the “popular” cultural activities, like beauty pageants (and the people who participate in them) which we may snicker at, can play a powerful role in society.  While I have a hard time endorsing the parading of women around in bathing suits, I also have the seen the power of these “institutions.”  Since the beginning of time and into today, pageants have served as spaces where women could achieve something — whether a way out of poverty or a podium to protest.    I applaud Lin and Wen-yin who not only risked their success to tell their stories, but who realized how to best use the gifts they had and the circumstances they found themselves in, i.e., beauty contests, to do it.  Would they have been listened to if they didn’t use this platform?  Maybe…but, then again, maybe not.

It’s easy for us to look down at people who want to show off and get rewarded for their physical beauty.  But many of us aren’t in the same social, economic and political situations as these people.  Moreover, when beauty contestants use their beauty, and the pageants that showcase their beauty, in ways that most of us wouldn’t have the guts to, how can we NOT admire them?

Lesson here? First, let’s never ever assume that beauty queens are dumb.  Second, we shouldn’t assume that the popular, seemingly frivolous events, like beauty contests, don’t have a potential role for social betterment.  Finally, let’s appreciate the fact that we live in a society where we CAN protest a multitude of ways without fear of reprisal.

 

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

130309_missrussia.photoblog600

What juicy beauty stories caught our attention this week?  Take a look below:

  • Young Indian girls gain financial independence via beauty training

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Tribals-can-start-beauty-business-at-home/articleshow/19570677.cms

  • In a country with over 140 million people, how can there be one Russian look?  Well, according to the haters of of Miss Russia, there must be!

http://www.torontosun.com/2013/04/15/miss-russia-haters-russian-beauty-queen-shocked-by-racist-backlash

  • Inspiring story about a girl born with two major birth defects.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/14/health/loker-profile/index.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-armstrong/revisiting-the-beauty-myth_b_3063414.html

Any more stories to add? Comment or tweet us @Beautyskew

Is Beauty the Way to Give a Voice to the Deaf & Mute?

In an effort to open people’s eyes to the needs of the hearing impaired, Mumbai hosted a beauty pageant for deaf and mute women.  See the article for more info.

Hmmmm.

What’s the connection?  Why do people need a beauty pageant to give hearing impaired women a “voice?”  Why not have a sporting event or art exhibition?  What’s with a beauty contest?

The article does’t answer my questions but I have my theories.  Of course physical beauty is something one SEES versus hears.  But more than that, I think the pageant purposefully celebrates one very physical feature — beauty — in order to bring to light the lack of another very physical feature — hearing.

Sure, we could embrace these women’s intellectual abilities.  That would seem more progressive, right?   But I kind of like the idea of making this a physical issue.  We all have gifts, and many of them are physical (beauty, a sense of rhythm, the ability to pick up a tune etc).  We should remember that and celebrate them!

 

Should there be beauty pageants for kids with special needs?

Just as there has been a lot of hoopla lately about child beauty pageants (one community in particular has banned them), a new story came out seeming to condone them.  I’m referring to a heart-warming story about a new type of beauty pageant: one for kids with special needs.

You can’t help but applaud these families who compete.  Their sending a message to the world and, of course, to their children, that although they are different, they are also beautiful.

Being an advocate for embracing and sharing beauty, I’m loving this!  But I am also as creeped out by child beauty pageants as the rest of us (“Toddlers and Tiaras”, ah, hellooooo).  Is there a double standard here?  In one case we’re making kids feel great, and in another we’re abusing them.  Hmmmmm.  Can you argue that the same warm, cushy feeling these special kids feel by being acknowledged as beautiful may be similar to that those “normal” kids who compete in “normal” kiddy pageants feel?  Perhaps these “normal” kids are anything but.  Perhaps they too need some sort of acknowledgement that they’re beautiful.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, the motives of the parents for special needs children is different from the those of the “normal” pageant moms.

Maybe.

Or maybe we’re all a bunch of snobs.  I’m not saying we should dress up kids like mini Pamela Andersons.  I’m just wondering if we changed the rules/approaches a bit in the “scary” pageants, that ALL pageants can be accepted by the rest of us.  And ultimately all kids feel great in the end.

 

Week in Review: 7/8-7/14

What juicy stuff did we discuss this week?  Scroll down and take a look:

What Mavis in “Young Adult” teaches us about the interplay between our outsides and insides Weekend Observations: Your Outsides Do Reflect & Affect Your Insides  

Do women photographers capture a woman’s beauty better?  Pic of the Week: Why Women Can Capture The Beauty of Women Better 

A beauty pageant hosted for Holocaust survivors in Israel: What we really think about it “Holocaust Survivors” & “Beauty Pageant”: Two Phrases You Never Thought Would Go Together

More curated beauty-in-culture reading More to Love: Additions to the Reading List 

Happy Bastille day!

Pic of the Week: The Beauty of Democracy

Jenna Talackova

In case you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, there has been a ton of hoopla around Jenna Talackova’s rejection and the acceptance into the Miss Universe Canada pageant.  What happened?  Well, Jenna was initially kicked out of the pageant because she wasn’t born a woman.  She’s transgender and a pretty good-looking one at that!  The reason for the reversal had nothing to do with the good graces of the pageant officials, but rather the pressure from open-minded, accepting people around the world.  Perhaps this one beauty pageant will set the stage for greater acceptance in every sphere of life for anyone who chooses to live life in his/her own special way.  Way to go Jenna!

The Real Issue with Little Girls and Pageants

How can you NOT reel in horror when you see all the pics of toddler beauty pageants?  With Toddlers and Tiaras in full swing, you’d think I’d get used these images.  But I can’t.  I’m not the only one, clearly.  A few months ago People magazine did a whole feature on it.

But am I a hypocrite?  After all I recognize the value of beauty pageants.  For many women it’s a way to get necessary funds for college or it’s a stage for them to express their assets.  And many of these pageant winners started young in pageants like these!

Also, I believe its wonderful to want to play with beauty and share the experience with others.

Is this so different?

Yes.

And if you’ve seen the slew of articles about Jon Benet Ramsey’s father coming out recently, he agrees!

First, I’m really shocked at the blatant sexualization that goes on at such a young age.  Girls are being padded to look like Dolly Parton and dressed to look like the prostitute played by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  Leave it to our Puritanical culture to equate beauty with sexuality, ugh.  This is what happens when people feel they need to go to the extreme to win.

Second, there’s an age limit to everything.  While my husband and I send our son to chess matches at the young age of 7, he’s not a toddler!  My son has enough maturity to take the games in stride.  But kids barely out of diapers can’t truly understand what pageants are.  Can they really view them as fun when so many pageant moms take these events VERY seriously.   I can totally imagine a young girl thinking “if I don’t win this pageant, will I lose mom’s love?”

Finally, being judged on one’s looks at such a young age may screw them up as they grow older.  They’ll end up being super looks conscious.

I’m all for letting kids experiment with clothes and make-up, and allowing them to express their beauty in the comfort of their own homes, or even on stage (assuming for harmless purposes).  But once you add the judging part into the mix, all hell breaks loose.

Comment or tweet me your thoughts @beautyskew

Pic of the Week: Miss USA Pageant, Beautiful or Boring?

Is it me or do all these women look THE SAME??!!!  (Ok, Ok, I know the pageant was over a week ago, but you can blame the delay on Beautyskew being under construction.)  Sure, they may have different colored hair and bathing suits but I seriously can’t tell them apart.  As I was watching the pageant, I was longing for something to stand out — a lazy eye, crew cut, a prosthetic leg — something!