Power, Politics, and Pageantry

Power, Politics, and Pageantry

“I wouldn’t wear a bikini to a beach, so I’m not going to wear one in a competition to score points,” states Muna Jama. A brave Muslim pageant contestant representing Great Britain in the Miss Universe pageant, refused to wear a bikini. Instead, she replaced it with an outfit thats in harmony with her religion, the kaftan. Her religious-based political stance pushed the judging committee to excuse her from wearing a bathing suit. An act that has never been done in the history of the Miss Universe pageant.  It’s almost impractical to realize that in our progressive society, a swim suit category is integral in defying a women’s capability of representing the Universe. Do we really need to sexualize women to promote their missions and provide them with a platform to voice their opinions? Even though there are issues in pageantry, especially in the realm of politics, there is still power in these competitions. Pageants are a platform in which women are able to make an impact.

In example of pageantry politics, the 2015 Miss Universe pageant encountered a problematic controversy when Miss Israel photobombed Miss Lebanon Sally Greige, during the pageant rehearsal, almost leading Miss Lebanon to lose her title. While Lebanon and Israel’s last conflict was in 2006, the two countries still face a decade of tension caused by the 20+ years of war, which might not be easily washed away. Yet, despite all the blood shed, martyrs and tears, a photo taken during pageant rehearsals still shook Miss Lebanon’s world and almost deprived her from her platform to represent her country. Even though pageants bring together nations that have been at war for decades in a civilized manner, situations like the photobomb incident proves that politics still do get in the way of beauty pageants.

oprah winfreyBesides winning a glistening crown and other benefits that comes with the title, women enter pageants to gain power. While the crown once attracted wanna-be models and aspiring hollywood stars, in recent years, titleholders profession of choice is now trending in social activism and politics. Erika Harold, Miss America 2003 used her pageant title and ran twice for Illinois’s 13th Congressional district office. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Palin were previous beauty queens who have used their crown to help pave their way into making societal impacts. However, is the world only ready to accept women in power if they conform to societal and pageant beauty standards? Why is it when we look for men in power, their foundation, education, and wit is what draws us to support them in politics, business ventures or other industries? Yet, women are judged on their physical beauty first, to be accepted, and then challenged with their education and wit. Pageant contestants are realizing that to win societal’s approval, they need to forgo competitions such as pageants, to grant them power. The power of allowing their voice to be heard, to make a difference.

The Syrian crises, hunger in Somalia, and world poverty have been issues for years, but why does a pretty face need to evoke emotions?  We still need Hollywood glam to talk about social issues. We still need beauty to attract our attention on pivotal topics. However, when nations are fighting each other over territory and land, nationalism is getting in the way of humanism, and women are struggling to gain power, pageants have proved to have a bigger picture than just an entertainment show. Pageants provide a platform in which contestants are able to empower women, to help provide them with career opportunities, and to unite above all differences for the greater good of humanity. Indeed, there is power in pageantry, but at what cost?