The feminine critique

Much has been written about Miss Universe Canada’s decision to remove Jenna Talackova from the Miss Universe Canada Competition.

According to the organization, Ms. Talackova was barred from competing because, “She did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form.”

You see, in order to qualify as a Miss Universe Canada contestant, individuals must be:

• a Canadian citizen

• between the age of 18 and 27

• neither pregnant nor married

• a “natural born” female (also a requirement of every other Miss Universe pageant).

Natural born females, eh? Sounds like an Oliver Stone production that never made it past the drawing board.

Now, the absurdity of these rules isn’t the main reason I am writing this post.

That I believe Ms. Talackova should be able to compete in the pageant is a truth – not only does she identify as a women (and has since the age of four) but legally (like – BY LAW PEOPLE) she is a woman.

Period. (No pun intended.)

Hence, she should qualify.

The fact of the matter remains that we, as a society, are missing the much bigger problem at hand.

The real issue is the fact that we’re living in the twenty-first century and beauty pageants are things that actually still exist.

I don’t know if I can think of anything more ridiculous, antiquated and painfully sexist that marching a bunch of women across a stage and marking them on how well they model a bikini.

Or evening gown.

And don’t even get me on those events that try to promote some level of “legitimacy” because they have a talent component.

You’re going to tell me that some washed up NBA star, or some hate-mongering gossip columnist is going to be able to (competently!) judge between a Mozart-penned aria and a baton twirling routine? A Schubert fugue in A minor and a rhythmic gymnastics programme?

Give me a break. No, give me all the breaks.

To me, the choice to include a talent section and then market the event as progressive is basically akin to the organizers trying to frame their competition as the Diet Coke of beauty pageants.

Let’s call it “sexism lite.”

But it’s not like they’re any better than the original product (which would be Coke, or “sexism original” if you will.)

Both are still responsible for reinforcing highly destructive, prescriptive, and dangerous gender norms.

Or, to go back to the drink analogy – having some kind of special skill component in your competition might spare you from contracting diabetes, but don’t kid yourself, you’re still going to develop that brain tumor.

I mean come on. At the root of it, both propagate the socially accepted, (nay institutionalized) notion that all woman everywhere must first and foremost be judged on the way they look.

Good thing because goodness knows that’s a movement that needs all the help it can get.

For more information please see:

I am of the mind that we should just make it so that no women EVER are allowed to enter these contests.

Because then, finally, we could add them to that special collection in our planet’s attic (you know that trash bag labelled “what the hell where we thinking?”) along with Lysol douching products, lead based makeup (which I’m actually afraid isn’t so much a thing of the past), and shoulder pads.

Another reason why I loathe these competitions is the (always brutal) question and answer component of the evening.

The women stand there in their bedazzled gowns, smiling as if their lives depended on it, calculating how they will be able to answer a question without really, you know, answering the question.

It’s like a bloody political debate all of a sudden appears and sets up shop on stage. Afraid of alienating voters, the contestants must find creative ways of filling up their allotted thirty seconds by not really saying anything.

And as such, none of the contestants ever give a real, heartfelt response.

This, I imagine, is in part due to the fact that they know that 1.) Unfortunately, the majority of the audience has no interest is what they really think, 2.) should they go out on a limb and speak their mind, the chance that this choice would come back and bite them is huge (both during the competition, or throughout their careers post-pageant, and 3.) the rule of the game is please everyone, so try your best not to rock the boat, and just give an answer that is non-threatening and easy to digest.

Now, I take great issue with all of these points. But just thinking about number three makes me feel like tearing out my hair and setting fire to my entire wardrobe.

Because, these notions of having an opinion, but not being pushy about it; about pleasing others before yourself; of not rocking the boat with your convictions; about worrying about how others will perceive you and your ideas (and how they could impact your career) – these are behavioral mechanisms force fed to women, all around the world, all day, every day.

And to see them glamorized, (and celebrated!) on a local, provincial, national, international stage – well, that just demoralizes the heck out of me.

We should be celebrating actions over aesthetics; convictions and passions over rhetoric and clichés.

In the end, wanting world peace isn’t wrong.

But a system that dictates that one need qualify this want by looking good in bathing suit and providing proof of their “natural femininity” on national television IS wrong.

A competition that buys into this system and (dangerously) sells itself as some kind of measuring stick for femininity IS wrong.

And I know that as of this moment, I am really ready for something that is right.

Published by

Vanessa Woznow

Writer, runner, ranter, reader. I write about all things.

14 thoughts on “The feminine critique”

  1. If anything good comes from this fiasco, I hope it’s that this conversation is re-opened, and that enough people say what you’re saying so that we can get rid of these pageants forever.

  2. Right on Ethel! A very well-written post with many, many good points. My favourite part was when you said, “The real issue is the fact that we’re living in the twenty-first century and beauty pageants are things that actually still exist.” I agree that they are silly. Not to mention how some girls start out so young with them now. I wonder if you can ever get a girl thinking normally again if at 4 years old they are fake-tanning and wearing high heels.

    What a way to “showcase” the women of our society. It’s one of those things that you don’t even know where to begin to change them because it’s not just that they need changing, it’s that they should just stop. I am sure some people really enjoy their experience but truly, why teach us that there’s anything okay about judging people by their looks? Male or female.

    As Tom Cochrane said, “It’s a mad, mad world…”

    1. Thank you so much! I was pretty revved up writing this post, so positive feedback is much appreciated.

      I completely agree with you about the introduction of pageant culture at such a young age. To basically program a young mind into thinking that looks are the most important things in life – and are intrinsically tied to “femininity” just boggles the mind.

      I too agree with just doing away with the whole system.

  3. I agree completely. However, we will never be able to rid the world of all her stupid institutions so the least we can do is ensure equal access to participate in stupid institutions.

    It should never be left up to the majority to protect the rights of the majority.

      1. Ha, except I definitely said it wrong! The minority is the group in need of protection…oops. I suppose that many conservatives would be inclined to agree with my original statement though.

  4. Yes, yes YES. Do away with all of it. There are so many of those stupid beauty contests (in the States, anyway). Toddlers & Tiaras?? Now there’s a Dance Moms or something like that. Which isn’t a beauty pageant I guess but it might as well be. Soooo happy I was never forced/encouraged to do crap like that.

    1. Me too! I cannot imagine how messed up living immersed in that kind of world can make a person.

      The fact that we sensationalize and celebrate these awful institutions is very troubling to me.

  5. First comment: Love your blog. I have been submerged this morning. Thanks.
    Second. Amen Sista: Love this post and glad you are singing. It all goes back to one thing though…hear me out…”the man box” Until we educate men and women we are never going go move forward. Glad your putting it out there for people to read. I love this post.

    1. You are bang on the money Sprocket Monkey. I hate the fact that we teach individuals through the lens of the man/woman binary. It grinds my gears like nothing else!

      Thank you very much for stopping by and for your great note!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s