Sunday, 15 January 2012

Double Standards for Women

I watched the Dr. Phil episode “Tarnished Tiaras” about beauty queens whose crowns were revoked because of mistakes they made.  It’s made me quite annoyed on a feminist level.

I think it’s garbage to require a young woman to never, ever have made any kind of mistake or questionable judgment.  These pageants hide behind a “morality clause” where the contestants are required to say they will not and have never done anything that would tarnish the image of the pageant.

Really?  Never?  Not once in their life?

It’s ridiculous and unrealistic.  Everyone makes mistakes.  We’ve all messed up and done things we shouldn’t.  Sometimes we get caught and sometimes we don’t.  But one mistake shouldn’t define your life.

I think it’s especially tragic given that the young women affected are a vulnerable group.  They’re attractive, naïve and in the public eye.  They’re competitive, eager to do what’s necessary to achieve their dreams and well aware that they’re entering a networking business.  They’re courted by men who tell them what they want to hear and take advantage of them.  They’re young and naïve and don’t know how to protect themselves or even, sometimes, what lines should be drawn.

It got me thinking.  The pageants aren’t idiots.  They have to know it’s unrealistic.  So why have the dumb rule in the first place?  I would like to believe it began as a good intention, wanting to encourage young women to respect themselves and their bodies, to avoid judges and photographers soliciting sexual favours.

However, I think we’re dealing with a more primitive challenge.  Part of the appeal of a beautiful young woman is her naïveté.  At least, to men.  It’s an ideal for them.  An attractive woman who is impressed and proud of you is a great turn on for men.  And it’s more likely to happen with a young woman who doesn’t have a lot of life experience. 

That concept makes me angry.  People have enough stuff to deal with in their lives.  For a woman to be told that a single act from her youth defines her is ridiculous.  The myth that a “good” girl’s reputation can vanish in an instant with a single “bad” act is garbage.  Defining sexual interest or evidence of sexuality as “bad” in women is also garbage.  Women are sexual beings just like men and don’t deserve to be demonized for it.

The pageants have complained about dwindling interest and relevance.  If they really want to become more relevant to young women in general, they need to stop focusing on a completely false Barbied image and start focusing on amazing and interesting young women.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they promoted the image of a confident, self-aware and self-comfortable contestant?  One with depth and flaws and everything that makes actual women interesting.

Of course, I think the last thing young women need is more sexualized images of themselves.  That’s where the pageant hypocrisy is really infuriating.  They’re selling sex.  They’re selling the appearance of sex without the experiential knowledge.  In other words, they’re selling easy prey to predators.

But that’s just my opinion.

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