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Pageants Called Pathetic and Sexist

Your article (“Ms. Right,” Times, April 16) in the Westside Section revealed that there’s not much new in beauty pageants; just the same old pathetic, sexist exploitation of “attractive, ambitious, articulate” young women. I can’t believe that any except sick, dysfunctional families would encourage their daughters in this type of “career enhancement.”

Twenty years ago, I was not any less “an intellectual girl” than those strutting the ramps today. I financed my college education then by winning pageants and, considering inflation, the pay has not significantly increased. In one evening I could walk away with scholarships, money, gift certificates and awards totaling well over $600.

I also walked away with a progressively prouder and slicker exterior, matched by an ever-increasing burden of shame and humiliation. Winning pageants led me to believe that self-esteem is externally referenced and worthiness is grounded in the ability to manipulate others by presenting an image of perfection. I was taught to analyze and assess others based on their competitive threat. But I can assure you that I always looked relaxed and genuine as I conspicuously befriended my competitors for the benefit of the nearest camera.

I learned dishonesty as I practiced projecting sweetness and light from the stage, and I learned control as I framed my “articulate” responses to the cultural, socioeconomic mix of judges and audiences. And I won. It took years of work on myself to understand why and how to recover from it.

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Pageants are now “getting more popular,” as stated by the publishers of “Pageantry Magazine.” They are simply the same old anachronistic expressions of a system obsessed with physical beauty and achievement, often supported by fat, unhappy mothers who are determined to relive their own dysfunctional lives through their unfortunate daughters, hoping for more success and happiness the second time around.

I highly commend companies and organizations, like the Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce, which oppose pageants, and I fully support the boycott of contestant sponsors. We need to use all our resources to create a healthier environment and a more positive future for our children, rather than teaching them that there is something to be gained from prancing about half-naked in tiaras.

NANCY L. HUBERTH

Los Angeles

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