Monday, January 12, 2015

beauty pageants

I grew up in an area where beauty pageants were the norm. Almost every year, in elementary school, I would be one of the few girls in my class who did not enter. If I remember correctly, the pageant was actually a fundraiser by the PTA. I attended a Christian school during middle school, so that eliminated any thought of such things other than seeing pictures of winners from numerous pageants in the paper and copies passed around at family reunions if a person "placed". In high school, only a handful of girls did the pageant circuit, though many girls would do it "at least once", as part of their high school experience.

I've thought about some of those memories a lot the past few weeks. My youngest niece has decided to join the insanity. Her friends talked her into it five years ago, as she was the only person in first grade who did not compete. So in second grade, she participated, absolutely hated it, and refused for third grade, which was totally fine with her Mom. But fourth grade brought the pressure back on, along with an upscale in the type of dress needed. My sis put out her limit on what could be spent. They couldn't find a dress in time, so that was the end of that. This year, my niece was determined that she'd have a dress, whether it was exactly what she wanted or not. She made a point to inform my brother that he would have to come see her again. My brother informed my mother that his wife could attend, but he had already done that once and would not sit through such a waste of time and money again. My niece plans to send him a personal invitation. I'm thinking she's not going to get her way on this one. And were I living in AL, I would be right there with him.

Beauty pageants are not an absolutely terrible thing. I think parents, like my sister, can say, "Here's my budget for this activity and no more." But what really bothers me is seeing posts on Facebook from friends and relatives back home saying "This dress has only been worn in one pageant. It's retail price is $700, and my friend is asking $350."

$350...that would buy textbooks for two semesters of college. That's a car payment. That's half a payment on a pair of eyeglasses. That would replace the seat of a shower wheelchair. And while I know my sister does not even pay 1/3 of that asking price, I still can't help but think of how much that would be in a college tuition fund in another 7 years.  I agree with my brother. It's such a waste. And as a Christian, while I don't think beauty pageants are sin or evil, I'm not exactly sure what the point in emphasizing outward beauty is. You're paying to enter your child in a competition, paying for her to wear a non-practical/only worn a few times dress, for judges to decide whether or not she's the "prettiest one of all".  It makes me a little sick.

And if all my AL/MS friends are reading this, yes, I am a Christian with some feminist views. I simply don't see how a beauty pageant enhances a girl's life in any positive way. I know others disagree, and that's okay.

It's probably good I don't have a daughter. I think this would be one of many events where my mother would come out of my mouth, "No, not everyone is doing this, because you're not doing this; so therefore EVERYONE can't be doing it."

And as I re-read this before posting, I understand why my husband laughs sometimes and asks how I ever survived growing up in Alabama.


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