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Ponnada: End the reign

BY SRI PONNADA | OCTOBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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You are beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down. But beauty pageants can.

Everyone thinks it’s so fun to sit and watch the Miss America competition on television. We all get excited to see beautiful belles strutting around in sexy swimwear. But what often doesn’t catch our eyes are the consequences of some of our society’s classic traditions — like beauty pageants.

Sexualization of girls — an unfortunately inherent characteristic of beauty pageants — is linked to common mental-health problems in girls and women, according to the American Psychological Association. It is causing problems such as eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression.

Our society, however, continues to immerse itself in these longstanding customs and is now introducing them to children at an even earlier age. After all, there’s no way that Miss America contestants or any other pageant queens have these kinds of problems. They are strong, successful women. In fact, the Miss America program is here to “provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community,” as stated on the organization’s website.

Guess what: Little Miss Sunshine isn’t so sunshiny after all. A study performed at the University of Minnesota to try to find the association between childhood beauty pageants and mental health found that childhood pageant participants showed higher levels of body dissatisfaction and interpersonal distrust than nonparticipants.

The study also highlighted the efect of environmental factors in the development of disordered eating behavior and negative body image. The evident emphasis our society places on thinness through representations of women such as in magazines, which often contain photographs of beauty pageant contestants, has instilled in us that it is desirable that women look a certain way.

The evil ends not at eating disorders.

Beauty pageants aren’t just objectifying young women and driving them to become victims of serious mental-health problems. The sexualization of girls is also the reason that fewer girls are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

If we’re choosing a woman to represent our nation based a lot on how pretty she is and how good she looks in a bikini, what message are we sending? Women have nothing to offer other than their bodies.

I think it is beauty pageants that have nothing to offer to our society. All pageantry does is objectify women and reinforce sexist ideas that women aren’t good for anything other than looking good and that when they’re not “good-looking,” they’re not good for anything at all.

Pageants, it’s about time your reign ends.


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