Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The "Right to Be Beautiful"

A different kind of beauty pageant is emerging in Angola, featuring women who have lost limbs in landmines.

This pageant will crown two, "Miss Landmines," one by a panel of judges and one chosen by online voting. The pageant's winners will receive a new prosthetic limb, and all contestants will be rewarded for participation with government aid to go back to school or start a small business.

The pageant's goal is to raise awareness of the landmine problem and its immeasurable devastation in the African nation and to empower women and people with disabilities; however, with its motto, "Everyone has a right to be beautiful," the message may be getting lost.

The women are all beautiful and comfortable with their bodies, which even as a non-disabled person I can recognize the difficulty of, but should empowerment really come from realization of beauty? Is this true empowerment, swimsuit competition and all?

I am having such difficulty with the idea of this pageant. I want to embrace it because it IS causing conversations about landmines, disabilities, and women (such as right here), but I almost feel that these women's bodies are being used by the movement, similar, though not as graphically, as the way PETA uses women's bodies to promote a good cause.



judgesnineteen said...

Yikes! I had wondered when I just heard the pageant mentioned somewhere if it was something cool or something...I wouldn't like. When I started reading I was like awesome! But that motto sucks. I mean I guess it implies that if people aren't violent to you, you'll be naturally beautiful, which is nice. It's not like it's a Miss Plastic Surgery pageant with that motto. But still, I think it's really offensive to disabled people to imply that they're automatically not beautiful, and I think it's absolutely mind-blowingly ridiculous to imply that the worst part of having a body part blown off by a landmine is that now you're not as pretty as you used to be. That right there is some serious patriarchy. Oh well, at least it will have some good effects.

Amelia said...

Excellent post, Kate!

I was not sure, either, when I heard about this because the nature of pageants, in general, revolves around the physical appearance of participants. And I would have to say that being beautiful is not the only means of empowerment. About that, though, it does seem like, at least, this pageant is trying to formulate a different kind of "beauty" which is displayed by people who have been devastated by landmines. Maybe their beauty IS their power to continue living life, etc.?

Anyway, I think that if the government was going to help these people, they could have done it in a matter other than a pageant that would have left the idea that beauty = empowerment? off the table.

Again, great post!

Anonymous said...

This is a good thing, nobody should be bitchin' except the woman with no leg. Lets leave the decision up to the person missing an appendage. End of story.

Amelia said...

I would like to make a note that all readers who post comments should be able to do so without inappropriate language. Anonymous, your point could have easily been made without the word "bitchin'," and your decision to use that word could easily be taken as a personal attack on those who disagree with you. Please remember that I read all comments posted on Female Impersonator, and I will not hesitate to delete those that display inappropriate language.


judgesnineteen said...

The decision is up to them, and I wouldn't tell them not to participate. But even when you're doing a good thing for some people, you can accidentally do something that's not good for other people, like making a motto that's offensive to the disabled (a group which includes people besides the women in this pageant) and that perpetuates the idea that the most important thing about a woman is her beauty.

Tyler said...

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