Is This Feminism at Work?
I'm confused, y'all. Normally beauty pageants wouldn't give me pause, but I feel the need to marinate on this year's Miss England contest. See, the winner is twenty-year-old Rachel Christie, a heptathlon competitor who's goal is to win the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She happens to also be the first Black woman to win the competition. While I would normally support the protest of UK feminist group Object, who organized a rally outside of the pageant for all of the reasons you'd expect (it's sexist, it's dehumanizing, it's disempowering), there was one objection I struggled with given the end results: it creates a racist ideal of beauty.
Since a Black woman won, is this claim negated? And if we take into account what Christie said to address this issue after her win ("I don't know why so few black girls enter. I think they think they won't win because beauty queens always have blond hair and blue eyes. I think they need to advertise more to change that."), should her personal success be viewed as a step forward for all women, particularly women of color? Is Object's prioritizing the end of sexist objectification over Christie's attempt to shift the societal standard of beauty away from Whiteness really the best hierarchy of oppressions, or are these two positions reconcilable?
And what about the fact that Christie isn't simply a beauty queen, but an athlete? It seems to me that she's pushing the boundaries of several stereotypes about what makes a woman attractive. In fact, according to The Independent, "she entered the contest in the hope of launching a modeling career that might fund her athletics training." So the lady was just using the contest to meet her "real" desire: to be an Olympian. Nothing wrong with hustling the system, right?
Perhaps this should be viewed as a win for feminism, after all. Let's hear it, folks. Yeah or neh?
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