Feminism and Misplaced Crowns

Winter vacation scattered Andover students across the country and globe, but many witnessed Steve Harvey erroneously crown Miss Colombia as Miss Universe 2015. If anyone didn’t watch it live, they certainly saw pictures and videos of the gaffe on social media for days. The incident made global headlines as one of the most awkward moments of the year, appearing in countless internet memes, GIFs and articles. The most embarrassing part of the Miss Universe Pageant, however, was not the slip-up in crowning the winner, but the severe backlash and hatred the Miss Universe participants received from supposed “feminists.”

Critics took to social media to express their outrage about the Miss Universe Pageant and its objectification of the participants. They argued that any woman who subjected herself to a competition based entirely on looks was inherently not feminist. This argument, however, undermines the entire purpose of the feminism movement: equal political, social and economic rights for all women.

Condemning women who choose to participate in beauty pageants, like the Miss Universe Pageant, by declaring them not “true feminists” does nothing but perpetuate the internal misogyny, or girl-on-girl hate, that many feminists are working so desperately to end. Just as women have the right to cover up if they wish, we must respect the wishes of women who bare their bodies and/or participate in pageants like Miss Universe; any feminist who believes that women must adhere to a set of unwritten rules about herself and her body is wildly ignorant of the real tenets of feminism.
The policing of other women’s bodies masked as feminism promotes the stigma that has long shrouded feminism and endangers the feminist movement that is taking place on and off our campus. When these misguided voices become the loudest, they are soon the only ones that are heard and listened to. Often, this deceitful representation silences and ignores numerous subsections and facets of the movement, shutting some women out of the conversation.

False feminism is used as an excuse to talk down other women’s choices and interests. Although there is much to be said about the way the Miss Universe Pageant values the participants’ appearances over other aspects of their identities, attacking the moral fiber of the participants themselves is unhelpful and counterintuitive to feminism’s goal. Rather – on social media, in Women’s Forum and in feminist literature classes – the discussion surrounding Miss Universe should focus on including and uniting all women against the real issue: systemic sexism that harms us all.