Goodbye, Miss Universe; Hello, Untamed Beauty

Debbie says:

I stopped watching beauty pageants when my friend Karl (Familiar Men picture here), who was addicted to them, died seven years ago. (Beauty contests are no fun to watch without a steady narration by a gay man who’s been a beauty contest aficionado for thirty years; then it’s more than worth the price of admission.)

So I was amused (and gratified) to learn that Miss Sweden will not be Miss Universe this year. Apparently, “Swedes say the Miss Universe competition is degrading to women and weighed down by scandals.”

The scandals are just the boring ones you’d expect. More interesting are the contestants with shaved heads (Miss Tanzania) and dreadlocks (Miss Jamaica). It does, however, quote Panos Papadopoulos, the organizer of the Miss Sweden contest, “which scrapped its swimsuit competition and allowed women to apply for the position like any other job after heavy criticism from feminists.”

Traditional beauty contests are beleaguered on all sides these days: reality TV is more exciting, conventionally beautiful women in swimsuits are on every street corner, and conventionally beautiful women without swimsuits, often doing unconventional things with livestock, are in every email box. Three things make the Sweden story interesting:

First, Scandinavian women disproportionately win these events (why? because tall blondes are in fashion, of course), so not having Miss Sweden is more of a slap to the organizers than not having, say, Miss Singapore, or Miss Greece.

Second, I find something absolutely charming in the idea that women applied to be Miss Sweden. Beauty contests are and always have been a money-making business; why not neatly extend the concept of application into the process?

Finally, not terribly far from Sweden as geography goes, Iceland just held a very different beauty contest. The conditions: you must be over 20 and have never had plastic surgery. “It works in the contestants favour if you can read from their appearance that they have lived life.”

The winner:

wrinkled old woman with her tongue sticking out

Asta Dora Egilsdottir won … by having her name pulled out of a hat. Check out the other contestants too.

In Sweden, they’re filing applications for beauty. In Iceland, they’re having lotteries. Compared to the traditional Miss Universe and similar contests, I’m in favor of both approaches, even though Karl might have less opportunity for commentary.

Sweden article from The F-Word; sorry, I just can’t remember who sent me the Iceland article.

Miss Universe, beauty, body image, size acceptance, feminism, beauty contest, beauty pageant, Sweden, Iceland,Body Impolitic,

4 thoughts on “Goodbye, Miss Universe; Hello, Untamed Beauty

  1. When some Swedish relatives visited several years ago, my family took them to the Minnesota State Fair, which is mostly agricultural exhibits and carnival rides. But there was a brief procession, complete with marching band, for the current Princess Kay of the Milky Way. My Swedish relatives were horrified and fascinated — they couldn’t believe such an obnoxious sexist beauty ritual was a part of the state fair. They all got out their still and video cameras. I was embarrassed for my Minnesota self.

  2. I am reminded so much of Alyona Pliskova, who in 2004, at the age of fifteen, won the online voting in a contest to determine the Russian entrant to the Miss Universe competition on the basis of a photograph of her wearing a shapeless red sweatshirt that protested Barbie dolls:

    Despite her commanding majority in the voting, the organizers disqualified her as being too young.

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