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The Miss Amazing Beauty Pageant: Empowering or Patronising?

The Miss Amazing Beauty Pageant describes itself as “a four-day celebration of the abilities and strengths of girls and women with disabilities”, and is in essence an opportunity to celebrate individual qualities and talents. On the surface, this appears to be a wonderfully empowering scheme for disabled girls who undoubtedly feel insecure about the physical differences between them and the people they interact with on a daily basis. 

However, my preliminary hostility towards the Miss Amazing Beauty Pageant stemmed from what I saw as a blatant patronisation: it is a beauty pageant for those that society does not deem ‘beautiful enough’, and so they gave them their own version. It is segregating disabled girls and teaching them that they cannot be valued in the same way as regular women; immediately categorising them as ‘different’ and enhancing the already very real and problematic divide in society between disabled people and everyone else.

Perhaps it is the very generic ‘beauty pageant’ framework that presents the fundamental challenge; complete with classic pink sashes and tiaras. In essence, the ties to the traditional beauty pageant are too strong for this well-meaning project to be anything more than a spin-off version for the ‘less-desirable’. This means that whilst the aim of the competition is to be an empowering twist on the standardised pageant, the fact that people with physical disabilities are being judged in a pageant based on physical appearance appears to be condescending. Whilst the ‘Miss Amazing Beauty Pageant’ does not focus on beauty, the fact that it is ignored means it becomes an unavoidable elephant in the room, teaching girls and women that they are not conventionally beautiful- and so ought to be focusing on other aspects of themselves that are not so inadequate.

“It is segregating disabled girls and teaching them that they cannot be valued in the same way as regular women”

Are there not more innovative and forward thinking ways to celebrate all girls and women alike without the need for segregating them? In the back of their mind they will have the uneasy image of ‘Miss United States’ and a collection of the most conventionally beautiful women in the world to tell them that this is an insulting duplicate. Finding a different structure for the competition – that does not have such strong connotations to traditional beauty contests- would mean that it was able to properly celebrate all women.

In an age where support for feminism has risen at an unprecedented rate, it is time to move away from these long-established contests that value women on their conventional beauty and their slim figures, and celebrate the abilities and strengths of all girls and women alike. It is the opportune time to inspire young disabled girls and teach them that they are neither any less beautiful nor should they have any less self-worth than any of the other girls they see in the playground. And in successfully doing so they can become women who have grown up with the self-confidence to both embrace the person that they are, and ensure that society’s views on disabilities do not limit them in achieving their dreams.

The Miss Amazing Beauty Pageant is not something that I feel should be welcomed into the United Kingdom. However, the good intentions behind it, to celebrate and inspire disabled girls is certainly something that we should incorporate into empowering girls as a whole, regardless of disability.

Aleesha Nagra

Image: Tendenci Software via Flickr

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