Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Miss Universe Competition 2011

Leila Lopes, Miss Angola, was crowned the most beautiful woman in the universe in 2011. The runners-up were Miss Ukraine, Olesia Stefanko, Miss Brazil, Priscila Machado, Miss Philippines, Shamcey Supsup and Miss China, Luo Zilin.

It reads a bit like the countries of the United Nations, does it not? And that is the subject matter of this post, or rather how what we have here is an example of a case where racism and sexism are not moving in the same direction.

Put another way, the concept of beauty in the Miss Universe competitions is not dependent on the color of one's skin, and that is good and proper. All women can be beautiful (though they do have to look the same in certain aspects, as these pictures tell you)!

But then all women can stuff themselves into tiny bikinis and strut about wearing high-heeled shoes while being judged for their looks, and beauty pageants can become something little girls watch in all countries of the world, dreaming about one day standing on that very same stage! Clad in bikinis.

The point I chase here is that something can be an advance in terms of one set of social values (reducing racist thinking) and not an advance in terms of another set of values (reducing sexist thinking). But because the effects of race and gender can interact in complicated ways how a particular woman might feel about the final outcome depends on her place in that initial grid.