Yesterday I went to pick up my kids at school. I relish this time because it is not super often that I get back from work in time to go in and get them. I like seeing my son in his classroom, asking his teacher what he has been up to, seeing Gabby as she emerges with friends. I also like seeing other parents and teachers and hearing about activities and news that my kids either forget or neglect to tell me about.
Yesterday, however, I am chatting with another parent as we waited for the bell to ring and she asks me innocently if Alice was going to be in the Miss OurTown Beauty Pageant (a note to the uninitiated--Alice is 20 mo. old. She likes Dora, going down slides, and eating tomato sauce. Her future goals include learning the rest of the colors (she knows purple and yellow) and being potty trained. Not exactly the picture of poise, let's say.) Now, as someone who reads this blog regularly, what do you think I did in this situation?
A.) Replied, "Yes, I think that I will put my daughter in a beauty pageant so that she can learn as soon as possible that being a woman means she is only as good as what she looks like. While I'm at it, I'm going to explain that she will make less in the workplace than a comparably employed man, may have the right to make decisions about her own body ripped away at any moment, and may someday be forced into a sexual situation not of her choosing because her heels were too high or her skirt was too short. Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm going to punch her in the stomach and tell her Santa isn't real."
B.) Politely and resolutely responded with, "No. We don't do beauty pageants."
C.) Stammered out something unintelligible, stared at my shoes, and shook my head "no" in a noncommital, rather strange way.
If you guessed "C," you are correct, my little profiterole. You win the internet. Congratulations.
This is one thing I despise about myself--I really back away from things for fear of any kind of conflict, even if it is something that I feel strongly about. Feminism, and by extension, child beauty pageants, are things that I feel very strongly about. However, because of my kumbaya/let's not piss anyone off mentality, I just sit there and smile, not even responding with a polite, well-meaning "No." I become hilariously non-commital, trying to please everyone, much like the centrist politicians that I rail about in so many booze-fueled 2:00 am conversations with my husband. And then I am angry at myself, at the freaking beauty pageant for even EXISTING, and I ponder walking into the school and announcing over the PA system "Good afternoon. Please go to Gabby's and Sam's mom's blog so that you can read her eloquent and well-informed missive on child beauty pageants. Thank you."
I am a feminist, ya'll. I believe that women can do anything that they wish to do, whether than means being a stay at home mom, or running a Fortune 500 company. I believe that women are equals and should have the right and responsibility to make decisions about their own lives, their own futures, their own bodies. I believe that women should receive equal pay in the workplace. I believe that women are more than a pretty face, that they can express themselves through beauty and fashion if they so choose as a method of gaining self-confidence and self-appreciation. I do not believe that they have to do that if they do not so choose. And most importantly, I believe that every woman is beautiful and that their beauty should not be judged or used as a tool in the war against other women.
When I got home yesterday, I thought about it. Alice was running around in her favorite Dora t-shirt and a pair of striped cotton shorts. She has darkening, fluffy, still nearly nonexistent hair. She is chubby and has dimples in her cheeks, her thighs. She smiles brighter than any kid I've ever seen. I think she is gorgeously effervescent--the best qualities of a girl, of a daughter, of a human being. I thought about the whole concept of a beauty pageant and how ridiculous it is for a child of Alice's age, or hell, of any age. I thought of all the women in my life who I find amazingly gorgeous--my mom, Patti Smith, Michelle Obama, my grandmother, D'Arcy Wretzky, cousins, my freshman roommate, assorted fashion bloggers who amaze me everyday with their beauty. Very few of these would do very well in a beauty pageant. So while I do not think ill of the person who asked me about entering Big Al in a pageant, I find the society that condones such an event to be questionable at best.
Did I say any of that? No. I didn't. But I hope that someday I will.