Can beauty contests ever be feminist?

// 19 November 2007

Although the traditional beauty contest is probably never going to be salvaged for feminism, there are any number of alternatives that fall into much more of a grey area – and Miss Landmine Angola 2008 is definitely one of them.

Not only does it have some laudable objectives, such as “female pride and empowerment”, “disable pride and empowerment” and “challenge inferiority and/or guilt complexes that hinder creativity- historical, cultural, social, personal, African, European”, but the candidates themselves break down some of stereotypes of the ‘beauty queen’.

You can read more about them here, but it’s worth noting that ages range from 19-33, all of them older than Angola’s teenage entrant into the Miss World competition. I can’t find the official rules for Miss World, but Miss England must be a 17-24 year-old, “who usually uses the prefix ‘Miss’ (or equivalent) before her name”, who has never been married and who has never had children. And that’s before you even get to the swimsuit competition.

In contrast, all but one of the Miss Landmine is either pregnant or has already had kids, some are married, some are single and one is a widow. All of them, of course, have been involved in landmine accidents. And their stories are worth hearing – worth being promoted. Even in the silly little descriptions which tell us their relationship status and favourite colour, the distinction between the two competitions is stark. Here are the stats given by Miss Malanje (pictured):

City: Malanje

Mine: 1998, escaping attack

from UNITA soldiers

Marital Status: Married to a landmine survivor

Kids: 4, aged (9, 7, 3, 2)

Occupation: Unemployed

Dream job: Anything

Favorite color: Magenta

Anyway, it’s hard to think this is a bad thing when you flick through the photos of these women looking happy and, well, beautiful.

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