How can beauty pageant contestants and feminists coexist? Beauty Pageants are both loved by participants and despised by some feminists. Many might call out a successful woman participating in a beauty contest for being a “bad feminist”; Miss Colombia 2018 — Jennifer Fino is such a woman. She is the last person a feminist might find in a pageant of any kind let alone the Miss Latina Global 2018 competition.
in her book “Bad Feminist” Author and feminist — Roxane Gay wrote:
“We don’t all have to believe in the same feminism. Feminism can be pluralistic. So long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us. So long as we give enough of a damn to try to minimize the fractures among us”.
Fino is a culturally mobile global nomad and an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK). She was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, USA, when she was 9-years-old.
Although raised in a patriarchal society in Colombia Fino never personally felt oppressed as a little girl. She never felt un-empowered to control her own destiny. This strong, feminine internal compass made Fino the beauty contestant and reluctant feminist that she is today.
A brief history of the feminist movement
First-wave feminism began around 1775 the time of the French and American revolution. It sought to address legal inequalities for women.
It began with an opposition to laws that made married women, and her children a husband’s legal property.
The law also sought equal contract and property rights for women.
In 1854 Florence Nightingale raised women’s contributions to society, and her view of feminism in a public way. She established female nurses as adjuncts to the British military. Nightingale also improved the sanitary conditions and patient survival rates at British military hospitals during the Crimean War.
Meanwhile other feminists like Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger continued to advocate for women’s sexual, reproductive and economic rights.
The 1920s’ suffragette movement worked to obtain voting rights for women in the UK and the US. Suffrage — the right to vote in an election was withheld from most women under age thirty. Those who campaigned for all women’s right to vote were named suffragists. The “Suffragette Movement” was born from the suffragist label.
The feminist movement’s second-wave
Second-wave feminism began in the late 1960s. This next wave of feminism continued the work of the suffragettes. It educated women on the connection between politics and culture. And worked towards equality for all people. Author and feminist activist — Carol Hanisch wrote what became the second-wave feminist’s slogan:
“The personal is political”. — Carol Hanisch
Authors making a difference in the feminist movement
Hanisch helped women to view certain aspects of their personal lives, such as the nuclear family with a stay-at-home wife and mother as politicized.
Betty Friedan, Germaine, Greer and Simone de Beauvoir were writers and activists who heavily influenced the feminist movement of the 1960s.
Betty Friedan showed women how they have bought into a false narrative. One in which women can only derive pleasure and accomplishment through her children and husband in her 1963 book, “The Feminine Mystique” The New York Times wrote this about Friedan in her obituary:
“‘The ‘Feminine Mystique’ … ignited the contemporary women’s movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world … is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century”.
Simone de Beauvoir’s book, “Second Sex” is said to be: “ … A detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism”.
By the 1960s talk of feminism and feminist activities was being discussed in terms of women’s liberation. The phrase “women’s liberation” is said to have been used in a speech in 1964. It first appeared as a slogan in writing in 1966.
The “Women’s Liberation Movement” came into maturity within the feminist movement’s consciousness in 1968 in the US.
Although there were few recorded incidences of actual bra-burning. It became associated with second-wave feminism.
African-American Intellectual and feminist Gloria Jean Watkins — also-known-as, “Bell Hooks”, was arguably the women’s liberation movement’s most noted critic as it related to race.
Hooks exposed the absence of women of color within the movement. Hooks felt the movement inadequately addressed classism and racism and criticized it for failing to address the issues that divided women of color and white women. The movement was weakened by a lack of in-depth consideration for these issues — according to Hooks.
The feminist movement’s third-wave
Third-wave feminism came into consciousness in the early 1990s as a result of the second-wave feminism’s perceived failures, initiatives and the movements backlash. Currently third-wave feminism is experiencing an internal debate over two sects of thought.
The first contends that there is no difference between the sexes. The perceived difference is really only the result of how a female child is socialized. The second believes there are important differences between cisgender women and cisgender men.
Cisgender is a person living as the sex they were born into.
There is another movement within third-wave feminism. They call themselves “Lipstick feminists”. This sub-group rejects some of the “anti-male” rhetoric of the second-wave feminist movement.
The new lipstick feminists are a branch of the third-wave feminist movement. In an upcoming issue we will tackle more controversies around so called lipstick feminism. For now this branch of third-wave feminism had this to say about what it stands for:
“Lipstick feminism is a school of third wave feminism in which women support the belief that it is possible to be a feminist while also displaying femininity, being sex positive or engaging in other displays of sexuality which earlier generations of feminists once condemned.”
It is easy for lipstick feminists to see why beauty pageants are still relevant. It is a bit of a stretch for other third-wave feminists to get behind beauty contests.
However there is support within both camps for these competitions.
Why beauty contests are still relevant
Traditional thought is that beauty pageants promote and display the opposite of feminism.
However beauty pageants are changing to meet and address the modern views of feminism in the present day. In 2018 the Miss USA pageant made the following relevant changes to its pageant format:
- Miss Teen USA competitors are judged in activewear instead of swimwear.
- The Miss USA competitors have a choice of swimwear options.
“Miss USA established an all-female selection committee made up of influential women”.
Miss USA’s all-female selection committee
- Jamie Kern Lima — “it cosmetics” company CEO.
- Lilliana Vazquez — “Style expert”
- Natasha Curry — “HLN” Host
- Other industry experts, entrepreneurs and former Miss USA contestants.
- The selection committee is part of the judging process from the beginning. This allows the judges to spend time with the contestants. They are able to develop a holistic view of the competitors — not just of their competition-persona.
Feminism and beauty pageants
“For me feminism is ultimately a freedom of choice”, Vasquez stated.
“I get to choose what I want to do. How I want to do it. When I want to do it. And why I want to do it.
For some women it’s not beauty pageants — it’s advocacy in their community and activism and being an amazing role model. But for other women it’s that and being in a beauty pageant.
Supporting that choice is the ultimate show of feminism because while it might not be your jam it is somebody else’s. And I’m going to support that all the way”.
“After having conversations with a lot of the contestants here many of them do feel that the swimwear competition is [essential]”. Vasquez also a Cross-Cultural Kid as well as Miss USA committee member further stated, “I do think that having the choice to compete in a bikini or a one-piece is important though and that’s a choice they’ve been given”.
Women’s progress in 2018
Young girls and women today all over the world are fighting for their rights.They are protesting, voting, petitioning and taking great risks to have the opportunity to attend school or to even drive a car.
For example for the first time in decades Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women drivers in 2018.
A 2017 through 2018 United Nations (UN) report UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka contributed this foreword:
“In 2017 we saw an unprecedented upsurge of movements for women’s rights, equality, safety and justice … The time is now to end all forms of gender inequality. The culture of gender-based poverty, abuse and exploitation has to end with a new generation of equality that lasts for all women and girls, no matter where they live or how they live. We must leave no one behind”.
Beauty pageants up-leveling the feminist agenda
Some feminists might say that competitions such as Miss Latina Global is misogynistic and objectifies women by forcing them to compete on attributes like attractiveness.
With women around the world making great strides towards equality why would a 21st century woman subject herself to a beauty pageant competition? When asked how she would benefit from beauty pageant competitions, Jennifer Fino said:
“As Miss Latina Global I will be a part of many networking events that we’re going to be a part of …. Not only do you really get to up-level your network … you’ll have a platform to do any kind of philanthropic work and to get other people involved”. Fino can then attract more donors, volunteers and collaborative partners to grow her foundation and its support of empowering women and girls.
What it means to be a good feminist
When asked if she as a beauty pageant contestant is a “good feminist” — one that supports feminism, advocates for women’s rights on the basis of female-identified equality of the sexes and uplifts and supports other women Fino offered this insight:
“I feel like that opinion is just not even true …. If you know anything about pageants and I can honestly tell you that because I’m in one now. You literally transform — inside and out. When you look at beauty we’re judging the woman, how she looks how she walks. But really the presence and enthusiasm and energy that that individual is bringing on stage is total performance”.
Fino went on to talk about how preparing for beauty pageant competition helped her to reconnect to her femininity.
The pageant training made her more knowledgable and comfortable as a women’s rights and equality advocate.
Fino does not “label” herself a feminist because she dislikes labels.
However Fino said that she now feels more poised and centered when she is advocating for the girls and women in her foundation.
She shows up as a confident and powerful woman in her personal and professional life. After beauty pageant competition preparation. A woman who is comfortable with her “attractiveness”.
The golden goddess foundation
Fino created “The Golden Goddess Foundation” — a not-for-profit organization out of her passion for helping girls and women grow in personal and professional confidence and self-love.
“The Golden Goddess Foundation” teaches self-confidence, goal setting, health, and fitness and provides education on how government, business and other systems work.
Fino went on to say this:
“It’s total art … I know for me I walk differently, I speak differently, I stand up, I show up for life in a very powerful way now. Beauty is just a small part of a pageant …. Winning this title is going to allow me a bigger network to be a part of”.
Beauty pageant skills transfer to real-life
Fino feels this is an important skill to acquire for people who have come from countries where systems were separate and unequal. Such as in some Hispanic countries where political, healthcare, education and legal systems, for example were very different for those with money and influence and those without it.
Fino plans to use her Miss Colombia 2018 and Miss Latina Global 2018 platforms to attract donors to expand her foundation’s reach. And that most certainly is good for women and girls in Los Angeles, California, USA. And in Hispanic and Latin communities around the globe.
Latino consumers outpacing baby boomers
With a larger media presence comes a bigger platform from which Fino can empower the Latino community. A community of all ages to achieve their own educational, business and health and fitness goals. She cited this Forbes Magazine quote:
“In the next five years it’s predicted that Latino consumers will spend more than millennials and the over-65 baby boomer crowd combined making Latinos the most desirable demo for the growth of any company”.
Fino wants to turn the male-oriented, Latin culture on its head. Educating girls and women about the power they wield as voters and consumers is how she will do it. She plans to teach them to educate the rest of their families on how to effectively use their newly found political and economic power to improve the circumstances of all Latinos.
American Latinos’ influence on the Latin world
Latinos within a powerful country like the US can influence politicians in Spanish speaking countries around the world in areas of justice and equality.
Fino intends to use her beauty pageant contestant platform to exact positive change for Hispanic people in every corner of the world.
Although Fino is not prepared to announce the names of the organizations at this time. She teamed up with global, charitable organizations to motivate and empower Spanish-speaking children around the world. The goal is to help them to create happy and whole lives. They will achieve this through self-love training, academic, health, education and more.
Miss Colombia — what it means to be a feminist
Jennifer Fino — The reigning Miss Colombia 2018. Fino is also a model, dancer, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, television personality and philanthropist in Los Angeles, California, USA. She views pageant competition as an opportunity.
“It’s a true honor to represent my country. And to have the support of the community behind me. Miss Latina Global’s significance is cultural to the wider international Latin and Hispanic communities”.
Beauty pageant’s cultural influence
Fino described the importance of beauty pageants in this way.
“Pageantry is viewed as something huge, like, everybody wants to be a part of it. They want to know that they know you. They want to know that you are the same real person as them. It represents truly the culture, the flag, the ambiance the heart of the Latin community.
“It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of doing and my motto is ‘anything is possible’. Being able to be in the competition and competing on November 17 with everyone’s love and support is truly one a dream come true. And two a challenge that I put myself in to know that I can accomplish it. Accomplishing a goal like this will let everyone know that anything is possible”.
In conclusion this is the final result. Girls and women in the 21st century are using every audience, opportunity and method possible to improve their own circumstances and that of other women and girls — including beauty pageant competition.