Colorism, segregation, and beauty pageants

by Shinoko Itakura

In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe.

“Miss Universe” is the most famous beauty pageant in which female representatives of each country compete. In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe. Until this happened, there had been many attempts to argue beauty of black women against colorism. “Miss Bronze” was one of such attempts, challenging racial exclusion and colorism. Each woman is representative of her own black community.

I was a discussion leader of this topic today in the class of Race and Ethnicity in the Modern World. I have come up some questions and two of those were “if there is beauty pageant TODAY for only white people, do you think this is discrimination against non-white people?” and “What about if it was for only black people or Asian people?” I was expecting that the most of my colleagues would say yes right away to the former question and no or maybe after they consider for the latter question. Yet, one of the colleagues said that this is not about racism nor discrimination but the idea of having different beauty contests of ethnic groups or racial groups are same as segregation. I have realized that the idea I have come up without any concerns was horrific thing which colored people have been suffering. Also “The standards of beauty” including not only skin color but also physical features are based on white standards. For example, in the beauty contest, fat people or short people cannot be seen. Everyone is extremely skinny and tall.

Women always want to stay beautiful. “Beauty” is forever theme for women. However this beauty should not be decided based on one particular “standard of beauty”. There are different styles of beauty. Every woman is beautiful no matter what skin color she has, no matter how tall or how skinny she is. Every woman has right to show how she is beautiful. No one can judges whether the woman is beautiful or not by skin color.

Reference

Craig. M. L. (2009) “The Color of an Ideal Negro Beauty Queen.” In Shades of Difference: How Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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