COLUMN: Is there a place for beauty pageants in today’s society?

Beyonce has stated her feminist support
Beyonce has stated her feminist support

In a worldly-wise 2016, the concept of a beauty pageant could seem outdated and politically incorrect to some.

But try telling that to the millions of people during the 1960s and 1970s who tuned in year after year to watch the Miss World competition on television.

In fact thanks to the Miss World contest, which was started in the UK in 1951, beauty pageants became so popular that no self-respecting town, caravan park, holiday resort or newspaper was complete without their own ‘Miss’.

During the 1950s and 60s, even the Labour Party held beauty contests in areas such as Margate and Sunderland - crowning the winning girl ‘Miss Socialist’. And by the 1980s, beauty pageants were so popular that competitions such as Miss Great Britain offered £10,000 in prize money.

But gradually, the audience numbers for beauty pageants began to dwindle and in the 1990s the Miss World was axed from its primetime slot on BBC, and was moved to Channel 5 before being taken off our screens for good in 1998.

In previous decades, contestants in beauty pageants reflected what was held up to be the ideal representation of female beauty.

But today, standards of beauty, femininity and gender are far more diverse than they once used to be with Tess Holliday being signed up as the world’s first size 26 supermodel and high street store, Zara launching its first gender-neutral clothing line.

Feminism has also had a surge in popularity recently, with Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Emma Watson and Madonna among those who publicly refer to themselves as feminists.

However, as this year’s Miss South Yorkshire, Maryann Cunningham, says today’s beauty pageants have also moved with the times - with a greater emphasis being placed on things such as charity work and fitness.

But does a changing view of beauty, and a growing number of people becoming interested in feminism mean that those concepts cannot co-exist in a society in which beauty pageants continue to be held?

Simply put, if the progress made around beauty ideals and the concept of femininity has taught us anything it’s that there is no right way to look or to be a woman today.

It’s all about choice.

If you want to be a woman who rejects what could be classed as ‘traditional femininity’ then that should be respected, but if you want to be a woman who competes in beauty pageants then that should also be respected.