I led a protest of my university's "scholarship pageant" many years ago. We had to explain to numerous parents of contestants that we were protesting the event, not their daughters. The pageant organizers insisted that the bathing suit portion was a measure of physical fitness. Um, right. Wouldn't a treadmill competition be better for that? My point...One of the fathers told us that his daughter was an engineering student, very smart, and was doing this for the scholarship money. He had an aha moment when asked what he would think if his son paraded on stage in a speedo for scholarship money. We award women for conforming to ideals. Regardless of how smart a woman may be, her appearance is still what she is largely valued for.
Child pageant are creepy and gross. The pageant industry is wrong for so many reasons. They promote the idea that other women are competition and they reinforce our society's view of women and girls as sexual objects, rather than human beings.
My closest pageant experiences have been as a dance instructor at a studio that did a lot of dance competitions. That is another industry that has gotten crazy. The stage moms, age-inappropriate costumes and age-inappropriate dance routines I saw were really disturbing. Unfortunately, the glitzy, gaudy and just totally inappropriate were frequently rewarded with high scores. My students never had bellies showing, weren't in costumes that were more appropriately paired with a pole, performed to songs that did not have suggestive or vulgar lyrics and never shook their fannies at the judges. Sometimes we were rewarded for our efforts, sometimes not, but I always walked away with a clear conscience.
Anyway, back to the pageants. My mom pleaded with me to do our high school's pageant. She was convinced that I would win it. Who knows, maybe I would have. I refused on the grounds that it was too similar to a dog show. Besides, it would have ruined my punk cred!