It’s not like women, every time they get together to crown someone Miss USA or Miss America or Miss Childish Bigot From California, have to defend their right to competition based on pretty faces and smoking bods. But of course every time there’s a trangender pageant, it turns into a big deal about trans rights!
At Saturday’s Miss Transvestite Aceh in Indonesia, organizing group Putro Sejati Aceh was both “selecting a representative for the national contest as well as campaigning on transgender issues.” Which, come to think of it, is what regular women’s beauty pageants are, allegedly, about: campaigning on women’s issues!
”Transvestites are marginalized. We demand equal rights,” Sherly, who chairs Putro Sejati Aceh, told The Jakarta Post.
She said people in Aceh despised them and discriminated against them for their gender identity.
This was a burden on transvestites who subsequently lost confidence in expressing themselves, especially in education, she added. “Many people are antagonistic and call us ’sissies’. We are afraid to go to school or university to study,” Sherly said.
That’s a very real problem. But are beauty pageants really the answer for normalizing a society’s view about a certain class of people?
Actually, we’re not sure. In the case of Miss America or Miss Universe, it’s hard to make the believable argument that these pageants are “furthering” causes for women, or feminism, or making anyone take women more seriously. Instead, we have a group of mostly underfed beautiful people parading around in swimsuits for cash and scholarship prizes. It’s a farce to say the pageants are about encouraging education and philanthropy; they are about exploiting society’s disturbing relationship with beauty.
But for these transgender women in Indonesia, are these pageants exploiting them? Or actually doing what their organizers hope, and introducing transgender women into society as regular (beautiful) people? Probably a little bit of both. Of course, it takes two; the women (whether biological or transgender) agree to take part and put their bodies on parade as much as viewers agree to watch.