pretty parades

Are Transgender Pageants As Exploitive of Women as ‘Regular’ Beauty Contests?

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.

[Jakarta Post]

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  • merkin

    There’s a real difference between these two kinds of pageants, and its how society views these two groups. Bio-women are ENCOURAGED to parade around as sex objects for men to judge. By participating in a pageant, they’re feeding into what the predominant culture wants.

    Trans women or transvestites are unwelcome–especially in traditional cultures like Indonesia. By presenting themselves in such a public way, they’re rejecting what society wants them to be, which is hidden from view. While i dont know if its activism, its certainly an act of self-determination.

  • Uki

    Wow…this is the first time i see my country in queerty :)

    The main purpose of this kind of pageants in Indonesia isn’t the same as Miss Universe or similar. This just to boost their confidence. Because most transgender are becoming hopeless and they are constantly being abused and ignored by the people and authorities.

    because of their constant discrimination, many of them have never gone to school or never graduate junior high. Many will face difficulties if the contest is all about brain and smart talk.

  • Charles Merrill

    The pageant might boost the confidence of the winners. but “unattractive” contestants are unlikely to win, no matter how talented, poised, intelligent, educated, resourceful or socially conscious they are.

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