The Miss Universe beauty pageant will now allow transgender women to strut their stuff for a crown. But maybe they should think twice about wanting to do so.
The Miss Universe organization, owned by Donald Trump, initially disqualified Canadian Jenna Talackova, 23, because she is a transgender woman. But now the pageant has consulted with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to change its policy from only
allowing “naturally born” women.
Gay rights groups are heralding the change as a win similar to when the Olympics and the Girl Scouts of America first allowed transgender people to participate in their organizations. It is a good day for equal rights, but why would any woman – transgender or otherwise – want a pageant queen life?
Go ahead, call me a feminist. The real victory would be if no women desired pageant queen status. Now, transgender women will have to be like the rest of us – living up to a beauty ideal decided by a panel of judges.
When I was six years old, my mom entered me in a pageant. I wore a hooped white Southern belle dress and curls – a miniature version of Vivian Leigh in “Gone With The Wind.” The pageant, held in the ballroom at a local hotel, was small, a preliminary to something bigger. It seemed natural to strut across the stage – after all, I took dance lessons.
I didn’t win. Afterwards, my father informed my mother that I would no longer be a pageant girl. Ever the eagle eye, he had seen a woman pay off a judge. Her daughter won.
Jaded at an early age, I watched my friends doll up for pageants over the years. They spent thousands on dresses and added plastic surgery to their pageant costs. They tanned and they worried about their weight. It was ridiculous.
The Miss Universe pageant is an international competition with more than 75 countries represented. Contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 27. Unlike the Miss America pageant, the Miss Universe pageant doesn’t require a talent but rather focuses on swimsuit and evening gown competitions with finalists answering an impromptu live question.
Talackova told ABC News’ Barbara Walters, “I feel like the universe, the creator just put me in this position as an advocate. And now it’s like this, and I’ll take that position. If it’s helping anybody else, my story and my actions, then I feel great about it.”
Changing rules and breaking barriers don’t always crack the glass ceiling.
Just ask Talackova’s lawyer, Gloria Allred. She’s in a flame-throwing verbal match against Trump. Last week, before Talackova was allowed into the pageant, Allred said, “She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see photos of his birth to view his anatomy to prove that he was male.”
On Monday, Trump tweeted a nasty – and sexist – message to Allred.
“I made my decision to allow Jenna Talackova to participate in Miss Universe Canada two days before Gloria Allred got involved,” he tweeted. “I hope Jenna is not paying Gloria a fee other than all the free publicity that Gloria is getting for no reason. Is Gloria a man or a woman????— few men would know the answer to that one.”
Talackova, who said she was often bullied as a teenager, could make a stand for women.
She could defend Allred. She could say that now that she has the chance to be a beauty queen, she doesn’t want it. She could tell Trump to cram his pageant.
It would be refreshing if she told the world that being a woman isn’t just about curves in the right places, glossy lipstick and perfectly coiffed hair. Womanhood – and the discrimination that comes with God-given assets or medically created ones – is so much more than sparkly pageant gowns.
But sadly, the pageant bug – and its trappings – have likely bit her.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker