I Said Yes

I said yes to being a panel judge for a pageant geared towards young women. Can you believe it? I’m a feminist. Isn’t it a contradiction to want to judge young ladies on the way they dress, speak and walk? Am I sending a wrong message? Ugh, I struggled with the question when asked and then I realized that I’m not.

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Why? Because feminism is about equality for women. I am not going stop being who I am and let’s be real…aren’t we all judged everyday? So, I decided to research the pageant before committing. I mean, I didn’t want to set my gender back by judging a swimsuit competition.

Here’s what I discovered:

 

Pageant Evolution

The Pageant began in 1955, only one year after the annual Labor Day Festival originated. The first Pageant was open to women between the ages of 15 and 50. It was a fundraiser for the construction of the Youth Center building. Votes were cast by turning in pennies in collection jars set out at various businesses, and children helped collect penny votes. The woman with the most pennies to her credit won the title. The first winner was married and had three children when she won at the age of 30!

In 1956, the rules were modified slightly. Entrants had to be single and between the ages of 16 and 25. The contest was called the “Popularity Crown” or “Popularity Contest.” Once the Youth Center was a reality, the theme evolved to “Unity Through Community Involvement.” Over the years, the Pageant has been modified, streamlined, and organized under various directors, becoming what is known today as the Pageant System. In 1982, the swimsuit competition was removed. The Little Miss and Junior Miss contests were added in the 1980s. In 1992 the Pageant began to emphasize the importance of education, and gave scholarships to the title winners.

The competition is designed to teach girls poise and self confidence, how to be at ease with themselves and others, and how to have fun in a team effort toward a common goal.

All contestants receive special recognition in the Pageant System because everyone is viewed as a winner!

NICE, FRANCE - DECEMBER 05: Miss Normandie Malika Menard (L) receives the crown from 2009  Miss France Chloe Mortaud (R) during the 2010 Miss France Beauty pageant at Palais Nikaia on December 5, 2009 in Nice, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Malika Menard;Chloe Mortaud

Yeah! I liked the pageant evolution and decided that I would love to be a judge because of these three things:

  1. There is no swimsuit competition and that it was removed 33 years ago. No exploitation of young women’s bodies. I liked that.
  2. They are teaching girls poise, self confidence and how to be at ease with themselves. This is awesome. You don’t learn this until later in life and a competition that focuses on that is something I am interested in being a part of. Empowering our girls is awesome!
  3. There is scholarship money to college. I believe in education and with the rising costs of education in this country, this is a great way to gain life skills and earn money towards your tuition.

I had to stop and smell the roses. I wasn’t selling out my gender by participating as a judge in a pageant. I was empowering young women to see the beauty in who they are and be a part of an organization that believes that they are all winners.

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Now, back to the movement!

Femininity and all that Jazz

Earlier last year, I went through a major change in my life.  I had so many friends tell me that I needed to take time out for myself and find the “true me”.  So, I told them…I know who I am.  But, then I stopped to think that they may not know who I am.  But did it really matter as long as I was happy?

My friends are seeing major changes both inside and outside of me.  They don’t understand that most of my life I’ve spent running from the “true me”.  The “true me” was scared of her femininity.  I hated the changing shapes of my hips and I didn’t want to accept the curves in my body because I’m a woman who was taught brains before beauty.  So, what did I do?  I tried to hide. Hide my curves behind baggy clothes and box structured pant suits because I didn’t want to draw attention to my body.  I liked being under the radar.

I know that I’m a woman with hips that are in the double digits, but no one taught me how to embrace my shape and ever changing body.  To truly love my coffee colored skin.  To love my oddly shaped nose that no one in my family has.  To love the fullness of my lips or the smallness of my breasts.  No one taught me that I can be sexy without dressing like I worked the corner of a busy intersection in a seedy part of town.  Because sexy wasn’t something that I identified with.  I wasn’t sexy.  I was too big to be sexy.  I was just big.  So, I just hid myself behind a proverbial wall never to draw attention to myself.

When I was younger, education was stressed.  Not beauty, but brains.  I was taught that it is more important to be smart.  Focus on education, learn my history and be self-sufficient because as a woman it would be hard for me.  You know the glass ceilings and such.  I am both simple and complex at the same time.  I am greater than the sum of my parts and both my femininity and color make up the whole of me, but there is more.  A lot more.

So, I took the path laid out before me.  I focused on being smart and structured in the business world.  I wanted to be seen as keen, analytical and dependable.  I wanted to be taken seriously and not to be the “angry black female” or the “emotional woman” at the table when discussing business.  I wanted to have a voice that was valued.  But how did I do that?  By dressing the part.  I dressed the part of the sharp, no-nonsense, business woman who wanted to be rewarded for her brains not her beauty.  I wanted to climb the corporate ladder on my own merits and not my backside, but I was naïve. 

I discovered that hiding my femininity behind boxy glasses and sharp pant suits didn’t make me appear smarter.  Nor did wearing tight clothes with six-inch heels.  I needed to find a balance.  I could still climb the ladder on my merits without thinking I had to enter into a sexual harassment type situation.  I needed to find me.  But, not just find me, to like me and accept who I am.  To realize that my voice is not based on how I dressed.  I am not a size 6 or a size 10.  I’m in the double digits when it comes to pant sizes, but this year I realized that it is okay to be a beauty with booty and still wear clothes that show my femininity.  I wear more dresses and bright colors that compliment my skin tone.  I get beautiful earrings that draw attention to my beautiful face wearing my Chanel glasses and I swing my hips proudly as I embrace my curves.  I have sass and smarts and I deserve to be seen and not hide behind my clothes.  So, if you see my timeline flooded with selfies, it’s because I’m embracing and loving my femininity.  I’m shedding pounds and layers and stepping into my own one outfit at a time.