Wikipedia defines a show dog as: "...a dog which has been specially bred, trained, and/or groomed to conform to the specifications of dog shows, so as to have a chance of winning."
Pageants based on women's beauty have been around ever since 1859. In 1956, South Africa had its very-first official Miss SA that has given women from far and wide the chance to "make something of themselves".
Finalists (who by the way, this year, were once again exclusively statuesque and model-like) are trained, groomed and mentored to come out on top. And I must admit that no one looks more "together" than Miss SA finalists. I admire these women for that, and their poised on-stage presence. I also know that a lot goes into being chosen for this pageant as this sometimes takes years and lots of hard work.
This can, of course, be said for may professions. Women and men are trained, groomed and mentored to fit into and excel at certain roles, jobs and positions. Yet, bleaching ones teeth, a restrictive diet and staying "bikini body ready" are unlikely KPA goals.
Around the world, people often refer to beauty pageant contestants as stupid. Remember that infamous Miss Carolina moment?
Yet, the Miss SA competition has always been punted as 'much more than a beauty pageant'. It's no Toddlers and Tiaras, as these are (thank heavens) women in their '20s who are being coached, judged and spray-tanned; rather than impressionable pre-teen girls.
The premise, however, remains the same: women are pitted against each other, judged based on their outer beauty, inner-strength and talents, to ultimately win a princess crown and a shiny satin sash. Yes, the fairytale of being a princess is still alive and kicking today.
But in my experience, Miss SA contestants have always featured a very clever, well-educated bunch of women. Law and medical students often make up a large part of the group. This year's winner, Liesl Laurie is a B.Com graduate.
But despite my hope for reform, the finalists donned swimwear accompanied by kaftans and Pichulik jewellery. Much, much more stylish than previous years; yet I am still not convinced that the swimwear heat should play any role. Especially not, if we want to focus this competition on opening doors for women. Particularly women from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to the How to Enter page on the Miss SA website, all applicants must:
- Be at least 18 years old and not older than 27 years on 01 February 2015.
- Not be married and never have had a marriage annulled.
- Not be engaged.
- Never have been pregnant, never have given birth and not be pregnant.
- Not have any visible tattoos.
- Have no criminal record.
So basically, to be Miss SA, one must be the perfect "chaste" woman.
Don't tell me it's more about inner beauty or judging women on the choices they've made in life. There's a stark resemblance to show dogs here.
To me, it seems like we are failing to question the fact that the Miss SA pageant is still mainly about outer beauty. We choose to ignore this blatant display of outdated showdoggery, opting to indulge in glorifying them for their beauty, social skills and on screen personalities.
Competitions like this have always propelled young South African women into stardom. No matter their era, they become South Africa's sweethearts and go on to host Top Billing, become socialites and start their own companies and compete internationally in Miss World and/or Miss Universe.
It opens many doors.
Careers in the limelight are often the ones they choose. Which is what I find frustrating. Not because those careers are lesser, it's just that at the end of the day, I find it disappointing to see Miss SA finalists trade in careers as TV hosts and self-tanning product designers instead of completing their medical or law degrees.
I want to see a bad ass neurosurgeon Miss SA. Is that too much to ask?