Beauty Pageants Disgrace Women, Zambia Daily Mail

Date: January 1, 1970
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An upcoming beauty pageant for sex workers is used as a peg to write about how beauty contests only portray women as sex objects and negate the diverse and many contributions that women make in a society.
An upcoming beauty pageant for sex workers is used as a peg to write about how beauty contests only portray women as sex objects and negate the diverse and many contributions that women make in a society.

This article may be used to:
  • Examine gender stereotypes and the diverse roles of women.

Trainer’s notes

Gender stereotypes

This column takes a different angle on beauty pageants by focusing on how these contests stereotype women as sex objects; and focus on beauty rather than other sustainable qualities. It encourages young girls and women to define beauty in other ways than physical attributes.

The article is well written and the writer argues her standpoint consistently throughout the piece. She also adds the perspective that not only do beauty contests reduce women to objects, but they also are a form of recreation for men at women’s expense.

The message is targeted at young women who have been socialised by advertising to believe that modeling and beauty contests enhance their self-esteem. The author argues that pursuing an education which will lead to career and independent life builds more self-esteem in women.

This article provides a gender analysis of beauty pageants and builds a critical debate to dispel the beauty queen stereotype perpetuated by the status quo. The writer uses a gender lens to write the other side of the beauty pageant story, and does so in a manner to recapture the holistic and realistic view of what women should be in a society.


While the headline is appropriate to the article, the image used continues to project the de-individualisation and de-humanisation of women as sex objects or physical objects to be admired. The women in the image are not depicted in professional, active roles, but are passively lined up, smiling in clothing which shows their physical attributes.

Without the caption, the image is contrary to the general thrust of the article’s angle and therefore is not in line with the message conveyed by the headline and the story. For effective packaging that will have an impact, the story, headline, image and caption should work together to challenge, the gender stereotype of women as objects.

Training exercises

Exercise one: Read the case study and discuss the following:

  1. What message does this article convey about beauty pageants that is different to other stories on the same issue?

  2. How is the angle chosen different from most stories on beauty pageants reported in the media?

  3. What stereotypes does this article dispel?

  4. How is this reinforced by the use of language?

Exercise two:  Study the image, headline and caption.
  1. Is there harmony between all three? Do they conveying the same message? Explain answers.

  2. Would using a different image improve the general message of the article? Why or why not?

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0 thoughts on “Beauty Pageants Disgrace Women, Zambia Daily Mail”

Z says:

I’m a little disgusted by the idea that beauty pageants are automatically a horrible thing. Yes, the ones seen in Toddlers and Tiaras are disgusting but the thing about the ones for the adults is that these women FREELY CHOOSE to participate in these contests.

Life and freedom is about choice. The choice to do what you want, which also includes the right to choose to participate in beauty pageants. That’s what free choice and feminism is supposed to be about, not calling everything awful or terrible just because beauty happens to be a part of it. Has anyone bothered to check to see how many of these women have gone to college? Bothered to talk to them to figure out how intelligent they are?

And before you question, I’m a 300 pound woman who has never had any interest in beauty pageants, nor do I watch them on a regular basis. I’m just someone who is tired of people stereotyping beauty pageants as horrible events. There are some people who fulfill the stereotypes, but you could say that about anything. I’m just tired of people assuming that people in beauty pageants are being oppressed and that they all anorexia themselves into size zeroes.

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