Beauty contests are popular in many parts of the world. The biggest, the Miss World competition, has been running annually since 1951, and although it is less popular in the UK now than it was in 1968, when it attracted 27.5 million TV viewers, it attracts an enormous worldwide audience - around 3 billion viewers in 115 countries. There are beauty contests for various categories of age, sex and sexuality; this topic focuses on adult women’s beauty contests as overwhelmingly the most popular and high-profile version. Note that there are difficult technical issues about running this debate: it probably works best as a values debate on whether beauty contests are a good thing or not, but this kind of comparison motion is frowned upon in some policy-based debating circles. Proposing a ban on beauty contests might be met with various entirely valid opposition lines on enforceability and warped priorities (what about porn?), which would tend to undermine the point of the debate.
Beauty contests promote an ideal of female beauty to which only a minority of women can realistically aspire, but which adds to the pressure on all women to conform to it. This can be harmful to women by encouraging dieting, eating disorders and cosmetic surgery, or simply by making them feel inadequate and ugly. People enjoy beauty contests. Many women enjoy entering them. Many people enjoy watching them. Nobody is forced to do either. The beauty of a fit, healthy, well-proportioned human form is something from which we can all take pleasure, and beauty contests, along with other forms of art, are vehicles which enable us to do so. Women in beauty contests are judged on their physical appearance rather than on any other qualities they may possess (the existence of a ‘talent’ element in many such contests is all very well, but ugly women simply aren’t going to win). Judging women, but not men, primarily on their looks contributes to the subjugation of women because other qualities,...
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