Our gal Courtney Martin says yes. Let’s face it: the most amazing women you’ve ever experienced would be total losers in a normal pageant. That’s because genuine, messy, transcendent beauty can’t be scored. It isn’t tamed, plucked, prepared, premeditated, or rehearsed. And folks like Donald Trump, who owns the Miss USA pageant, are not the purveyors of it clearly. Real beauty is about resilience: girls and women who have been through something and come out the other side with an idiosyncratic scar or a hard-earned wrinkle, like the first lines of a robust story.
If there were a pageant where women were asked, “When do you really get lost and exactly how did you stay on course back again to yourself?” well -, I might go set for that then. I’m with Courtney. I believe that mainstream pageants like Miss America pay back women and ladies for cultivating the most fleeting and unsustainable of resources, physical beauty.
Which is the reason why, though I’d like to see beauty pageants fall by the wayside, I know that if that occurs, it won’t get rid of the larger issue of how we consider what it means to be a “good” woman. I think of gendered oppression as a hydra, a many-headed monster; when you take off one mind, two more grow in its place.
They’re two different minds, but they’re outgrowths of the same beast. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t cheer the sluggish demise of the adult beauty pageant and scorn the recent, rising fixation on children’s pageants. But we have to recognize that beauty pageants are just part of the much bigger problem – and in truth, when it comes to finishing gendered oppression, they’re fairly low-hanging fruit.
The passivity and dependence are also blocking to empowerment. To be empowered, we must be independent, we should be energetic. Again, this will not mean blocking other folks out; one can be linked and independent. Being self-empowered means being self-contained somewhat, having integrity (wholeness, independence) in a natural, free-flowing way. Being aggressive and dependent entails giving one’s power away. Insufficient knowledge is an obstacle to empowerment also.
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To be empowered, one must be as self-reliant as it can be. It really is hard to be self-reliant without knowledge. Wise men have discussed the need for knowledge within the centuries. Contemporary near-death-experiences have also pressured its importance. As we add to our knowledge, we add to our storehouse of data where to draw. As we add to our knowledge, we’re able to think for ourselves better.
Lack of knowledge leaves us in a weakened and impoverished condition which is not conducive to empowerment. Similarly, lack of self-development is an obstacle to empowerment. If we’ve not developed elements of ourselves, we have less which to rely in ourselves. As we develop more facets of ourselves, we realize ourselves better and be more self-reliant. Our confidence is boosted, and we become more whole.
We thus are able to empower ourselves more and in more areas. These are some of the hurdles to empowerment, and many of these factors are interrelated. Certainly low self-esteem, fear, dependence, and uncleared issues are inter-connected. Even as we move toward clearing one, others are also affected. Given the obstacles to empowerment, some or all of which may affect any of us to varying degrees, just how do we move toward empowerment?