By Ana Farkhondeh, age 13 Earlier this year I wrote an argumentative essay for school critiquing beauty pageants. I chose this topic because as a proud feminist, I strongly believe that beauty pageants are demeaning toward women, and they endanger young girls’ mental health and the competitors’ physical health.

While many people believe that these pageants only negatively affect their contestants, this idea is quite mistaken. Beauty pageants, like many other forms of conventionalized propaganda,  show one representation of a woman as adequate and okay, and tell anyone different from that image that they need to change. This idea doesn’t stop on the stages of beauty pageants, but it influences the mainstream media and the mainstream culture’s representation of beauty.

Each way you turn, you can see media and culture telling women what to wear, what to eat, how to act and how to look.

Moreover, the winners of beauty pageants, as well as the majority of models, tend to be tall,  skinny, fair-skinned women, which preferences a portrayal of Western beauty as the only pleasing visual appearance. These are not only very hard beauty standards for most women to meet, but they are also racially biased as they support the European and White picture of physical attractiveness over the beauty of women of color.

These one-sided opinions of what women should be affect girls and women in very negative ways. They instate insecurities about appearance and lower women’s confidence levels.

They have also made me realize how much the media impacts and influences even the strongest and most feminist of women, such as myself.

As a teenager growing up in this culture, I am very familiar with feeling unsure about my body and face, and wishing that I could change things about myself, and specifically my physical appearance, to match the models that I see on magazines or the actresses in mainstream Hollywood movies.

My friends have faced pain, suffering and even eating disorders because of the insecurities they feel when comparing themselves to “cover-girl models” and mainstream Hollywood actresses. If there is anything I would blame for the complexes that my friends and I, as well as many other women and girls across America and the world, face, it would be aspects of our media and culture that elevate these patriarchal and Eurocentric standards of beauty. Going forward, I will push myself and my friends to look past the stereotypical picture of women and girls portrayed in the media, and ignore what the status quo tries to force us to be. One of the most important aspects in the fight for gender equality is to be your own woman and not be influenced by patriarchal society.