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Irish Examiner columnist

Suzanne Harrington and

Cailín Áine Ní Toibín  - the current Miss Universe Ireland - debate whether or not Miss Universe should be axed.

YES: 'The argument that beauty pageants act as career-launchers is redundant in the digital age'

Suzanne Harrington says a contest that judges women in swimsuits on narrowly-defined aesthetic values is outdated and irrelevant

ACCORDING to Miss Universe (that’s Miss, not Ms), “the mission of the organisation is to provide the tools which help women to be their personal best. Self-confidence is the key.

Every woman should have the confidence to stand up in any situation and declare: ‘I am secure and that’s what makes me beautiful!’”

Former Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere, right, crowns new Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher

Let’s unpack that tool box and see how it makes women secure and therefore beautiful.

For a start, these tools only work on women selected from within a narrow age, size, and face range — so this mission statement applies not to ‘every woman’, but to only to a small handful of women within a rigidly defined aesthetic.

No uglies need apply, no matter how high-achieving, no matter how charming or confident.

The web page continues with its pseudo-empowerment schtick, containing images of a scientist and a boxer, and says that Miss Universe is “run by women for women”.

Except from 1996 to 2015, it was co-owned by Donald Trump, who moved freely amongst contestants, telling them how terrific they were, how beautiful.

Let that thought slither all over you for a moment.

But that’s just an unpleasant aside. The point is this — while the women competing against each other (young, super-groomed, and wedged within the narrow window to which we ascribe beauty) are undoubtedly accomplished, clever, ambitious, and well-meaning, the format — women competing against each other based on looks, no matter how much the organisers would have you believe it’s all about brains and personality — is dead.

Suzanne Harrington

It’s a bit like the idea of monarchy.

While most of the individuals involved are, one presumes, perfectly nice, and have lately been making significant attempts to modernise, the fact remains that the institution itself is significantly past its kill-by date.

No amount of rebranding can alter this. Neither institution, each based on inherited fortune — social or facial — has a place in supposedly meritocratic modern life.

It’s not that human beings — in this instance young women — don’t enjoy prancing around being gorgeous, but we no longer require anyone to be selectively funnelled through the dated machinery of a beauty pageant.

We have Instagram for that — democratic, accessible narcissism and voyeurism for all.

The argument that beauty pageants act as career-launchers is redundant in the digital age.

They are as relevant as fax machines.

Much has been made of Miss America ‘modernising’ by dropping the swimwear contest part of the competition, so that women are no longer required to parade before an audience in bikinis and high heels, as though auditioning for Spearmint Rhino. This has been presented as progress.

There have been no such announcements to end the bikini parade at Miss Universe.

This, in the era of #MeToo, #TimesUp, #EffYourBeautyStandards. The insanity of this anachronism was highlighted last year when women competing for the title of Miss Peru, instead of telling the audience the size of their tits and ass via a measuring tape, instead recited statistics about their country’s gender violence. In bikinis.

This is not to say that women should not be safe and free to walk anywhere in bikinis — not just down a runway in front of cameras.

Of course they, we, all of us should. This is not to criticise the intentions of any woman, beautiful or otherwise.

This is not to diss the celebration of beauty, the power of it, the ownership of it — quite the opposite.

But no matter how hard I try, I cannot equate an institution like Miss Universe with the advancement of women. Ladies, you are goddesses. Own your power. Harness it, and be fierce.

NO: 'It has taught me so much about myself and has instilled in me a self-belief that certainly wasn’t there prior to entering'

Cailín Áine Ní Toibín , who is the current Miss Universe Ireland, says it showcases female strength and that it should not be axed

MISS Universe is, first and foremost, a celebration of women. It gives a women a platform, from which they can inspire, address key issues within society, and represent their country.

All women are strong, independent, and talented, in different ways. Miss Universe showcases all of the positive attributes that women possess, namely intelligence, compassion, beauty, elegance, and confidence.

Why would you want to axe a competition that does so much good work, in supporting and providing a sisterhood to women around the world?

As the reigning Miss Universe Ireland, I can safely say that partaking in the competition is one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. It has taught me so much about myself and has instilled in me a self-belief that certainly wasn’t there prior to entering.

When you apply to enter Miss Universe, one of the questions on the application form is ‘Why do you want to be Miss Universe Ireland?’ This time last year, as I sat down to fill out the form, I thought long and hard about what it would mean to be Miss Universe Ireland.

As an international competition, Miss Universe would provide me with the perfect opportunity to embody all the strength that it is to be a woman and to make a difference in the world, which is something that has always been a goal of mine.

Cailín Áine Ní Toibín

From an early age, I have been passionate about breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. I suffered from anxiety throughout my teenage years and I still experience moments of angst, as I progress into adulthood.

I knew that I wanted to work closely with a mental health charity to help people through what I had learned from my personal experiences and to encourage them to seek help and support.

Pieta House was a natural fit for me. The work that they do, each and every day, is inspirational and they have helped countless individuals to overcome mental illness and to start a conversation around the lack of support for mental health sufferers in Ireland.

Throughout my reign as Miss Universe Ireland 2017, I have continued to help individuals to improve their mental health, through coping mechanisms. In working with Pieta House, I have been fortunate enough to meet so many wonderful individuals, each of whom I can relate to completely.

In a world where people are constantly tearing each other down and looking for faults, it is so refreshing to be part of an organisation that does the complete opposite and champions women. My confidence has soared from competing in Miss Universe. There is nothing more exhilarating than stepping out onto the stage and feeling strong, and beautiful in your own skin.

To be given the opportunity to highlight key societal issues and to then be able to bring about change is an honour and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly.

To summarise, Miss Universe should not be axed. To axe something that brings so much joy, celebration, and encouragement into the lives of others would be a real shame.

Women are capable of truly amazing things, once they are given support and guidance from those around them. Miss Universe is a vehicle for change. It has, and will, continue to inspire and empower for many years to come, of that I’m certain.

It has taught me so much about myself and has instilled in me a self-belief that certainly wasn’t there prior to entering

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Source : https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/features/debate-should-miss-universe-be-axed-849662.html

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