Transgender beauty queen fights for beauty pageants rule change
Jenna Talackova has become the first known transgender woman to enter and be disqualified from the Donald Trump-owned Miss Universe Canada competition. Once again, beauty pageants become a platform for cultural comment.
Controversy on the beauty pageant circuit is hardly news, but it’s become a little more gender-political as Jenna Talackova has managed to gain media coverage as the first trans woman to enter (that anyone knows of) and be disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada competition on the grounds of her gender. Some of the requirements for entry into the Donald Trump-owned extravaganza are that the women have never been pregnant or married. If he could get away with it, I think Donald would be demanding vestal virgins to worship at the temple of Trump.
Much of the response to Jenna’s disqualification has been in support of her, voicing how her disqualification is a violation of her rights as a woman, cis or transgender. Even so, the response has been dominated by male journalists drooling over her legs, breasts and hair. You might think, it’s just a beauty pageant, who gives a sh*t, and, to a point, I’d agree with you. But beauty pageants can represent a retrogressive step in the quest for gender equality, pitting women against one another, from birth in the case of baby pageants, based on little more than their ability to say “world peace”, wave, slink, pout and smile.
Beauty pageants are a social phenomenon that reaches into the far corners of this solar system (and the next, if the Miss Universe title is to be taken literally) and are, therefore, culturally significant. Girls (and some boys) dream of entering them, journalists write about them, a fortune is made promoting them, no matter how fleeting their fame, people follow the stories of the winners, and I’m here writing a piece about them. So, as a starting point for gender debate, they’re as relevant a platform for cultural comment as any other.
April 10 2012: Jenna Talackova was reinstated in Miss Universe Canada pageant. Though she was allowed back in on April 2 after initial disqualification, Talackova held out for a larger rule change, arguing that in the future no other transgender woman should have to face what she did.