#InAshleighsShoes :Will Feminism & Femininity Ever Co-exist?

With myself now as Miss Derry International (in association with Taggart Homes), the only Northern Ireland finalist in the Miss International UK, I’ve decided to contribute to the usual heated and controversial debate of pageantry.

I am competing in a beauty pageant and no I do not find it embarrassing, degrading or sexist as many people like to view them. It’s an accomplishment (yes, I called it an accomplishment because I worked extremely hard to get here) that I’ll be forever grateful to myself for putting the hard work and dedication in to ensure I had a place on that final stage on the 11th of June in Lancashire.

I appreciate other women’s beauty and always have done. Getting involved in the modelling industry at 16 only emphasised this. Why shouldn’t I? Isn’t that what we encourage each other to do on a regular basis? Appreciate women? Build each other up? Encourage one another?

So why is it, it has become acceptable to trash the ladies who participate in beauty pageants? They are not sexist because no lady “parading around in her bikini” has been forced to be there. It’s not degrading because for the millionth time, it’s not just based on looks. We’ll take the sensational amount of charity and voluntary work completed by one dedicated beauty queen within one year… I find it odd that anyone would find these points degrading. I understand that you may say walking around a stage and letting a panel of judges score everything from your walk to how you answer a question is degrading, but again, would these women really be competing if they felt degraded? Reminder: It is optional. As for embarrassing, can we imagine the uproar if I were to say statements such as, ‘it’s embarrassing that some women play rugby or football as a hobby’ and ‘isn’t that woman such an embarrassment for wanting to work on a building site’. So again, back to my point of why has it become acceptable to attack women who choose and enjoy participating in and prepping for pageants just because it’s stereotypically ‘girly’.

I’ll rewind to my accomplishment of holding a beauty pageant title. A beauty pageant is not something you decide the week, even month before to participate in if you want to take it seriously. It takes months of planning and organising. I balance my work life, social life and family life just like the majority of you reading this. But why is it that a young male receives so much respect and admiration for not consuming alcohol and staying in at weekends to focus on and better themselves at their sport hobbies but when I decide to not drink alcohol to focus on keeping my body and mind in the fittest way possible, dedicate every free hour I have of my week to volunteering or helping out in charitable ways and then spreading awareness on causes close to my heart, I’m scoffed at, talked about, made a mockery of, challenged and told that I am going against everything feminism stands for?

Photographer – Leisa Smith

I’m proud of everything I have done to get where I am throughout this pageant process (we’ll leave all that for another week), I’m proud of the fact that I’ve continued to represent my city in the best way I can, I’m proud of the friends I have made within this pageant alone & that we’ve proved again that this industry is not as bitchy as what everyone presumes, I’m proud that I’ve made my confidence in myself grow, I’m proud that I take it upon myself to be a spokesperson for young women as well as mental health awareness, and finally, I’m so proud of every single lady in history that walked away with a tiara or not, that put themselves on a pageant stage and enjoyed every second of it despite being ridiculed by judgemental members of the public.

We as women should know how hard it is for us to be a ‘woman’ in this day and age, one example being that society bash you for being overweight and unhealthy whilst very clearly also bashing you for striving to be fit and healthy.

How can we fight so hard for men to respect us when we can’t respect one another?

‘Til next week my lovelies,
Ash x

Post Author: Belfast Times

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