I have a problem with beauty pageants in general. They are superficial, out dated and send the wrong message to the next generation of young women. Having said that, I do appreciate that beauty pageants have changed since the 1960s. Beauty queens of today are highly educated and talented young women who undertake considerable charitable work. Whilst these aspects are wonderful, they do not detract from the harmful and backward core message of a beauty pageant, the message that a woman’s worth is ultimately in her physical appearance. Beauty pageants reinforce the idea that the quintessential woman is attractive, and in order for women to be influential and successful they must, above everything else, be beautiful. So instead of looking up to the hard working and ambitious young women who are succeeding in their chosen fields irrespective of appearance, girls are taught by beauty pageants to idolise the most attractive among us.
Given my view on beauty pageants, you can imagine my dismay when I read about the Miss Arab Journalist Award. This title, organised by ‘MC International’ was recently awarded to Lebanese journalist Diana Fakhoury, a news anchor at Lebanon’s MTV station. To make matters worse, the online journal Lebanese Beauty Press headlined “Diana Fakhoury: The Most Beautiful Arab Journalist.” Last time I checked beauty was not a prerequisite or even related to being a journalist. Fakhoury’s professional achievements should be commended, but not through this incredibly condescending award. I agree with recognising journalistic excellence, but a journalist’s gender, and especially her physical appearance should not be a consideration in doing this. The fact such an award even exists is an affront to female journalists across the world. In the Middle East, a dangerous place for any reporter, female journalists are defying cultural norms and risking their lives to inform their societies and uncover exploitation and injustice. It is such an insult that their professional pursuits are reduced to a beauty pageant whilst men suffer from no such condescension.