14 Beauty Pageant Practices from the ’90s That Would Spark Massive Protests Today

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As time has passed, beauty pageants have evolved to comply with the current social norms on what is acceptable and what isn’t. In the ‘90s, more things were deemed acceptable, including practices that would be criticized and considered highly inappropriate today. Here are 14 beauty pageant practices from the ‘90s that would spark massive protests today:

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Judging Criteria

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The beauty pageants of the ‘90s were known to focus heavily on the contestants’ physical attributes rather than their talents, intelligence, and even character. Most of the emphasis was laid on the contestants’ appearance, and this was seen in the judging criteria that were used, which mostly involved scoring points based on what the contestants looked like.

Lack of Diversity

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Representation across multiple competitions, including beauty pageants, was rarely seen in the ‘90s. Most of the beauty pageants at regional and national levels often consisted of predominantly white competitors, with very few or no competitors from different cultural backgrounds or communities.

Gender Stereotypes

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One of the most common practices that dominated beauty pageants in the ‘90s was gender stereotypes, which, if still present today, would lead to massive protests. Contestants were expected to display a certain level of femininity with qualities only associated with the female gender.

Swimsuit Competitions

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Swimsuit competitions were one of the main competitive rounds in a beauty pageant. Contestants were required to don revealing swimming suits and parade around on a stage to be scored by judges. This competition has been criticized for objectifying women and for promoting unrealistic and often unattainable body standards. Most beauty pageants have done away with the swimsuit competition round today, fully replacing it or having competitors wear other sportswear instead.

Weight Requirements

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Yet another practice that condoned unrealistic standards for competitors entering a beauty pageant was the weight requirements the competitors would have to meet. This not only promoted an unhealthy body image but also played into the practice of judging competitors solely on their physical attributes.

No Consent

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Often, beauty pageants in the ‘90s would subject participants to different kinds of situations that would be considered exploitative without even getting the consent of the participants. These practices are highly inappropriate and would spark massive protests from the participants, audiences, and others involved today. Beauty pageant organizers now ensure that they do not subject the participants to exploitative situations and take the consent of the participants before subjecting them to any situation.

Violating Personal Boundaries

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Beauty pageants have been criticized for violating the participants’ personal boundaries on many occasions. Participants are asked highly personal and invasive questions on stage and are even subjected to uncomfortable situations without their prior knowledge. Today, these kinds of practices would lead to massive protests owing to their inappropriate nature.

Required Physical Measurements

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Beauty pageants in the ‘90s required participants to have specific physical requirements to compete. This meant that the participants had to ensure that they would remain a specific size to compete. This practice meant the pageants lacked representation of different body shapes, leading to different body image issues.

Restrictive Rules

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Competitors in beauty pageants often had to follow strict rules that often stifled their ability to express themselves through their speeches on the pageant stage. This meant that competitors were not allowed to exercise their freedom of speech or advocate for what they strongly believed in through the speeches they gave. These restrictions would be considered an inappropriate exercise of power and control over competitors.

Unrealistic Beauty Standards

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In the ‘90s, participants in beauty pageants were required to meet certain beauty standards in addition to meeting all the weight and measurement requirements. This meant that the participants would even subject themselves to different procedures just to be able to enter a beauty pageant. The participants were also required to wear heavy makeup to cover up flaws and appear as perfect as possible.

Objectifying Competitions

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The competitions involved in beauty pageants would often lean towards competitors who showcased their beauty or physical attributes to win. This was true even during talent competitions where competitors were forced to stifle their skill and talent to attain more points and win the pageant. This practice was common in the ‘90s but would be highly unacceptable today.

Age Restrictions

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Beauty pageants had a rule on age restrictions that barred competitors over a certain age from competing. This rule is outdated and may be considered ageist today. Therefore, most beauty pageants have eliminated it, opening pageants to competitors of a wider range of ages to comply with more socially acceptable norms.

No Inclusivity

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Traditional rules were often followed in the beauty pageants in the ‘90s. This included a restriction on who could enter as a competitor, and individuals who belonged to the LGBT+ community were often not allowed to participate. The exclusion of these individuals meant no representation in the beauty pageants.

Exploitative Contracts

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Beauty pageant competitors were sometimes led to sign exploitative contracts with either the pageant organizers or advertisers that left them subjected to unfair treatment. These contracts sometimes limited the competitors’ rights or required them to put themselves through uncomfortable situations to comply with them.

Author: Ali Van Straten

Title: Journalist

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