Although beauty pageants have fallen out of favor in some circles recently over concerns that they objectify contestants, many women around the world continue to see them as opportunities to showcase their skills, talent, and yes, even physical beauty.
Meanwhile, a growing number of self-identified feminist activists insist that they know best when it comes to this increasingly contentious issue.
One recent example involves the group Osez le Feminisme — or “Dare to be a Feminist” in English. The organization is targeting a nationwide pageant in a lawsuit that claims the standards currently in place violate labor laws against discrimination.
Three contestants who came up short in the 2021 Miss France competition have joined forces with the group in order to take the promoters and producers of the pageant to court. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the pageant discriminated against women who did not meet the specifications set forth by the committee, namely that they be at least 5 feet 6 inches tall, single, and “representative of beauty.”
Of course, by the same twisted logic, one could argue that almost any entity with standards of any type is guilty of discrimination. A sports team looking for talented, athletic players, for example, should have the right to “discriminate” against couch potatoes who do not know the rules of the game.
To its credit, the labor court that heard this argument against the pageant tossed out the lawsuit.
A Paris court backed organisers of Miss France in a judgment on Friday that dismissed claims from a feminist group the beauty pageant was discriminatory in the way it selected candidates, one of the plaintiffs said. https://t.co/dcitWOwWDl
— The Local France (@TheLocalFrance) January 6, 2023
The outcome led Osez le Feminisme to release a statement decrying “an intolerable decision that extends a recruitment process that is discriminatory and illegal.”
There have been lawsuits against pageants in other countries — including the United States — based on the fact that competitions set their own criteria for would-be contestants. In 2019, a transgender individual took the Miss United States of America contest to court based on its requirement that contestants be biologically female.
In that case, the U.S. Constitution prevailed, with a three-judge appeals panel upholding a district judge’s decision that Anita Green’s complaint be dismissed.
As Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote: “Miss United States of America expresses its message in part through whom it chooses as its contestants, and the First Amendment affords it the right to do so. Given a pageant’s competitive and performative structure, it is clear that who competes and succeeds in a pageant is how the pageant speaks. Put differently, the Pageant’s message cannot be divorced from the Pageant’s selection and evaluation of contestants.”