Although I began Deborah Siegel's Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild much earlier in the summer, I just began to get really into it yesterday (when prose is more academic jargony than funny, it takes me a while to get into it). The particular passage I'm interested in and blogging about kind of requires a backstory if you're not familiar with second-wave going ons:
[Backstory, abridged-- The 1968 Miss America pageant was protested by feminists who felt that the power of held male-defined standards of beauty were detrimental to women's liberation. They threw bras, girdles, fashion magazines, Playboys, high heels and makeup into "freedom trashcans" in protest of these unfair standards. Hench the image of bra-burning feminist emerged, although the cans were never actually set ablaze because of fire codes. Select feminists crowned a sheep in all its metaphoric glory, and from there feminists were divided as to whether the sheep crowning was helpful or harmful to women.]
In the harmful to women camp, Carol Hanisch argued that "such woman-hating tactics were not feminst, political, or a promotion of sisterhood:"
Crowning a live sheep Miss America sort of said that beautiful women aresheep, she wrote, with disdain. She further argued that by failing to make it clear that women are forced by men and a system of male supremacy to play the Miss America role--andnot by beautiful women themselves--the protest came off as an attack against beautiful women in general and the contestants in particular.
While my feelings on beauty pageants are mixed at best, their relevance in terms in feminism really aren't that relevant. Yes, they are essentially the epitome of pseudo-political feminine vapidity for the male gaze. But isn't feminism all about giving women the power of choice? Though it pains me on a personal level to watch their implicitness in patrirachy and socialized patterns of behavior, it's a discredit to women to say they aren't acting with their own agency.
I suppose my feelings are contradictory on the matter--while I would love nothing more than to see the end of pseudo-political vapidity, it is not my decision to make, and should be up to individual women themselves. What is inherently feminist (and nonfeminist, for that matter) to me is going to be different with other women (and men!), and I suppose I shouldn't judge them based on their pageantry decisions.
...but I still kind of do.