On Wednesday, September 14, 2011 The Japan Times newspaper printed a Reuters/Kyodo photo titled “Angolan Beauty” on the front page. It showed 2010 Miss Universe Maria Kamiyama of Japancrowning this year’s beauty champion, Leila Lopes of Angola. Despite feminist detractors who not unjustly compare beauty contests to cattle markets, perhaps these pageants do have lasting virtues: empowering women and putting worthy role models of education and grace, principle, ambition, endurance and eloquence before our daughters for them to emulate; and then, helping to focus media attention on whatever charitable work the women pursue during their tenure. It’s all good.
Miss Universe is not my ideal of feminine beauty, though. I do not revere the long legs of an American lifeguard or the carefully manicured figure of a supermodel. My ideal woman encompasses the blackened teeth of an old Japanese matron, the bound feet of a Chinese princess and the oily hair of a Japanese one, the stretched neck of a Karen tribeswoman, the exaggerated lip plugs of an African Fali beauty, the wide, life-giving fertility goddess hips of my old Greek grandmother, the circumcision of an Arab maiden wearing a modesty veil all rolled into one.
Maybe I’m in a minority, but why not celebrate those esthetics? I’m afraid I can’t muster much regard for beauty contests until they