As “Britain’s Missing Top Model” continues to whittle down the competitors with disabilities as they compete against each other on the BBC, it is interesting to compare this competition to the Miss Iowa and Miss USA contests in which at least one woman with a disability competed against women without disabilities.
Abby Curren, who has cerebral palsy, was the 2008 winner of the Miss Iowa competition and went on to compete in the Miss USA competition. Ms. Curren’s disability has an obvious effect on her walk, as can be seen in this runway video form the Miss USA pageant. Heather Whitestone, who is deaf, was crowned Miss America back in 1995.
((This 23 Second video shows Abbey Curren walking in the swimsuit competition of the 2008 Miss USA Contest. It contains music but no words))
While all of these beauty contests can be criticized for a host of reasons, not the least of which is their early link to the eugenics movement, it is interesting to see, individuals who once would have been excluded now taking part. Albert Wiggam, a prominent eugenist who served as a judge of the 1929 Miss Universe Pageant was quoted as saying, “Beauty is woven into the protoplasmic fabric of the race…”
The inclusion of women with disabilities in beauty pageants is a step toward overall inclusion… Unfortunately, it may mean that women with disabilities can be included in the same demeaning objectification as all other women. It raises the question, “inclusion in what?”
Ms. Curren deserves some kudos for her achievement. Others can argue whether this does more harm than good. I really don’t know.
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