Miss World: Old-fashioned, sexist beauty contest or advancing feminism's cause?

Later this year, winners from Miss World state events around the country will meet in Sydney for the national final.

The beauty pageant has been around since 1951 and according to the organisers contestants are judged on their “beauty, talent, intelligence and compassion”.

The pageant’s motto is “beauty with a purpose” and it has a focus on charity work, but there is no mistaking that looks are an important part of the equation.

“They’re very strict on what you can and can’t wear … the hair that they want to have is pretty specific [and] the makeup needs to be pretty glamorous,” contestant Tiana Della-Putta, 19 said.

As state finals continue around Australia, Story Hunters asked the young women competing in South Australia for their thoughts on feminism.

Tiana Della-Putta, contestant

“I find it really difficult to put myself in the category of a feminist, because I have certain views that really don’t match up.”

“I kind of still believe in old-fashioned things like you should want to get married and stick to one boyfriend. I’ve always felt like a woman should respect herself and be a lady, but then I also think that men shouldn’t be misogynists and think it’s the ’40s and be able to tell women what to do — because that’s wrong.”

Deborah Miller, Miss World national director

“To be a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be beautiful and put make-up on and be attractive — I think we all are feminists, we all want women to succeed.”

“Some people are terrified of that word: feminist. They think it’s these strong, aggressive women. If feminism is about being strong, being savvy, having a say, having a platform, having a voice, then we are feminist.


Yasya King, contestant

“I definitely don’t see myself as a feminist. I’m not against women sort of staying home doing the woman thing, I’ve been raised very much with family values.”

“I just wouldn’t call myself that because it’s not something that I’m super passionate about — I think I can leave that to the people who are.”

“Sometimes people see it as objectifying women in those pageants. I don’t know, I guess it can be a harsh world modelling like anything. Sometimes you do it to get to have that empowering moment, but at the same time… you’re basically not good enough if you don’t get chosen.”

“I guess you have to come into it with a positive sort of, mind frame.”

Aliona King, Yasya King’s mother:

“Those girls on the catwalk, on the parade, they’re actually not just little dolls for people’s eyes or for people to gossip about them.”

“They’re actually people with their stories and they have hearts and they can get hurt.”

Kate Bonny, contestant:

“I wouldn’t particularly call myself a feminist, because I’m more for equal rights of everybody. I think that we’re all human, we all deserve an equal chance.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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