There's more to queens than their beautyBy Lindsay Macher | 10/14/2015 7:20am
In the last week, the University has participated in homecoming festivities and traditions. Along with these celebrations has come controversy and media attention for the well-known GroupMe messages from Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. While these stories are important in shedding light on the paternalistic control of the Machine and highlighting Halle Lindsay’s experiences and courage, the most confusing part of the media presence is the failure to address the first question that comes to my mind: why do we still have homecoming queens?
The practice of nominating and voting on university women to become the homecoming queen is not only archaic, but also offensive and oppressive. The clear objectification of women at an institution of higher education does nothing to reflect the academic accomplishments of these women. While each nominee is asked to give her platform and list her major, the crowning is never actually concerned with this information. Instead, the lucky girl who wins the somehow prestigious title of homecoming queen is the one that the Machine chose as the most beautiful, the best representation of their southern ideologies, and, let’s face it, the most white-washed.
The acknowledgement that homecoming queen is rarely earned, but rather given to women, is even more insulting than the general principle behind this beauty queen culture we live in. The trade-off for publicly backing and voting for the choices made by these men in power instead of your friend and sorority sister is the reward of being called, essentially, “most beautiful.” There is no equal distribution of power or control, no choices or decision-making (not even that of their own vote) given to these women. This is representative of the way patriarchal systems like the Machine dismiss women as objects intended for their control.
The continuation of practices like beauty pageants and homecoming queens in a society that emphasizes the importance of women fitting specific beauty standards is harmful to those who do not fit these eurocentric beauty standards. Although the homecoming queen hand-out is no comparison to the position these qualified, educated women actually deserve, holding the position still means being the “face” of women’s lives on campus. When all we ever see is a white girl in a candid photo laughing with a carefree smile, we are intentionally led to believe that this is what a “real” Alabama woman should look like. Throughout our school’s history, only a small number of women have held major positions of power (few of which were earned without the Machine’s backing), and an uncomfortably small number of women of color have been elected homecoming queen. This is especially disturbing when one-fifth of the student population is non-white, but given no representation in this ideal vision of what is expected to symbolize success, “education” and beauty.
Because of society’s exclusive beauty standards and the Machine’s commitment to one racially homogeneous representation of the Alabama woman, it is necessary to acknowledge the pursuit of minority or non-Machine representation. Although the competition between women as beauty queens is objectifying and detrimental to women’s liberation, women like Halle Lindsay making the decision to run against the Machine make an entirely different statement that promotes diversity and courage in the face of discrimination and power. Lindsay’s decision to enter the race, and continue even through the controversy of betrayal by her own sorority sisters is an inspirational act because she chose to enter a space that, historically and currently, has been unwelcoming to her. As a white woman, I can critique the sexist nature of beauty queen culture comfortably because I have always had the privilege of access into those spaces. For women who have not been given the same privileges and societal reinforcement, specifically on this campus under the patriarchal control we live in, breaking these barriers and gaining representation is a major act of diversification.
The use of homecoming queen to control the student body and appease Machine women who were more than qualified to hold SGA executive or presidential positions is ultimately exclusive and insulting. Women should no longer have to battle objectification, especially at their university. It is time that women are given the recognition and leadership positions they deserve--not positions that are focused on western beauty standards and emphasize male control.
Lindsay Macher is a junior majoring in chemical engineering.