Miss Canada sends a message to body shamers.

Miss Canada, Siera Bearchell, was everywhere last night. While scrolling the interwebs late last night, I couldn’t sleep, I’d over-napped. That headline jumped out at me from not one, but multiple locations. Shamed for her larger body. Trolled, hitting back at the condemnation of her body, is seeking to redefine the ideals of beauty.

But are we surprised?

I hate to tell you, but I’m not. A woman that looks like me would never make it that far. We are weeded out in much earlier stages if we choose to compete at all. Women who are remotely ordinary are not in the international arena, so what are we talking about here?

Are we surprised that someone who, according to a former Miss Universe could take out the crown if she lost eight pounds (literally eight, like 3.628kg), is being shamed in this arena? If there is less than 4kg standing between you and perfection, then shit, what’s all the drama about? Isn’t that what a beauty pageant are about? Take the ideal, try to meet it, and see who wins?

I wholeheartedly agree Siera Bearchell doesn’t deserve commentary on her body.

Even in a pageant arena. After all, is that what the entrants are there for? Her body? Maybe it is. But the madness of this is, let’s not forget, this is a thin, able, educated woman. A woman who defines modern beauty. If not for the Universe, for Canada. You cannot forget to say that in the coverage that presents her as an oversize person. She isn’t. She one hundred percent isn’t.

Participants speaking out and saying I am happy and confident now, in this body, is great. Ms Bearchell mentions on her Instagram that her previous pageant experience hasn’t always felt like that with restrictive diets and self-confidence challenges. Great. Let there be more honesty about what it takes to create and maintain a body like that, acknowledging a hefty helping from some great genetics, let’s face it. Let that be represented.

But, when all that is said and done it’s important to note that her body fits pretty much every ideal for modern beauty. Tall, long limbs, hourglass figure, long hair, big smile. Check, check, check. She isn’t redefining beauty and body standards; she just gave us an insight into how imposed it is in the pageant world and how unrealistic it can be.

It’s not a beauty pageant; it’s a scholarship program – Miss Congeniality.

Real changes to beauty and body standards can’t happen, in my opinion, in this arena. For whatever re-branding pageants have gone through in the past decade, to an outsider, it is still very much about placing a woman’s value on her beautiful face, even temperament and killer body. I don’t think the two things can exist in the same space.

Because, if this is the redefinition of beauty and body standards that’s coming, that we and those before us have worked so hard for, some of us are going to be sorely disappointed. It’s the same, but with a brand new ribbon around it. That’s not enough.

Maybe I have pageants all wrong. Perhaps in 2017, they are a very different world to those represented on screens and in magazines, but something tells me they’re not. Something like asking a participant how it feels to be SOOO much bigger than the others. Something like comparing her body to the one she had when she was 16. You know, things like that.

So, are we really surprised? No.

Do I remain quietly outraged? Yup.

Before I wrap this up, let me clarify that this isn’t about saying that Ms Bearchell is wrong. Or that she shouldn’t share her experiences as part of her journey. Absolutely not. It’s about each of us recognising that our experience is different.

That (for me) pageants and everything they stand for are part of the problem, not the solution and that her experience of body shaming is very different to someone who is genuinely inhabiting a ‘larger’ body. And that media, phew, they love a good headline. Haha. 

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