Volume 91, Issue 23

Wednesday, October 8, 1997

glass houses


Students protest Miss Oktoberfest pageant

By Joe Jimenez
Gazette Staff

Tomorrow's Miss Oktoberfest Pageant at Kitchener's Centre In The Square may be overshadowed by a protest organized by the University of Waterloo Women's Group.

"The pageant itself discriminates against age, marital status and culture," said Kendra Kusturin, a member of the women's group.

Kusturin explained candidates are picked from a handful of individuals aged 20 to 25 who cannot have had a child previously. With these requirements in mind, Kusturin said she believes the winner of the pageant isn't representative of the female population.

"We are being bombarded with images of skinny women with body types that don't exist." Kusturin also said the pageant is not reflective of varying cultures since most participants come from Florida or California.

The protest, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., just before the Miss Oktoberfest pageant, is going to be a peaceful gathering outside The Square, Kusturin said. "The women's group is not protesting against the contestants themselves, but the existing social problem."

Larry Blundell, executive officer of Oktoberfest, said he feels it is not their policy to debate the ethics [of the pageant]. Blundell also refuted claims made by Kusturin and said of the 16 pageant participants, there will be equal representation from Canada and the United States.

The selection process for Miss Oktoberfest consists of an interview, presentation, talent and musical production. Blundell said the winner of the pageant is the most sought after person associated with the festival.

The new Miss Oktoberfest will have to fulfill a number of duties involving the community, including school visits to teach kids about culture and heritage, Blundell said. The previous Miss Oktoberfest must also fulfill her final duty by handing the title over to the new winner.

Lesley Harman, a professor of sociology at King's College, said beauty pageants tend to enforce rigid standards and those who don't live up to the standard become second-class citizens.

"It certainly doesn't encourage women to love their own bodies," she said. Harman said each contestant in the pageant is judged on how closely they resemble Barbie and judges do not concentrate on the other elements that make women beautiful. She said she would ideally like to see beauty celebrated in a non-competitive world.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997