Once upon a time, progressives sneered at beauty pageants. Whether the Miss America or the Miss Universe contest, all such “meat markets” objectify women, we were told. They turn females into sex objects! Reinforce patriarchal stereotypes! Teach girls that being in a state of partial undress, rather than learning how to code, is the path to success!
For girls in the 1970s, getting hotheaded about such chauvinist-pig traditions was a rite of passage, providing nearly as much satisfaction as biting off a hapless male’s head for holding open a door or helping with overhead luggage. Males soon got over such atavistic instincts, liberating females to lug their suitcases up subway stairs on their own, as able-bodied males unconcernedly pass them by. But the beauty pageant would not die. Organizers responded to the feminist critique by accentuating the social-activism component of the competition, eliciting from the contestants ever more fervent recitations of their aspirations, say, to found organizations for battered women.
Leftists were not impressed. For them, the beauty pageant remained an object of derision. Until now. For much of last week, the mainstream media breathlessly covered the coronation of “Miss Netherlands,” as she continues on her teary journey toward an ultimate goal of being crowned Miss Universe. One might even hear Bert Parks crooning “There She Is” in the background. And the reason for this sudden interest in an obscure preliminary stage of the contest? Miss Netherlands is really a Mister. Suddenly, even the swimsuit competition has become a worthwhile endeavor in a female’s life, as long as that female is a biological male.
An old school feminist might respond: isn’t that just like a man! Not content to dominate 99.99 percent of the world, males in all their toxic maleness have to jump in and take over the last .01 percent of what has been left to females. And the females are supposed to step aside and fall in line for the new top dog, even if he wears a dress.
The mystery is that females, by and large, are doing just that.
But if males are going to muscle females aside and claim to be not only the top male dog but also the top female dog, they could at least have offered some interesting new ways of being female. Instead, the most striking aspect of the trans revolution is its embrace of the most allegedly regressive female stereotypes. For the finals of the Miss Netherlands contest, Rikkie Valerie Kollé, né Rik, appeared in a cherry-red satin gown, slit all the way up the side to reveal the entirety of his long, gorgeous leg, predictably shod in strappy five-inch stiletto heels. The sleeveless, backless plunging dress was held up by the slenderest of spaghetti straps over Rikkie’s suspiciously broad shoulders. Rikkie’s long tresses were blow-dried into wavy smoothness, his foundation and blush exquisitely modelled to create the illusion of flawless skin. In short, the very image of Las Vegas glamour.
Rikkie’s Instagram account doubles down on the showgirl look. In one photo, Rikkie strides forward in a gold lamé bikini, with billowing swathes of gold fabric trailing from his outstretched arms as if he had stepped right out of a Ziegfield follies extravaganza. Here he pouts sultrily at the camera in a white two-piece swimsuit, there he seductively applies lotion to those silky, endless legs, while wrapped in a luxurious spa bathrobe.
Rikkie is not the first trans “female” in a Miss Universe contest. Angela Ponce was chosen to represent Spain in 2018. In one online video, Ponce strides down a catwalk in a hot-pink, two-piece bathing suit and huge silver hoop earrings, hips swinging under the usual wide shoulders. At the end of the ramp, Ponce twirls around, then poses with chin out, cheeks sucked in, in a come-hither look. Not exactly an advertisement for women’s lib.
The combination of female and male beauty in one being is a mesmerizing phenomenon (admittedly, many males will disagree). It invokes Ovid’s Metamorphoses and draws the viewer in to try to distinguish where the masculine traits end and the female ones begin. The best female impersonators exploit this seductive ambiguity; most, however, have been sufficiently grounded in reality not to claim actually to be female.
The trans phenomenon upsets this equipoise. The owner of the Miss Universe pageant, Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, celebrated Rikkie’s win by stating that the pageant exists to “celebrate women.” But what, exactly, are we celebrating if a man can become a woman by adopting stereotypes about womanhood that feed the multibillion-dollar cosmetics and plastic surgery industries? “Ms.” Jakrajutatip will not be much help in answering—because, by some remarkable coincidence, she is a male herself, reborn as a trans female.
Ironically, trans females undermine the very premises of the theory that gave rise to this social mania: that traditional gender identities are an artificial construction designed to subjugate women. Trans females gravitate ineluctably toward the millennia-long assumption that to be female means, in significant part, to invite the male gaze. The female traits that traditionally have attracted that male gaze signaled fitness for mating. But the trans female’s beauty is a sterile one. Absent some God-like accentuation of surgical capacities, the trans female will remain barren, no matter how many times his violently excavated vagina is dilated and recut. More like Narcissus than Venus, the trans female is a dead end.
The trans female also undermines feminist politics. Democrats in Congress are trying to revive the defunct Equal Rights Amendment to create a vehicle for a new federal right to abortion. “If you look at the terrible things happening to women’s rights in this country, it is clear we must act,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) last April. Until recently, U.S. discrimination laws defined the classes protected under those laws on the basis of immutable characteristics, such as sex and race. But if being a woman is a voluntary status, one that men can assume by choice and that women can also leave by choice, then the urgency of any such civil rights protections dissipates. In theory, the entire male population could declare itself female and there would be no reason to protect women’s rights at all, since they would not be juxtaposed against some allegedly oppressive power. Alternatively, females could simply all declare themselves male and escape the alleged oppression without protection from the courts. In either case, females’ supposed victimization at the hands of a patriarchal culture becomes a less pressing issue.
Progressives overlook the contradictions posed to their creeds by the trans mania because they now have a higher agenda: delivering the coup de grâce to the traditional family and rendering as many young people of European descent as possible uninterested in, and incapable of, reproducing. Rikkie Valerie Kollé is the comely face of Western self-cancellation.
Photo by EVERT ELZINGA/ANP/AFP via Getty Images