Beauty over brains: Japan’s skin-deep university pageants

Yuki Iozumi (20) was fretting about how her shoulders might look in a wedding dress. Traditional femininity was her goal. Although Iozumi, a second-year community studies major, wasn’t getting married, she was competing in a beauty pageant at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo – part of a wildly popular, and unabashedly skin-deep, phenomenon at Japanese universities known as ‘Miss Con’, write Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida for The New York Times.

The pageants, called Miss Contest in full, are staged at numerous campuses across Japan, including at pedigreed universities like the University of Tokyo and Keio University that are considered training grounds for elite political and business leaders. While beauty pageants persist in the West, what is different in Japan is that they are sponsored by student groups at institutions that proclaim august principles of intellectual achievement and preparation for professional life. The contests also perpetuate a culture that often places women in rigid gender roles.

In recent years, some students and faculty members at Japanese universities have begun questioning the basis of such pageants. Critics assail them for imposing stereotypical beauty standards, and say they are inconsistent with the values of a university.
Full report on The New York Times site