MAGGIE MONSON | Columnist
The 500 Festival Princess Program is not a beauty pageant in description. The 33 women selected each year as part of the program are ambassadors for the festival and are judged based on a number of criteria, none of which is their physical appearance.
This program focuses heavily on volunteer service and altruism. Women who apply have to have a GPA greater than 2.8, participate in “worthwhile” activities in college and have a successful interview, according to the program’s website.
These women must be professional, intelligent and unselfish. This is a far cry from the traditional beauty pageants where contestants model bathing suits and are judged on their looks and a couple minutes of speaking.
Beauty pageants reduce women down to their looks. In order to succeed, one simply has to have a pretty smile and be able to walk in high heels. The 500 Festival Princess Program is a step above that.
Four Butler women are princesses in this year’s competition to become the queen. They will have to work hard this spring in order to succeed in the program.
They will participate in outreach initiatives in their hometowns, volunteer at the Indy 500 Festival throughout the month of May and become heavily involved in the Indiana community.
There is no doubt the 33 princesses will work hard over the coming months to represent the Festival’s mission well.
However, the program is still flawed.
Women are expected to be unmarried and have no children-—including those who have gone on to attain a college degree after having children. I would argue these women have worked harder than most to be where they are and deserve recognition.
The term “Princess Program” evokes a certain image as well. Even though physical appearance is not one of the criteria judged throughout the competition, all 33 women are traditionally beautiful. All have long hair and fit stereotypical norms for female beauty. They all look like a princess “should.”
This festival clearly promotes a certain kind of woman as “ideal.” These are all smart, successful college women, yet they are being celebrated for fitting into the mold.
There are many women who are intelligent and altruistic, yet do not meet today’s stringent standards for beauty. They seem to be underrepresented in the Princess Program.
The program wants the women to be viewed as role models for others. These women are good role models: They are working on a college education and unselfishly helping communities through volunteerism, before and after the program.
However, the 500 Festival Princess Program could teach other girls that they have to fit into a certain beauty standard in order to fit in with these princesses.
It is good the festival does not judge the women based on their beauty.
When one looks at the 33 princesses, however, one would not assume their physical appearances had nothing to do with the selection.
Little girls do not understand the networking opportunities or potential scholarships these women receive. They see 33 beautiful women, and so yet again little girls are taught they have to be beautiful in order to be celebrated.
I would challenge the Princess Program to look for a broader range of women in following years. They should invite college women through a variety of campus organizations and promote a message of diversity.
The program itself has good roots in celebrating women for good grades and volunteerism. However, a broader spectrum of physical attributes would make these 33 women more relatable and realistic.
Good role models can come in any physical form.