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As if Societal Beauty Standards Weren’t Toxic Enough, Now We’re Getting AI Beauty Pageants

Beauty pageants have long been criticized for promoting unrealistic beauty standards and lacking diversity. Now the first artificial intelligence beauty pageant will be held to pressure women to conform to beauty standards that are truly impossible and man-made.

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Beauty pageants have always been problematic. These contests frequently promote a very narrow definition of what beauty is. It is only just recently that older women and women who are married or have children were even permitted to participate in these contests as pageants were holding on to archaic, sexist, and agist ideals that women must be young virgins to be desirable. There have also been issues of beauty pageants barring, discriminating against, or underrepresenting transgender women, BIPOC women, and plus-sized women. Meanwhile, anytime a woman wins who doesn’t conform to one of society’s beauty conventions, it sparks disgusting backlash. Recently, men on the internet began melting down because one beauty pageant winner boasted a pixie haircut.

Many feel that the outdated beauty pageant should simply be abolished, given how unlikely it is they’ll ever reform or evolve to the extent they need to. After all, it took over a century for women older than 28 or mothers to be permitted to participate in Miss USA and Miss Universe. Even today, a woman with a pixie cut winning a beauty pageant is so rare that it causes a furor on the internet. Yet instead of abolishing or trying to fix beauty pageants, the idea arose to host AI beauty pageants.

The world’s first AI beauty pageant is on the way

The World AI Creator Awards (WAICA) is gearing up to host the world’s first AI beauty pageant. Miss AI will be held in May and will judge the beauty of AI-generated models. The real contestants vying for a cash prize of $13,000 are AI content creators. They are being tasked with creating AI-generated female models, which will then be judged on their “beauty, poise, and their unique answers to a series of questions like, “If you could have one dream to make the world a better place, what would it be?” Contestants will also be judged on factors like their adeptness at AI tools and their social media followings.

The upcoming AI beauty pageant is disturbing for several reasons. First and foremost, why is it being framed as a “beauty pageant”? WAICA could easily hold a competition for AI-content creators to create the most realistic or sophisticated AI-generated individual and judge the creations solely on the creators’ skills and techniques. So, why is it choosing instead to judge the actual creations on “beauty” of all things? The hosts of this contest don’t think it would be damaging or harmful to now start saying that the definition of beauty and the ideal woman is an AI-generated model?

The major reason beauty pageants can be harmful is that they often only celebrate one very narrow definition of beauty. Since women come in all shapes and sizes, it’s unrealistic and even downright harmful for contestants to be expected to match the single ideal of beauty promoted in most pageants.

Most of the beauty standards celebrated by beauty pageants are unattainable for many women and femmes. However, in an AI competition, the beauty standards will be unattainable for all. Based on the wording and images used on the competition’s website, it’s reasonable to assume the competition is going to be pushing inhuman proportions and characteristics as the standard of beauty for a so-called ideal woman.

On top of that, one can predict that the majority of AI-creators participating in this competition will be men. After all, AI developers are overwhelmingly male, so much so that many users have noticed AI displays gender and racial bias because of the lack of diversity in those developing and training these systems. It has been estimated that about 80% of AI professionals are men.

Additionally, the competition’s website names four judges, two of whom are not actually real people but AI-generated influencers and OnlyFans models.

So, this AI beauty pageant will use fake women to judge the beauty of other fake women created by biased technology and men. One of the reasons why beauty pageants became so toxic in the first place was male influence. The industry has long tried to appeal to men by celebrating what men find beautiful instead of celebrating what women find beautiful about themselves. Now there’s a pageant specifically designed to allow men and male-influenced machines to create and define what feminine beauty is.

Women are already constantly inundated with unrealistic body standards, including the abundance of AI-generated models spreading on social media. However, a competition now wants to try to validate these images flooding the internet and paint fictional, inhuman designs as the epitome of beauty.

(featured image: Johannes Simon/Getty)


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Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.