Sitting down to watch BBC3's Extreme Beauty Queens I think it's fair to say my initial reaction- stunned with wide open mouth for one hour- was probably a reflection of those held by the thousands of viewers that tuned in.
Hipster reporter Billie JD Porter documented the extreme measures taken by contestants in a desperate bid to impress self-proclaimed beauty guru Osmel Sousa, and win the coveted title of Miss Venezuela.
Sousa, Cher's 67 year old male counterpart, sat with all the pomposity of Simon Cowell on XFactor as he abrasively siphoned off the ugly ones (his belief not mine) in a parade of stunning women. One woman was told to further file down her front teeth, and as one girl turned to walk away Sousa snidely remarked, "from behind she looks terrible." I can tell you now she was far from it. A few minutes in, I took a final guilty sip of my hot chocolate and hid the empty biscuit wrapper-if these women need surgery, then I must be a total lost cause.
Although no longer televised in the UK, or given much publicity, in Venezuela beauty pageants are a huge deal. For many, having the chance to take part offers a slither of hope at escaping a life of violence and poverty, which explains why most of the girls are willing to see plastic surgery as somewhat of a necessity. But, although Porter's presenting made this clear, it wasn't a good enough excuse for Sousa's cutting advice and dismissal of feminists as "uglies who never got a fix."
As a result, hundreds of women took to twitter to quite rightly vent their fury. But, as I began to tweet my shock at this awful man and his so-called knowledge of perfection, it dawned on me that his opinions and critique may not be so alien after all.
Through pageants, women succumb to this pre-conceived idea of what it is to not only look beautiful, but also perfect. They vocalise their attempts to achieve this level of so-called perfection and proudly flaunt their bandaged up nose jobs and mesh covered tongues. We choose not to publicise beauty pageants for the very reason that to glamorise the above and treat it as the norm would lead to the promotion of unhealthy body images and the degradation of, and unification of, women and beauty. But, are we, and the media, not promoting all of the above in a less direct and more subtle manner?
Journalists write reams of banal stories (if you can even call them stories) on the workouts, weight loss, and wardrobe choices of female celebrities. And even if the writers don't refer to weight directly, you can guarantee that some readers will jump at the chance to criticise and spew vitriol.
On Christmas Eve last year The Daily Mail ran a story entitled, "The unflattering bikini shots celebrities wished you hadn't seen." Surprise surprise the sole focus was on female celebrities. Photo captions included statements such as "TOWIE babe Frankie Essex's white two-piece exposed her cellulite," and "Chantelle Houghton didn't look her best while running across the beach during a recent holiday in Spain." Even more shocking was the caption relating to svelte Eva Longoria which read: "Belly up: Eva Longoria's growing belly was clear to see in Puerto Rico earlier this year."
Every day men's magazines, and in particular the Sun's page three are plastered with topless women showcasing ample chests. To make it in the glamour modelling industry they know an A cup, no matter how pert, just won't suffice, so for some, boosting their boob size is the only option. Other magazines love nothing more than to speculate on the has she‚ hasn't she had‚ plastic surgery, and we have to ask ourselves- is our constant scrutiny the reason behind a celebrity's slimmer nose, taut face or enlarged bosom?
People who live their lives in the spot light face constant media scrutiny, with social media making it notoriously easy for trolls to jump on the bandwagon. Although not as cutting and straightforward as Sousa's comments, our media is riddled with often more subtle cruelties, that ultimately produce and share the same critiques as Mr Sousa.