Decades before the world decided that beauty pageants were “scholarship competitions” that also feature a swimsuit portion (for scholarship reasons), there was a glorious time in American culture when humans felt absolutely no need to pretend that contests of beauty were anything more than putting women on display like cuts of meat. Case in point? The “best ankles” competitions of the 1930s-1950s.
Mashable reports that while the dainty ankle has fallen out of favor as an acceptable way to judge a person’s beauty and worth, it used to be an important component of how we evaluated beauty. Many contests looking for the prettiest legs and ankles stood on their own—often for hosiery companies— but others were part of larger competitions in which men stared at women and decided which was the best based only on whose ankles, shoulders, and/or arms were the comeliest.
The best part? According to quotes obtained by Mashable, any woman was eligible to enter many of these pageants; and, because contestants were hidden behind a curtain for judging, older women allegedly had the same chance of winning “as their daughters.”
Fortunately, of course, ankle competitions are now relics of the past, replaced by much more appropriate events in which contestants show off their talents and pageants that take “who looks best as a carved butter sculpture” into account when judging beauty.
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