As modern versions of the settler nation took root in twentieth-century Canada, beauty emerged as a business. But beauty pageants were more than just frivolous spectacles. Queen of the Maple Leaf deftly uncovers how colonial power operated within the pageant circuit.
Patrizia Gentile examines the interplay between local or community-based pageants and provincial or national ones. Contests such as Miss War Worker and Miss Civil Service often functioned as stepping stones to larger competitions. At all levels, pageants exemplified codes of femininity, class, sexuality, and race that shaped the narratives of the settler nation. A union-organized pageant such as Queen of the Dressmakers, for example, might uplift working-class women, but immigrant women need not apply.
Queen of the Maple Leaf demonstrates how these contests connected female bodies to respectable, wholesome, middle-class femininity, locating their longevity squarely within their capacity to reassert the white heteropatriarchy at the heart of settler societies.
1 Beauty Queens and (White) Settler Nationalism
2 Miss Canada and Gendering Whiteness
3 Labour of Beauty
4 Contesting Indigenous, Immigrant, and Black Bodies
5 Miss Canada, Commercialization, and Settler Anxiety
Notes; Bibliography; Index
Patrizia Gentile is an associate professor in the Human Rights and Social Justice program and the Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University. She is co-author with Gary Kinsman of The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation; co-editor with Jane Nicholas of Contesting Bodies and Nation in Canadian History; and co-editor with Gary Kinsman and L. Pauline Rankin of We Still Demand! Redefining Resistance in Sex and Gender Struggles.
[Queen of the Maple Leaf] is a seminal contribution to better understanding how histories of women’s bodies make for legitimate historiography of settler colonialism, truth regimes and power dynamics within Canada.
~Isabelle Leblanc, Canadian Journal of History
[Queen of the Maple Leaf ] will be of interest to all who study nation making in Canada as a process involving intersecting categories of subject positions.
~Kate Korycki, Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies, Western Univerity, University of Toronto Quarterly
Gentile’s compelling argument and sharp analysis of a diverse set of sources provide a rich examination of oft-trivialized beauty pageants. While Gentile hardly celebrates these events, she does allow room to consider women’s (uneven) agency.
~Laila Haidarali, Journal of the History of Sexuality