September 20, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

The Miss Oktoberfest pageant has been a long-running tradition that dates back as long as the festival itself.

A competition representing the best of our city’s German heritage, contestants are judged on their winning smiles, positive attitudes and unwavering moral fiber. Or in a nutshell, no moms allowed.

Rule number 2 of the Miss Oktoberfest pageant states that the contestant must be single. This is understandable, however, it’s the pageant’s definition of single that’s the problem.

Under the pageant’s guidelines, being a single woman means never having been married, had a marriage annulled or had a child.

Hang on a minute. In order to be considered single you can never have had a child?

Thirty years ago, most children were born to first-time married parents, parents who had never previously lived together. Today, almost as many children are born into two-parent families but, increasingly, their parents are not married.

No longer are young girls sent off to homes for unmarried pregnant women to have babies, only to return with the story that they were visiting their aunt up north. Single mothers make up a large part of today’s society.

The Miss Oktoberfest pageant was initiated in 1969 with the winner going on to be Kitchener-Waterloo’s contestant in the Miss Canada pageant. Governed by a select board of directors, little has changed regarding the rules with the exception of stricter zoning requiring all participants to reside within an 80-kilometre radius of the Kitchener area.

According to the official Oktoberfest website, Miss O represents a part of our city’s German heritage and helps to carry on a heart-warming tradition of the festival. The site goes on to describe the winning contestant as a vital part of the celebration, which sparks national and international interest in the community.

Revered as one of the most popular and favourite attractions of the festival, thousands turn out to see Miss O not only during Oktoberfest but other events during the year including the Thanksgiving parade. There is no reason why a single unwed mother could not uphold these expectations.

This is 2012 and times are changing. People are choosing different lifestyles based on their own needs and the needs of their families. A woman who has a child is no less capable of being Miss O than one who has never been a mother. In fact, the maturity, patience and love that it takes to raise a baby are things that should be celebrated rather than scorned, whether she is married or not.

In a time when living common-law has all but replaced the tradition of marriage, rules that no longer represent the norm need to be changed. Women around the world are realizing that having a child out of wedlock is no longer something to be ashamed of.

According to Statistics Canada, a census taken in 2007 showed that common-law couples made up 15.5 per cent of families, while 20 years ago they only represented 7.2 per cent. In 2008, 15,570 women between the ages of 15 and 19 had babies. For about 13 per cent of these mothers, this was their second pregnancy.

Single moms, many of them young and unmarried, bring up thousands of children every year in this country. Often having to balance school, work and raising a child, these young women take on life with a determination that few possess. In a society obsessed with quick fixes and selfish agendas, they have made the ultimate sacrifice and put the needs of another human being above their own.

Regardless of all this, a group of stodgy Concordia Club board members continue to hold up out-of-touch views on morality.

If a single mom wants to be a beauty queen, I say give her a chance.