The 2001 Miss America Pageant and the female image

By on October 4, 2001

Flipping channels the other night I glimpsed at an American past time, the Miss America Pageant. Originally started as a means of promotion to attract tourists to a group of Las Vegas hotels, the contest has certainly evolved from its start in 1921. Yet objectifying females has always remained a familiar constant.
There is no question that women have been being judged based solely on their looks since the beginning of time. Take the prehistoric era for instance. Those females with the better looking faces and bigger breasts were considered the best mates because these attributes were associated with fertility.
Throughout time humanity has slowly progressed but principles set for women have not. Treated as a second class, females accepted domestic duties and stood as subservient beings to man in the home and within society. What would Betty Freidan say if she were alive to see women parading down runways in bathing suits to compete for cash and prizes?
Granted there are worse things these women could be doing with themselves than participating in a beauty pageant. But what does partaking in a contest of beauty say about us as a society in the year 2001? Have we forgotten that this type of behavior contradicts what so many women have fought for in the past? More importantly, don’t we as females value ourselves more as human beings and spirits to allow others to judge us on body and cup size?
All arguments have two sides and the Miss America debate is no exception. A positive aspect of the pageant is that the winner is awarded a full college scholarship in addition to cash and prizes. The females are the sole proprietors of their winnings, enabling them to live independently.
Miss America winners often use the crown as a stepping stone into the entertainment industry with endorsements and acting roles. In these ways the pageant acts as a positive segue into a successful future.
Howard Stern’s show often displays an exaggerated and horrifying version of the beauty pageant. On his show women compete for lipo-suction and breast augmentation by exposing nude bodies to a panel of chauvinistic judges. It is obvious by these females’ willingness to face humiliation in order to achieve superficial beauty that they are individuals lacking self-respect. HBO also did a real-life piece on children in the pageant world. Who could forget little “Swan,” the six-year-old pushed by her mother to achieve a faux diamond and sapphire crown? Little girls painted with make-up and taught to wear revealing outfits with a fake smile. To watch these children cry when they lose is pitiful. It is a direct blow to their self-esteem when they aren’t “pretty enough” to win. For adults to condone this behavior, we permeate the female ideals feminists have tried to rid for decades.
Supporters of the pageant world may argue that Miss America is also based on intelligence. If that were the case, then why is there physical judging in the first place? If these girls are so smart, then why do they hire coaches purposely to help them on their question and answer segments? It seems that a woman secure with her own intelligence would not need any extra “coaching.”
By no means is this an effort to abolish celebrating one’s femininity. There is nothing wrong with a female taking pride in her outward appearance. There is a problem when a woman’s appearance becomes the trait for which she defines herself.


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