Pros and Cons of Beauty Pageants
We live in a society in which demands for equality abound. At some point, the rights and privileges associated with the “perfect” life. At the same time, it seemed that a trend began. Hyphenated Americans began their quest for the apparently ideal lifestyle that had been withheld from them. Women, gays, and lesbians began their own efforts to achieve this same equality outside of gender and sexual preference. And yet, despite it all, the beauty pageant survives.
The Miss America pageant, one of the most famous of the beauty pageants, was not started with these higher ideals in mind, The pageant itself had undergone many changes in the last decade, in an attempt to keep is viable in today’s world. It would seem, despite the changes being made, that the role of Miss America no longer commands he same respect or sense of desirability that it once did. Yet people continue to tune in, every year that it is broadcast. Why? This paper will be used o examine the history of the pageant, as well as is representation in today’s media. A Brief History of the Miss America Pageant
The Miss America pageant began in 1921, “in an effort to keep tourists in Atlantic City, NJ after Labor Day” (Wikipedia “History”). The pageant evolved over the years, from a two day beauty peant that consisted primarily of a bathing suit contest, to one with a focus on more “professional women” (Wikipedia “History”). Today, women participate not only in events that focus on their beauty and poise, they also answer interview questions designed to test their intellect, as well as other challenges. An Embattled Ideal
What is wrong with emphasizing beauty? Almost any Miss America coverage in the past ten years will tell the reader in no uncertain terms that emphasizing physical attributes over intelligence i a way to merrily skip down the road to perdition. In part, the problem with emphasizing beauty is that is sends mixed messages o the girls and women in search of the “true” meaning of womanhood. Michelle Cottle makes this observation “even as we decry being treated like sex objects and valued for our looks, girdles are making a comeback and beneath […] those Ann Taylor suits lurks a Wonderbra” (part. 4) Cottle further observes that:
[…] whatever peripheral attributes the various pageants measure, a girl’s physical beauty remains of central importance. In a society of fluid gender roles, pageants stand as the purest remaining forum for judging traditional femininity: Good old-fashioned qualities such as charm, poise, and beauty are what count. (par 11) Today’s Perception
The media seems to have its own agenda when reporting on the Miss America pageant. The media frequently refers to the “Miss America beauty pageant,” although the pageant organizers seem to have dropped the “beauty” statement a long time ago- and the word “beauty” does not even appear on he portal page of the Miss America official website. Rather, as if in a real life limitation of the Candice Bergen character’s insistence to rewrite history in Miss Congeniality, who insisted throughout the movie that the competition was “a scholarship program,” the word “scholarship” no fewer than four times on that portal page.
In the past, Miss America winners who have used their titles to take on “causes have been portrayed as rebellious or somehow not conforming the pageant ideals. When Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap went to Washington to speak on Capitol Hill, not only was in buried in the CNN.com “politics” section, the purpose of her visit was described as “an agenda,” a word frequently used as a pejorative term. In another example, when the 2003 winner. Erika Harold, Described as a “22-year-old Harvard-bound scholar and future lawyer, : used her position to speak out on abstinence, Ebony magazine characterized is as “taking a stand,” a defiant position. The article maintains this belligerent, almost...