If you think this is going to be a feminist diatribe of pageant-hating rhetoric, you are sadly mistaken. I admit that I worry about having 53 women parading around in bikinis for an audience of millions doing more harm than good for human progress. However, I sat down Sunday night to watch the 2015 Miss America Pageant with a good helping of optimism.
As someone who holds a BS in Exercise Science and loves lifting weights, I was delighted to see contestants with healthy curves and muscles. I ignored the stereotypical rigamarole for which pageants are normally criticized and tried to hone in on audible nuggets of female accomplishment. I was delighted to hear about a contestant who is a dental student at Harvard, at least one contestant entering law school, and even a woman inspired to become a Cardiologist after her father suffered a cardiac episode. Then, the talent portion began.
As best I can tell, someone inside the pageant's production team decided it was not enough to simply watch 10 amazing women perform their expert level abilities within a 90 second time frame. So, in an MTV-esque style approach to interactive television, information about the contestants began popping up in the bottom corner of the screen. And not just random information. Weird information. A few of my personal favorites included, “Terrified of frogs”, “Loves to eat at Waffle House”, and “Nickname growing up was Bob”. REALLY?!?!?!?!
They have some of the most accomplished, intelligent, and hard-working women on the planet, and the best thing they can say about them is, [She] “Loves street hot dogs”?!?!
They came close to posting something intellectually worthwhile with, [She] “Loves anything Jane Austin.” However, I enjoyed the irony of the fact that they actually MISSPELLED the beloved author's name! That would be Jane Austen.
I often hear pageant enthusiasts defend such organizations by saying they are good for girls' self esteem, offer countless scholarship and leadership opportunities, and are actually intended to foster respect toward our gender. So I am dumbfounded by the choice of factoids thrust onto the screen, interrupting a flawless classical piano performance. Shame on you, Pageant Officials. You don't respect your participants. You mock them.
Even the female-unfriendly NFL understands how to correctly utilize the media feature of pop-up statistics. Here's a thought. Next time you, Mr. Pageant Coordinator, want to intersperse information about your contestants, tell us things like college majors, volunteer activities or choose from any of what I assume are dozens of accolades and awards that these women have been accumulating since birth.
I was honestly very impressed with both the beauty and brains on that stage. I guess what depressed me the most is how a bikini-perfect body, a flawless academic career, and a benevolent mission in life still does not protect Miss America from being belittled, live for all the world to see. I hope this year's pageant organizers realize their mistake. But for now they can kiss my tiara.