It’s been an interesting 11 days with the #krewedecrown – the team of 8 Baton Rougeans who served as official Social Media Ambassadors for the Miss USA pageant. I was exposed to an industry and experience which has never held that much allure for me beyond the dress-up games I played as a child.
I was a bit unsure about tackling this gig being neither a fan of the systemic objectification of women nor a proponent of promoting the princess as role-model. Capturing a crown by sashaying around in full hair and makeup and having super shiny white teeth seems so, I dunno…silly.
Then again I wholeheartedly believe that it’s not up to me…or other women…or men…. to tell any individual woman how to act, dress, behave, or live her life. Feminism means allowing each individual woman to choose her course. It’s oppressive to dictate what women can’t do and it’s just as oppressive to tell them what they should want to do. So if Brittany Guidry from Houma, Louisiana thinks gaining titles and crowns is important to her then she surely should have every opportunity to do so.
Choice feminism, right? When a woman makes a choice for herself (what to wear, what career to pursue, when/if to have children) there are generally no negative consequences; she is doing her thing. Making her choices.
But the young women who choose to enter the pageant world have started down a path that has ongoing societal consequences and implications; things that go way beyond their individual dream of living in a high-rise apartment in Trump Tower for 12 months. Venerating unrealistic physical loveliness and doing so in a venue at which we ‘crown a queen’ based on her stroll across a stage in ridiculously high heels and a bathing suit is troublesome in 2014. While monitoring the twitter stream last night I saw comments from viewers including one from a television viewer (paraphrasing): “I wish I looked like that but I eat too much.”
That’s some sad stuff right there.
Look…I like the sparkly and shiny. I too was caught up in the collective virtual orgasm (mostly females, a few males) that rippled throughout the BR River Center when the contestants came parading out in their evening gowns. I stood on the red carpet (official duties) and marveled, albeit somewhat cynically, as holders of flawlessly luminescent skin and lush eyelashes posed in front of me for pictures.
We buy into this stuff.
But women have many more options in 2014 than they did in 1952 when the Miss USA pageant began as a local “bathing beauty” competition. Sadly I didn’t see a whole lot of attention focused on individual contestant’s accomplishments, education or goals even though we are 62 years hence; the addition of evening gowns and bigger hair seems to have been the major adjustment to the competition since its days as a “bathing beauty” competition. While a number of contestants have attained undergraduate degrees, some are pursuing post-graduate degrees and others are working in professional roles, that didn’t seem to be as critical to judging their worthiness as whether or not they could shimmy and shake fetchingly while Marc Broussard played “Iko Iko” in a nod to Louisiana. And sadly, from pageant organizers to media to hosts to attendees, the word of choice when referring to the contestants was “girls” which drives me absolutely batshit crazy. Infantilizing. Reeking of “be a good girl” or “isn’t she a pretty girl?” Ugh.
These are women. And each individual woman can – and should – make the choices that are right for her. Power to the contestants if this is what they wish to do with their lives.
I would like us, however, to collectively make some changes – intentional changes – to this beauty world. We need to step away from the bright lights and glossy lipstick and seriously think about the potential lingering effect this pageant world has on on girls and boys and women and men. The glamorization of unrealistic and unattainable physical beauty coupled with the downplaying of real accomplishments and potential capabilities is maddening.
Over and out. Reporting live from the red carpet.
image: flickriver via Creative Commons