There she is – Miss America/There she is – Our ideal

In Portrait of a Lady on December 5, 2010 at 12:23 am

What is beauty? The definition of this word is quite contested because it’s never the same.  This word holds a lot of power for me and should never be used lightly because it refers to more than outward attractiveness. Beauty is NOT skin deep and I personally think, for the most part, everyone has a quality that makes them beautiful in varying degrees to someone else.  It’s like when you first meet someone, you might think they’re ugly but when you get to know them, somehow they become more attractive – they’re features soften out; their flaws are ignored because they have qualities that distract from that.  In the words of Rita Freedom in Beauty Bound, beauty is “many things – an external radiance, an inner tranquility, a sexual allure, a fact of social exchange.”  Or to Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth, beauty is “biological, sexual, and evolutionary”, “women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it.”

The pursuit of beauty is the one thing that connects all women, of different classes, regions and ethnic groups (Lois W. Banner). Yet, beauty seems like an unattainable attribute, like happiness or perfection.  Because no one knows the true definition.  They’re all contradictory.  Depending on where you live, your ethnic background, the people who spend time with, what religion you practice…the idea of beauty changes. 

In this paper titled, “The Miss American Pageant: Pluralism, Feminity, and the Cinderella all in one,” Elwood Watson, and Darcy Martin critique the Miss American Pageant from start to now, for its portrayal of feminity.  According to these authors, the pageant is a microcosm of change in the America culture, representing our values and beliefs.  It’s about judging women on their bodies, legitimizing the Cinderella mythology – looks are all you need, and counteracts feminism (the first pageant was held the same year women were allowed to vote in 1920).  In 1968 200 feminists came to the pageant Convention Hall and protested.  They were accused of burning bras, among other antics, which is not true, though they did throw items into a trashcan that they thought suppressed women, including bras. 

There have been a number of changes to the pageant since it’s inception in the 1920s, but it’s basis is basically the same – young, attractive women parade themselves about in the name of…I’m actually not sure: patriotism? Winning a scholarship? Helping others? I don’t know what pageant winners achieve or do afterwards, but they all seem to have the same mannerisms and are experts at applying makeup (when the pageant first started, the contestants weren’t allowed to wear makeup). 

2009 Miss America crowning.  I wonder what her reaction is going to be? Most likely crying and screaming and smiling and waving…let’s take a look

I like how before the contestants come out the commentator says that the bikini show case is about health, fitness and confidence – sure it is.  If it was really about that they could have them go for a run and track what they eat.  We all know it’s about what the audience wants to see and the fact that a woman is a failure unless she’s attractive. 


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