I watched the Miss USA pageant last night....(chalk it up to taking a break from feminism?) The winner ended up being from Michigan. Rima Fakih is a Lebanese immigrant and is only the second Arab American to ever win the Miss USA pageant.
Not even 24 hours after being crowned, controversy is stirring. There are the usual suspects (naughty pictures, risque behavior a la a stripping contest for a radio show)and some not so usual controversy such as having ties to terrorist organizations
But that's not really what I want to talk about. I'm more interested in two other things.
1. Why do we still have beauty pageants in the first place? It's freakin' 2010!
2. Why are these women allowed to give dumb or incomplete answers to the "interview portion" in these pageants?
There were 3 portions of the competition in this show - swimwear, evening gown, and "interview" (which should really just be called "question"). Two out of the three of these involve nothing more than walking down the stage in something pretty and/or revealing.
As I was watching the swimsuit competition, I realized that right after the girl would walk down and do her stances or whatever, an average score would pop on the screen. So I would watch this girl walk down in a bikini, do a little twirl, smile at the judges, and then...8.65, and again, 9.12, and again, 8.46. And I thought, what exactly is being judged here?
Luckily I had expert crypt keeper and crypt keeper jr.* to explain it to me. They were judging "confidence" and "poise." OH. OF COURSE. No doubt these girls were confident and no doubt they had poise. But there are plenty of women out there willing to confidently strut their stuff and can do so with "poise" (not me, I'd probably make a retarded face and fall on my ass). But you know, no one is inviting the 5'4" 135 pound woman (perfectly healthy by BMI standards) to compete in this thing. There's obviously something else at play here. Just admit you're judging them based on their looks. The judges aren't even real judges. I'm not saying you need a PhD. to judge beauty pageants, but lets see... Oscar from the Office, Paula Dean, Johnny Weir the figure skater... these are just random celebrities judging the perceived hotness of the girls. If we're being honest, that's what it is.
I guess in the evening gown portion you can give some originality points because the girls choose their own gowns and then you hear a brief clip of them describing how their particular gown makes them feel like a mermaid and/or princess. It's kinda boring, actually.
And then there is the question portion. We all know what happened last year in the question and answer portion (see Carrie Prejean). This year we were treated to answers that were just as dumb. I actually thought Michigan had the dumbest answer to the easiest question. She was asked "Do you think health insurance should cover birth control and why" She answered, "I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it’s a controlled substance." At one point in her answer she said "birth control is expensive" and then at another point she said "you can get them for free in your OBGYN office." She was just all over the place.
Miss Oklahoma, the runner up didn't do much better in my opinion though all the right wing news sites are saying she's this year's Carrie Prejean who got robbed because of her conservative opinion. She was asked about the Arizona immigration law and said "I'm a firm believer in states rights (ok, fine) so I think it's perfectly fine for Arizona to do this. I'm against illegal immigration but I'm also against racial profiling so I can see both sides of this issue." WHO ISN'T? You could do that with any question. "well I can see both sides" Yes, intelligent people look at both sides of an issue, but at some point you have to take a stand. And supposedly Miss USA is about taking a stand for something, right? Maybe her answer wasn't terrible, and if I'm being honest her answer was better than the girl from Michigan (maybe Michigan had bigger boobs, I can't remember) BUT STILL. A twelve year old could've given that answer.
So it's 2010 and we still have beauty pageants where women are paraded around in swimsuits. Oh also lingerie photos were taken of each contestant before the show, which were described by everyone involved in the competition as "classy" and "beautiful" And then said pictures were posted all over the internet. I THOUGHT WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE ENCOURAGING YOUNG GIRLS TO NOT POST HALF NAKED PICTURES OF THEMSELVES ALL OVER THE F***ING INTERNET. I guess I was wrong. I guess that's a super awesome message for young women today.
I don't have a problem with swimsuits or lingerie, or even with acknowledging conventional beauty (though I think unconventional beauty should also be acknowledged) but I have a problem with this whole facade of competitions like these being about self esteem, and confidence, and poise, and intelligence when it's clearly not. And yes, I know... I watched it. And I probably shouldn't have because shows like this wouldn't exist if people didn't watch (ratings have been slipping, probably why they did the lingerie shoot beforehand) but what can I say, I'm a pop culture enthusiast and it was good blog fodder. :)
*That would be Joan and Melissa Rivers for you non pop culture enthusiasts.