"Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. For what the world needs is more people who have come alive."
-Howard Thurman

Monday, January 12, 2015

Are Pageants Really for Thinking People? My Response

"BOSTONIANS ARE thinking people; in fact, according to demographer Joel Kotkin, Greater Boston is the smartest metropolis in the nation. So why is there still a Miss Boston, and even more alarmingly, why do we have a Miss Cambridge?

Thinking people, after all, give prizes to people who’re the smartest, not women who’re the prettiest. And for all of pageantry’s insistence that looks don’t matter (wink, wink), that it’s about poise, talent, and the ability to be articulate under bright lights on a stage, the swimsuit competition staggers on, a triceratops in stilettos..." (excerpt from Boston Times article).

Earlier this evening, my aunt e-mailed me this article, "Are pageants really for thinking people?" from today's Boston Globe and asked me if I cared to counter? My response:

"So the ironic thing is, I would, but I'm too busy studying for my course...in Cambridge...that Miss America is paying for.  So essentially, I'm too busy  being a "thinking person," facilitated by my involvement in the Miss America Organization.  Oh well :p"

I will say, however, that I would argue that true "thinking people" understand that there is value in a multitude of talents and attributes- intelligence being one, but also commitment to something greater than oneself and service to others, as well as personal growth, informed engagement with relevant social and political issues, commitment and discipline, actively fostering healthy minds and bodies, and so on- all of which Miss America encourages and rewards. Yes, pretty women may be rewarded, but what is more important is that these women display true beauty through lifestyles characterized by compassion for others, dedication to furthering social causes of personal and societal importance, and by using their voices, talents, and yes, maybe even perceived outward beauty, to make a positive impact- to do something that matters ....oh and the "prizes" they earn, are scholarships...as in educational scholarships...as in college and university scholarships...you know, the places where most "thinking people" go to, among many other things....think ;)

Also, in direct response to the swimsuit competition comment- yes the swimsuit competition is designed to display fitness, but yes, it is also designed to showcase beauty- to celebrate a woman's pride in her body and confidence derived from living a healthy lifestyle.  In a world filled with photoshopped images, where young women are constantly inundated with illusions of the "perfect" female form that doesn't even exist in real life, I would argue that celebrating real womens' bodies and teaching young women to feel confident in their own bodies is not such a bad thing...and at the end of the day, the contestant may appear in a swimsuit for 30 seconds, but the growth she experiences through holding a title and serving her community, and the knowledge- both self-knowledge and more broad knowledge, gained through both her experiences while participating in the organization, as well as afforded to her through her scholastic endeavors, facilitated by the scholarships she receives from the organization- last a lifetime.  

And let me tell you- there is a lot to be learned through being involved in the Miss America organization.  I learned perspective from visiting wounded warriors; grace, strength, and the power of a positive outlook from visiting children in Children's Miracle Network Hospitals; the power of community and service through the volunteers and Miss Virginia family; diversity through travelling across the commonwealth and meeting people from a variety of walks of life...just to name a few.  And, perhaps the greatest gift of all- I discovered power within myself and gained a confidence that comes from witnessing your own ability to affect lives and to do something positive that truly matters (not to mention challenging and stretching myself in numerous ways and proving to myself I am capable of many things that were personally relevant and powerful). 

Pageants are not for everyone and every pageant organization is different, but they are a valuable activity and resource for many young women and instrumental in positively shaping many young womens' lives, providing them with opportunities to not only further their educations, but to further themselves personally and professionally and to express themselves in a multitude of ways.  The mentorship, meaningful friendships, experiences, and empowerment I experienced are lasting gifts that have benefited me since my involvement.  I am certain I would not be where I am today had I not been involved in the Miss America Organization...and where I am just so happens to be in Cambridge, specifically for the purpose of gaining a meaningful education and broadening my depth and scope of thought...because I am a "thinking person."  

Instead of forming opinions about something based on common misconceptions and stereotypes, which I don't believe takes a great deal of "thinking," I would encourage someone who is genuinely curious as to why pageants still exist, to investigate- try to see things from multiple perspectives and gain a more well rounded, deeper understanding.  In short, truly THINK about it.

...Okay maybe that counts as a counter :p 


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your accomplishments and thank you for your service. You have done good things for your country and community. That said, it is not an issue of intellect but respect. Caitlin, you won the bathing suit contest, and yes you could try to argue that it showcases a healthy female body. Still, (1) the body type represented at the national level is an unrealistic goal for the majority and negatively impacts women and girls of all shapes and sizes. (2) There are better ways to celebrate the healthy female form than to parade on stage and perpetuate the sexist stereotypes that the pageant was founded on. I think John Oliver said it best- "How is this still a thing?"