Smack dab in the middle of what I like to think is the most hostile debate in college classroom history, I found myself a lone defender. The topic of defense, you might ask? Beauty pageants.
Presumably, my position was shaped during the ill-famed 1989 Little Miss Baton Rouge Pageant. After all, I won “Most Congenial,” a tiny plastic tiara, and bragging rights among the other two-year-old girls. This also means I can personally attest to the fact that TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras doesn’t accurately reflect every pageant participant and her mother. My mom is quite rational, thank you very much.
Now fast forward back to my sophomore year in college and me trying helplessly to convince twenty-something feminist students that there are some positive aspects to pageants.
The odds were against me, to say the least. My opposition raised the usual anti-pageant protests dating back to the 1960s — “women strutted like animals,” “sexist objectification,” and “rigged competitions.” Even the timeless “cattle yard parade” metaphor was thrown up a time or two. Still, I refused to back down, no matter how intimidated, frustrated, and utterly outnumbered I was.
But now recent pageant news has me asking the question, “All that defense, for what?”
Did you catch Miss Ohio’s shocking comment during Miss USA? When Miss Ohio was asked to provide an example of a positive female role model, she answered, Julia Roberts’ character in the movie Pretty Woman. In this movie, Julia Roberts plays an ambitious prostitute — not exactly the model example of positive womanhood. What about strong women like Susan B. Anthony, Mother Theresa, Condoleezza Rice, and others who have fought against norms and stereotypes to uphold their core convictions? Thankfully, the pageant judges didn’t think prostitutes a good example either, dubbing Miss Ohio the second runner up.
What’s more, who can forget the transgendered contestant allowed to compete in the Miss Universe pageant? Now young women can’t even look to beauty queens anymore without wondering if they are, in fact, actually women.
Honestly, I was ready to trade in my own tiara after reading these stories — that is until I learned Young Women for America’s own Alex Swoyer won the Miss Naples USA Pageant. Alex is a fresh reminder that there are intelligent, morally upright women dedicated to using pageants as a platform to serve, inspire, and witness to the rising generation.
I wasn’t blessed to have the support of a YWA club that connected me with other conservative college students on my campus. But believe me, facing college — or brutal classroom debates — is easier alongside other women who share your values.
Learn more about YWA college chapters at www.ConcernedWomen.org.