Why I Can Be a Feminist and Still Support #MissUSA

MissUSA-CrownLast night we had the kickoff meeting for the #KreweDeCrown; a team of 8 members of the Baton Rouge Social Media Association (note: the #krewe thing is total Louisiana). We’ll be serving as social media ambassadors for Visit Baton Rouge by covering events before, during, and after the 2015 Miss USA competition. We’ll be hanging out at the preliminary competition, chilling on the red carpet, tweeting from the live telecast, and taking assorted trips with the contestants to various picturesque venues.

I’m covering a beauty pageant. Once again.

Last summer the pageant was held here in Baton Rouge and it was such a success that, needless to say, the mayor and business leaders clamored to entice the Donald to bring it back for 2015. That’s right; Donald Trump runs this show and he will, once again, be bringing his comb over and misplaced presidential ambitions to the Bayou State.

It was a fascinating experience last year; I wrote about it here and here and here. We also had a blog site up for the local newspaper which is (hold on!) soon to be resurrected.

Now I certainly have my problems with the entire pageant trope; the perpetuation of unrealistic standards of beauty, the objectification of women, the virtual pimping and unabashed money-making off young women (and their families) who are powerless to resist the sirens’ call of the pageant world. Spare me, I beg of you, the numerous aspects that just make me cringe. In a country with fringe religious groups perpetuating the patriarchy I have often found the hair on my neck standing up at the mere thought of a spectacle that celebrates the unmarried (and subliminally virginal) woman and categorizes her via European standards of beauty while minimizing any personal attributes beyond her ability to smile and speak coherently into a camera.

Yet, at the same time, I detest stereotypes and will never – with every ounce of my being – relegate people to expected behavioral norms. Therefore I find myself supporting the choice of those women (and men) who freely and actively participate in pageants. “Freely,” of course, is the codifier; I get absolutely ill at the prepubescent glamorization of girls, toddlers and babies in the children’s pageant world. I’m not quite sure where the age of consent sets in but I’m fairly certain that the average 3-year-old pageant contestant hasn’t made the decision to get hair extensions. Mama Rose is lurking there; exploiting and manipulating while skipping hand-in-hand down the garden path.

But, for young women, does it have to be a choice between burning one’s bra or parading around in a swimsuit? Must it be an either/or? Does one or the other validate the worth of the women who decide to compete in these pageants? Nope Jim-Bob; it doesn’t.

So in 2015, just as in 2014, I’ll have my moments of angst. During last year’s pageant I left the theatre during the swimsuit competition because I just couldn’t stand to watch women in bikinis and high heels marching around the stage like animals at the county fair. I mean really – who were Ian Ziering and Rumer Willis to judge? Ugh.

But feminism means ensuring that every individual, regardless of gender, is free to make the choices he or she wants to make. Stay out of my womb. Don’t patronize me in the board room. Respect my choice to either stay at home and raise my children or to work outside the home. Don’t pay me less than my colleagues merely because I have a vagina.

Let me wear the crown.

If that’s what I want.

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2 thoughts on “Why I Can Be a Feminist and Still Support #MissUSA

  1. Go, Robin!

    I applaud your honesty. As you demonstrate, rarely is anything cut-and-dried. It’s easy to demonize pageants. Thanks for wading into very murky waters and offering your point of view.

    PS: I have a tiara. Bought the dang thing myself so I didn’t have to parade in a bikini to get it.

  2. Robin, I need to say that this is a very sane thing you said about the beauty world. It is important to understand that hobbies are hobbies, thus we cannot judge people who feel confident and enjoy doing certain things. It is a fact that some pageant shows (especially those for children) tend to be extreme, but, in the end, it needs to be a matter of choice.

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