Here she is . . . Miss Terrible Role Model (10/1/99)

Recently, it was reported that the Miss America pageant will no longer forbid women who have been divorced or women who have had abortions from entering the pageant. That's great, I thought. Even an organization which most stereotypically objectifies and dehumanizes women finally realizes that women who have had these experiences should not be made into pariahs. Then, of course, I found out why the pageant did it - they had to, in order to comply with New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws. They're not really changing; they're just being forced into some sort of position of social responsibility.

Of course, some of the people involved, including many of the contestants, are already protesting this decision. They feel that a woman who has had an abortion or who has been married and divorced before age 24, the pageant's upper age limit, is not an appropriate role model for the young girls of America. (I, personally, have never adopted a Miss America contestant as a personal role model. Does it show?)

I think these women should be careful what they say. Because, you know what? If we keep the ban on abortion and marriage, we really need to even things out. I think that every single contestant should be given a full pelvic exam, in order to prove that she is a virgin. For every woman who has been unfortunate enough to become pregnant against her will or intentions, there are legions more who have had unprotected premarital sex and who have just been lucky enough not to conceive. For every woman who has been caught early in a bad marriage, there are legions who have just been lucky enough to figure out that it was a bad match before they committed.

So, on with the pelvic exams, and there had better be a good, innocent explanation, with proof, for every punctured membrane. The thought makes you squirm, doesn't it? It's humiliating. It's insulting. It lowers women to the level of objects. Oh, wait - this is the Miss America pageant. That's par for the course.

I can't honestly say this kind of treatment is a step lower than the criteria the Miss America pageant usually goes by. I was watching it one year (All right, be quiet. I was doing reserach on the reasons we still need the feminist movement, okay?), and I actually became completely nauseated by one contestant, Miss Hawaii.

The judges asked her in the preliminary interview what she thought of the then-present possibility that Hawaii might be the first state to approve of same-sex marriages. She giggled, tossed her blond hair, and said, "Well, I just think that's sick." I was livid when she was named as one of the ten semifinalists. Do you know what she did for the talent portion of the contest? She sang a song from Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." It's called "God Help the Outcasts," and it contains lyrics like "Show them the mercy they don't find on earth," "God help the outcasts, or nobody will," and "I thought we were all the children of God." I was not only nauseated, I was enraged. Hypocrites are just really not that far up on my list of favorite people.

And this, this is what they see as an appropriate role model? Someone who can do all this with a smile, as opposed to a woman who has found herself in a difficult position and gotten out of the best way she knew how? I used to rage against the pageant because I felt it dehumanized women. Now I scream about it because it honors those who are arrogant and bigoted over those who have been in trouble because they are innocent or inexperienced or even foolish. I don't need a better reason - do you?

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