I have long been one of those feminists who loves to loathe beauty pageants. An obvious celebration of complete objectification of women, an embarrassment to those of us with an ability to articulate real answers to questions about our hopes for the world, a painful reminder of women’s status in society.
But I really liked Slate’s spin on the Miss America pageant. It got me thinking about authenticity and judgment.
I love a sexy pair of stilettos. I ponder plastic surgery and watch The Real Housewives of Orange County with a mixture of disdain and jealousy. So what, then, makes me so different from these women parading around on the stage for some kind of reward? Danielle Friedman writes:
In this cultural moment, I’ve come to respect pageant contestants for their blindingly obvious effort. Makeup, bleached teeth, and sprayed-on tans are celebrated. Pageants are simply a more honest manifestation of our whole beauty-obsessed culture—and I find that liberating. At Miss America, you won’t find any ethereal, Angelina-like waifs floating around. Instead, when the girls strut across the stage in bikinis and heels and Bumpits, their bodies are chiseled and curvy and human. Some look “like armor,” noted former Miss America Susan Powell in this year’s TLC pre-show. They appear to have worked damn hard to look camera-ready.
The contestants aren’t fooling anybody. They do care about their appearance, and they let that be known with pride. To some degree, that is refreshingly different from the rest of the world, in our striving for the no-makeup makeup look, perfect hair and bodies, and the illusion that we’re not superficial.