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September 20, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Miss UnAmerican

If you think about it, the Miss America pageant does take women's achievement and opportunity to unprecedented heights.

I mean, where else can a woman be both Madonna and whore? That's right. Country and rock and roll.

Here's what I mean. Turns out that New Jersey anti-discrimination laws will require next year's pageant to lift the half-century-old eligibility ban on women who've been married, pregnant or had an abortion.

And oh, the protest!

Revoking the rule "is totally unnecessary and will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Miss America program!" cried Leonard Horn, who was CEO of the organization until last year. So did all sorts of people who wrote all sorts of letters to all sort of places. Big huge hue and cry.

But see, these are the same people who are trying to tell us that the pageant is a forum for American women to "express their opinions, talent, and intelligence." Right. The way a "gentleman's club" is a forum for American women to express the power of dance.

Make no mistake: I'd never begrudge the hard work these Misses really do do -- much more than snipping ribbons and waving from floats -- once they kick those pumps off. And -- much like smart cookie columnist Robyn Blumner -- I got no problem with a "beauty pageant" that calls a spade a spade, with a strip joint that calls a club a club. Neon, at least, is honest.

So if the Save the Pageant! folks really wanted to put their scholarship competition where their mouths are, they might see the potential of, oh (and here come some "acceptable" examples of conduct), the rape survivor who had an abortion and now dedicates herself to counseling and improving survivors' services, or the young widow who sets up support and networking programs for fellow single moms nationwide.

Or maybe we'd start flipping our stereotypes over like an hourglass (figure). Remember those girls who were barred from the Honor Society because they'd gotten pregnant? Had they besmirched the honor of the society — or had they reminded us that teens can be moms ... and smart?

Ergo: if Women with Pasts can make it as far as the pageant, well, are they tarnishing the tiara, or are they reminding us that they, too, are capable, of ending, oh, hunger, disease, terrorism, ozone (Oh no wait, we want that.)?

Yeah, I know, that's asking a lot.

Plus I'm not even saying they should or shouldn't change the rules.

I'm just asking: who are we kidding? "There she is ... your ideal."

Awwww, yeah.

Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby. Mizuage, American-style.

Awwww, yeah. We ogle them tottering in their "physical fitness in swimsuit" and heels (which, arguably, takes hardcore training), thinking about all the stuff we want to do to them. You know, the stuff that could disqualify them.

Awwww, yeah. Just as long as they're not damaged goods.

(Besides: does anyone really think every single one of these gals is completely pure of past? Like one or two don't white-lie themselves in under the wire every year? Like we all hadn't done pretty much everything Patricia Bowman had, except the Kennedy part? Like some things, while painful for and objectionable to some, aren't part of life? And what's the deal with Miss Connecticut over there?)

So just check the regulations in your own lives, you all. You can do what you want, as long as it's not in New Jersey, I guess. You're allowed to rule out squeezes with "pasts" -- but only if you, too would pass muster with Leonard Horn. And no matter how well your contestant would fare in "onstage personality in evening wear" (ie how HOT they are), remember, when you guys are the judges, it is about the "personal platform."



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