Pageant Life: Empowerment Part 2

I don’t know what makes me sadder, the fact that I am yet again sitting in front of my computer refuting an article written by a woman bashing the women in pageantry, or the fact that this particular article not only bashed women competing in pageants but bashed women competing in pageants who came forward with a very painful confession.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely passionate about the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. As a titleholder myself, I can truthfully say that my experiences within this organization changed my life in ways that I could’ve never imagine. Did I wear a bikini on national television? Yes. Does that make me less of a role model for young women? No. Does that make my voice any less valuable than another woman? No.

For those of you that have not read this article in USA Today, I don’t suggest it. But I will give you the gist. The reporter speaks about the pageant saying it is a “tone-deaf affair”.

She references a commercial break filler, where multiple women in the organization were asked if they had ever experienced a “#MeToo” moment. The answers that followed were difficult to hear, painful to listen to. Everyone in the room I was in fell silent. To see these women, that so many look up to, come forward and speak about a moment in their life when they felt the most vulnerable they could’ve ever felt, it was chilling. Moments that we hope no woman ever has to face, yet we know that one and four women does. I was so proud to see this moment on TV, because it is a conversation that is often times ignored but NEEDS to be had. And if even one woman who was watching the telecast felt comfortable coming forward with her own story, looking for help, I would consider that a success. The most frustrating part of this particular point in the article, was the fact that the author made it seem that because the woman stood on stage in bikinis they had no right to share their painful experience, as if their voice didn’t matter because they were comfortable wearing a bikini on national television. Is that really the message that we want to send to victims of sexual assault? If you were wearing a bikini you don’t have the right to come forward, you don’t have the right to cry, you don’t have the right to feel pain. It’s sick to even imagine that someone would feel that way, let alone write it in a nationally publicized article.

“…as if producers thought that the inclusion of questions about marches and sexual violence would translate into an empowering affair” the author states. Everyone experiences empowerment in different ways, but I can tell you one thing, bashing another woman for how she feels empowered is downright cruel. Women all around the world are fighting an upward battle. And if you are a woman who is higher up that mountain, don’t push other women down, grab their hand and bring them to you. The only way that we, as women, are going to continue moving forward is if we do it together. To any woman who has had a their own #MeToo moment, know that you are not alone, know that you are not lesser, and know that you had every right to feel pain.

https://www.rainn.org/

Dream Big,

Skylar

Pageant Life: Empowerment

I don’t usually use my blog as a place to reflect on other people’s writing. That being said, last week, the Washington Post published an article about how the Miss America Organization is essentially the opposite of the feminist empowerment that we need, is outdated and not valuable to our society. The whole thing made my blood boil, and after watching some amazing women grace the stage at the Miss Fond Du Lac and Wisconsin Central pageants this weekend, I had a few things I wanted to say.
 
First of all, for those of you non-pageant followers, Miss America is different than and separate from Miss USA. But both programs empower young women to build each other up and work hard to achieve their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. Although I do not compete in the Miss America Organization, I do know that each of the women I have met who are a part of that organization are educated, strong, community-driven and impressive women. Now, let’s get to this article…
 
The article was written by a journalist and professor who is currently writing a “cultural history of the Miss America Pageant.” I will give her this, she had done her research about the history and  how the program began, but she fails to recognize how the pageant has progressed over its nearly 100 year existence. The part of the article that bothered me the most was the feeling statements about aspects of the pageant:
 
“The pageant has always been deeply invested in protecting the status quo in the face of women’s progress.”
 
Excuse me, have you spoken with anyone who has been a participant in this program or looked at the actual criteria by which the program operates? This article centers entirely on beauty and bikinis, missing the four points in the organization’s mission statement entirely; Style, Scholarship, Service, and Success.  The article fails to mention the platforms and community engagement the participants create, let alone what contributions the thousands of women who participate every single year go on and continue to make. In fact, there is a line that essentially scolds the pageant and the government for the scholarships that the organization offers for all of the hard work these women are doing.
 
“What failure of American democracy explains how a beauty contest accounts for the largest scholarship fund, about $6 million, for women in the United States?”
Isn’t everything that the participants do the exact criteria for a scholarship recipient? Dedicated to bettering their communities and themselves, working hard for the scholarship money they earn – by being phenomenal students, getting involved in community activities, creating platforms that go on to make impacts locally, nationally, and globally, and dedicating themselves for various goals: whether that means the goal of being Miss America, the goal of going on to graduate school or the goal of taking their platforms nationwide.
 
Google it I implore you, from former titleholders to local participants these women are literally changing the world. Stephanie Klett, former Miss Wisconsin and Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, you are my shining example.
 
Issues with the organization came from MEN tearing down these strong women, yet here is an example of a woman doing the exact same. Isn’t the whole idea of empowerment to build each other up and support each other as we fearlessly embark on our goals? I give the author of this article my respect as she furthers her journalistic career and research (no offense intended to this very well educated writer, my thoughts are just one woman’s opinions about one piece you wrote), but I will say one final thing. If you are going to write an article (or a cultural history) about an organization that has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of women across the country, it seems only fair to actually interview some of those women. To ask them about what the scholarship money has done for them, to ask them how walking on stage in a swimsuit has boosted their confidence and empowered them to fearlessly do ANYTHING. It is not fair. And to the women in the Miss America Organization, I stand with you and appreciate each of you and the work you do as titleholders!
 
So ladies, even if we disagree with another woman’s decisions, let’s empower her to live HER life. If that means writing articles, conducting research, or wearing a bikini on stage let’s build each other up not tear each other down!
 
Dream Big,
 
Skylar
Mifflin, M. (2018, March 1). In the #MeToo era, it’s time to rethink the Miss America pageant. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/03/01/in-the-metoo-era-its-time-to-end-the-miss-america-pageant/?utm_term=.f07e4e114776