The End of Miss America?

Yesterday, a big story broke that has rocked a community I'm very proud to be a part of. 
The CEO of the Miss America Organization was exposed as having endorsed and/or written offensive and derogatory statements about various Miss Americas. He was suspended and then resigned. 
 More than anything else in this situation, I am fiercely proud of the way current and former titleholders have closed ranks in solidarity with our sisters. 
As I tweeted last night, if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us. 
Miss America will survive this as the family that we are.

Which brings me to what spurred me to write this post.

Here's the thing. I agree with Jennifer Weiner about a lot of things, generally. I don't disagree with much of what she writes in this piece. My problem with it is that while she might be a self identified "pageant fan",  she obviously does not know my people. 

This crisis is not the end of Miss America. 

I've written before about how much "That Whole Miss America Thing" has meant in my life, but I want to be as clear as possible right now. 
I would not be the person I am today without having been Miss Vermont. I will forever be grateful for and proud of that experience. For. ev. er. 

One thing that really infuriates me about Ms. Weiner's piece is that she has the audacity to tell other women how they're allowed to express their femininity. 

I enjoy wearing makeup. I enjoy wearing evening gowns. I LIKE expressing myself in traditionally feminine ways- even if it IS "femininity as spectacle". It's FUN. 
Incidentally, I happen to ADORE drag shows and respect the heck out of those queens too- a lot of pageant girls do. Who do you think is teaching us all of our makeup tricks? 
If you're a woman who DOESN'T enjoy this stuff (have you met my mom? Have you met MOST women from where I'm from?) than that's perfectly fine too! Pageantry isn't mandatory. 
I would NEVER assume that what's right for me is right for all women. 

The other big thing about the piece that really grinds my gears is the idea that this is somehow the "end" of Miss America. 
Maybe it would be if Miss America were "just" a pageant. 
Maybe it would be if an organization devoted to empowering women needed a man to run it. 
Maybe it would be if the grassroots of the organization relied on the people at the top. 
Luckily, none of that is the case. 

Miss America is not about a pageant. 
Miss America is not about one woman who wears a crown. 
Miss America isn't about swimsuits, or spray tans, or teased hair. 

Miss America is about genuine sisterhood. 
Miss America is about a close knit community of people who believe in women and because of that they give and give and give and give. 
Miss America is about empowering women to be themselves on stage and off. 

Look, I'm a liberal Democrat. I attended Liberal Arts colleges. I've taken Gender Studies classes and loved them. I'm an outspoken feminist. 
I get that there are many many complex and problematic elements when it comes to pageantry as a whole and the history of Miss America in particular. I truly understand that. 

At the end of the day, this program is about building women up in a society that is constantly trying to tear them down. 
It's about teaching young women that their voices matter, and teaching them how to speak up with courage and skill. It's about developing relationships with women who will be your "ride or die" friends forever. They'll take you in or rush to your side when they find out you've experienced tragedy. They'll dance with you at your wedding. They'll be your army when you need one at your back. 

I don't know what's coming next for this organization, but I do know that it will be driven by the passion of empowered women. 
The end of Miss America? Oh HELL no. 

No comments