Guest Blogger

Oh my!

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 27, 2007 8:27 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: feminism, sexism, south carolina, stereotypes, stupidity, women

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This entry is a guest post by Melissa McEwan. Melissa is the blog mistress behind Shakesville and one of my first blogger friends. She did the graphic design for our recently remodeled site too, and after all the mock-ups I saw I can easily recommend her skills as an artist. I will always, however, think of Melissa primarily as one of those rare writers that make you nod your head or shake your fist every time you read them.

MelissaMcEwan.pngMiss South Carolina answers a question about education in the US at the Miss Teen USA 2007 contest, which aired August 24th:

That's just brutally sad.

And, beyond its being a pitiable disgrace, it's a perfect example of what I loathe about beauty pageants, even and especially the ones that have the contemptible mendacity to pretend they're really about "scholarship." Underlying it all is the idea that women are dumb, and pretty women are really dumb--the flipside of the idea that smart women (particularly smart feminist women) must be ugly. It's all part of the narrative that a woman's intelligence must be inversely proportional to her conformance to the mainstream beauty standard.

This is, of course, bollocks. There are plenty of women who are considered gorgeous and are also wicked smart. And there are plenty of women who are considered ugly who are also dumb as a box of rocks.

But beauty pageants insist on playing to the stereotype, giving questions about social issues to a bunch of women about whose opinions no one fucking cares, because no one watches pageants for the articles interviews. And what purpose is there except to produce a "hilarious" moment just like this one? If Miss Illinois gave a splendidly mature and nuanced answer to a question about global warming, no one's passing it around teh internetz.

Know what I mean?

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Eric Georgantes | August 27, 2007 11:06 AM

You're thinking too negatively. She was clearly going for an impromptu satire of the stupidity of the people who are unable to locate the United States on a map.

Public education has reached new lows.
The real question is; Can Miss South Carolina find the United States on a map labeled or not.


I see what you're saying, Liss. Those pageants are no different from the livestock shows. Perhaps the State Fair should start giving the Fair Queen a blue ribbon instead. "Best of Show."

Agreed, Melissa. What would be the right answer to a question like that? Talking about income disparity and localized funding of schools? Talking about rampant materialism and how kids just aren't paying attention in schools b/c of it, like Bill Cosby? Going all NCLB and pretending like it's teachers who just aren't motivated enuf? "Degredation of culture" like a fundie or "war on knowledge" like a radical?

Whatever she said, she was pretty much screwed here because some people would disagree and be like "Why does a beauty pageant contestant think she knows enough to have something intelligent to say in a discussion about public education?" And ultimately, very few teens, male or female or trans or intersex, hot, ugly, or plain, smart, stupid, or average, would have a good answer to that question with all the spotlights on them and everyone wanting an instant answer (what's she, like 16?).

Damn, the more and more I think about this, the more it seems sexist to make fun of her answer.

I just ran across this today, and the question "what is the right answer" also occurred to me. If I were to ask a student this in one of my classes (I'm a professor), I would prefer to hear "I'd like to collect more data before I offer an opinion." I wouldn't want them to natter on, necessarily, on what they "personally believe." But that answer would never fly at one of these beauty pageants. A nuanced, complex, and scientific approach to the topic isn't what they want. They want soundbites. And that's what they get -- "Help South Africa!"