The below article was published in the Indiana Statesman, Indiana State University’s student newspaper, with the student drawn comic. As someone who took pride in writing for the Statesman my senior year, please excuse the poor writing and journalistic skills.
Saturday, Oct. 29, 16 young ladies competed in the 24th annual Miss ISU pageant.
The pageant, which was first held in 1958, has allowed ISU women to work in the community, as well as show off their attributes.
As stated in the Oct. 26 article in the Statesman, a requirement for eligible participants is they must raise at least $100 for the Children’s Miracle Network. Contestants also spread awareness for causes “close to [their] hearts,” Freda Luers, associate director of student activities, has said.
However, the most noticeable aspect of the pageant is what takes place during the competition itself. The women are asked to partake in a fitness and healthy lifestyle portion, where the girls are judged on their poise, physical health, confidence and charisma.
During the talent portion, the women sing, dance, play an instrument or recite poetry for 90 seconds. They then participate in the evening gown portion, where the contestants walk across the stage in formal dresses and are also judged for their confidence and stage presence.
Regardless of the stipulations or connotations tied to pageants, the contestants do collect at least $1,600 for charity—that’s always a positive.
However, we can’t ignore those stipulations or connotations. Even if community service is a part of the pageant, it’s overshadowed by vanity. Just like any other pageant, the ladies are still critiqued on their appearances.
Out of those 16 contestants, how many of them were overweight? How many of them were awkward? Too tall? Too short? How many under privileged? How many had self-esteem issues?
And how many of them could easily be classified as intelligent?
The problem with pageants of any kind is that they are usually exclusive, focusing on a cookie-cutter image of what a woman should be (in the eyes of the judges).
What ISU should encourage though is a competition for all walks of life. The university has begun to do that with the Miss Gay ISU and Miss Black ISU pageants, but what about everyone else? What about a competition that applauds the academic efforts of ISU’s women? What about a competition that praises women who have endured and overcame hardships?
ISU has an opportunity to break from the mold. It can be a university that encourages and rewards its students for what matters in the real world: brains and integrity.
Or it can continue to pay its students based on their surface value.
Oh where do I begin with this article?
Do I begin with the comic, which seems to portray the antiquated notion that women cannot be smart and attractive? The illustration that shows scholarship money awarded to a girl titled “most pretty”, a title I can only hope is a poor attempt at irony and not their own inferior grasp of the English language? Or the premise that the smart girl only likes pants, and apparently has received no merit scholarship?
Or is the better place to start with the downright poor journalism at play in this article? Not once is it mentioned that the Miss ISU pageant is not a search for the prettiest student to lavish money on, but a preliminary for the Miss America pageant, the single largest provider for scholarship money for women. IN THE WORLD. Further, the statement that these women are judged on beauty is unequivocally untrue. Unlike many pageants, (Miss USA), there is no award for being photogenic. For that matter, if the author had bothered to go to a MAO prelims, or you know, looked up any state program, they would have found that more often than not, the most beautiful girl doesn’t walk away with the crown.
OR do I start with the fact that the person who wrote this article OBVIOUSLY didn’t bother to GO to the program last Saturday?
“Out of those 16 contestants, how many of them were overweight? How many of them were awkward? Too tall? Too short? How many under privileged? How many had self-esteem issues?
And how many of them could easily be classified as intelligent?”
There were a RANGE of bodies up on the stage- tall, short, thin and yes, overweight. And, as a matter of fact, I can speak for at least two of the other comments: There was one student competing who would be classified as low income, which I can only assume is what the writer meant by “under privileged” and the first runner up? Yep, she’s on the Dean’s List and has been, every semester she’s attended ISU.
Or the fact that NO WHERE in the article does it mention the 10 minute interview the girls must engage in? A 10 minute interview that includes questions on current events, politics, a contestants platform, anything. AND that this accounts for 30% of a contestants score?
I’m glad Miss Gay ISU and Miss Ebony (It’s not called Miss Black ISU… You’d think the STUDENT newspaper would know that, wouldn’t you?) exist. That’s great. But they are truly PAGEANTS. The production is simply about the production, there is not further goal, no platform, no greater channels for helping the world. Nor do these programs do anything to aid in a young woman’s aspirations for higher education.
For those of you that don’t know, I was Miss ISU 2010. Yep, I’m sure it’s shocking after reading the article, to imagine this 5ft, rather curvy, completely literate (apparently more so than the author) girl, was indeed Miss ISU. Have you recovered from the shock? Ok, let’s move on.
I think there are intelligent arguments that can be made about the Miss America Organization. I think it struggles with relevance and image, and I think the program suffers from a generation gap- a contestants’ generational ideals are often different from the “wholesome” values the organization wants to portray. An illustration of this? Miss America is regularly on Fox News and a guest on The 500 Club. When contestants come from a generation that overwhelmingly believes in gay marriage and watches The Daily Show for news, who is Miss America speaking to?
Or if we are asking for smart women, why is the swimsuit portion still valid? While a time honored tradition, isn’t there a better way to demonstrate our pride in fitness?
But this article does not ask those valid questions. Instead, this article plays into what may be an even more dangerous stereotype for women. It says that women’s identity is multiple choice- we can choose to be smart or we can choose to be pretty. We choose to be identified by our race (Miss Ebony) or we can choose to be identified by our sexuality. But we cannot be all of the above. Because smart girls wouldn’t want to work on their interview skills right? Or showcase their talent, their enjoyment of performing? Nope. They have nothing to gain from participating in the MAO organization.
Do me a favor. Not impressed with me, my Presidential Medal I received at graduation from ISU for Service, Leadership and SCHOLARSHIP? Not impressed with the bevy of interviews I garnered as a senior, that I was so prepared for because of Miss ISU? Or, in a struggling economy, my ability to begin a career in public relations at a multi-city ad agency? Ok. I’m not offended. I’m not that impressive.
Google Kristin Chenoweth. She won several locals, just like Miss ISU, going on to compete in 2 MAO state programs, which led to an elite scholarship to further her voice training. That, one might say, contributed to her Tony wins.
Google Claire Buffie. Miss New York 2010. Indiana native. Besides sporting an incredibly impressive resume, (Did I mention she’s getting her masters at Georgetown? Most pretty. Yep.) but she is also the first contestant to have a platform of gay rights- “Straight Talk for Equality” it was called. Why is this important? Well for people who support gay rights, this intelligent, well spoken, admittedly gorgeous young woman, garnered NATIONAL news coverage for her work while Miss NY. She was interviewed several times on MSNBC, discussed on Saturday Night Live, marched for Gay Marriage on RHONY, and received an award from Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also known as PFLAG, not to mentioning traveling to schools across NewYork to discuss bullying and harassment. Take that cookie cutter.
Google Kayla Martell. Google Kate Shindle. Google Kelly Lloyd. Google the amount of money ($45 million) that helps women go to college: law school, med school, business school.
Or perhaps, take the time to Google your own school’s program. Talk to contestants, win or lose, who’ve gained interview skills, poise and confidence from MAO. Get your facts straight and stop calling young women stupid.
If you stand by your ignorance- Pretty girls can’t be smart, Smart girls can’t be pretty, then what your ill-attempt at journalism serves to prove is that you are neither.