It’s 2020: Is the archaic Miss USA pageant even still relevant today?
The 1950s seem so long ago, but some things haven’t changed in the last seventy years. We don’t mean to say everything is exactly the same, but you’d expect more differences between 1952 & 2020. One dated practice we’d like to see go away in 2020? Beauty pageants, including Miss USA.
Tonight, the annual Miss USA pageant will be hosted in Memphis, Tennessee. This time, the show will be broadcasted by FYI instead of Fox. Originally, the 69th Miss USA pageant was going to be held in March but it had to be rescheduled because of COVID-19.
With a pandemic and a constant fight against sexism, hosting a Miss USA pageant seems completely unnecessary. Why is Miss USA still a thing in 2020? Here are some thoughts about pageants in today’s society.
Miss USA’s values
The Miss Universe Organization, Miss USA’s parent organization, claims they celebrate “women of all cultures and backgrounds and empowers them to realize their goals through experiences that build self-confidence and create opportunities for success.” On paper, it looks like a good message to be sending out there.
Nowadays people & organizations have been trying to support self-love & body positivity. Even though we still see models with 0% body fat, we’re also starting to see the media portray plus-size models and people from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, races, etc.
It seems like Miss USA is getting the memo on women’s empowerment and celebrating diversity. Unfortunately, it’s unclear if they’re actually living by their own message. Although Miss USA has an interview presentation, focusing on contestants’ minds, the pageant still includes swimsuit/athletic wear & evening gown presentations which seem overly focused on appearance.
Miss USA explains their reasoning for continuing these parts of the competition in their “apply” section. “These preliminary events are especially important as it will be the first time the judges and fans really get to know the contestants.”
While we get to hear contestants speak their minds during the interview (although too briefly to actually get to know them), everything else is completely focused on the contestant’s abilities to look good.
Pageants aren’t completely oblivious to their archaic ways. Organizers & contestants are doing their best to make it seem like they’re all about celebrating womanhood and empowering women. Unfortunately, it’s painfully obvious they haven’t really figured out what feminism is about.
While women should be able to celebrate their bodies and feel confident in a bathing suit, judging them based on how good they look in one is still a form of objectification – no matter how much the contestants claim they feel empowered by it. Sure, we’re starting to see a bit more diversity as we have some non-white contestants, but they’re all following a particular ideal of beauty.
Both the contestants & the organizers of Miss USA take pride in the philanthropic aspect of the competition. While that’s obviously extremely important and a great aspect of the pageants, it would be naive to think everything is actually motivated by altruism.
Scandals & controversies
To see how altruism & philanthropy are only a small part of the pageant world, we only need to see the scandals & controversies some contestants have faced. Miss USA 2018, Sarah Rose Summers, received negative attention when she commented on fellow Miss Universe contestants’ command of English & accents.
In an Instagram Live video, she commented that “[Miss Vietnam’s] so cute and she pretends to know so much English, and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes [Summers nods and smiles]. She’s adorable.” Summers made a similar comment about Miss Cambodia’s English command.
During the 2009 Miss USA competition, Miss California (Carrie Prejean) was asked about same-sex marriage to which she replied “In my country and in my family, I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there.” Prejean’s controversies didn’t end there – months later, rumors circulated she was in a sex tape.
It’s almost contradictory that contestants such as Summers & Prejean participate in a pageant that supposedly empowers women and cares about social justice when they both made comments against minority groups. Prejean also had to face society’s double standards when rumors about her sex tape emerged.
All in all, Miss USA is still a long way from practicing what they preach and get with the times. Although ratings have continuously decreased as the years go by, it’s surprising to still have this kind of pageants in 2020. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!