Miss America: Is She Dying To Be Pretty, What s The Skinny?
Every September, the entire nation looks forward to watching their televison sets, watching a beauty queen parade down a 125-foot runway in a scantily clad bathing suit of some sort. Not long after the talent competition is over, many people sit on the edge of the seats waiting to hear a woman squeal, have a nice tiara placed on her head, handed a dozen roses and to hear someone sing There She Is Miss America! The Miss America Pageant has been around for many years, and is probably one of America s oldest traditions. The Miss America beauty pageant started in 1921, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two reporters suggested that newspapers along the New England coast sponsor women for a bathing beauty contest. Patrons of the paper could send pictures of wannabe contestants and the editors would then in turn choose the prettiest, and she could represent that paper s city in Atlantic City. The object was to select the most beautiful bathing beauty in America, and someone decided then to call her Miss America. The first Miss America, Margaret Gorman, was sixteen years old. She was known as the most beautiful girl in America at that time, for her outer beauty, petite figure and warm smile. Over time, Miss America has grown into a role model for all young women in our country. But is her influence on young girls and women a negative one? Should women look up to Miss America and feel that they need to alter themselves for the sole purpose of beauty? The directors of the pageant felt that the woman who was to be the most beautiful in America should also be well-rounded . So, many different components were added, including a talent competition, which would put more emphasis on something other than appearances. (Alter 26).
Also, there were many different requirements that Miss America had to fit. Miss America should not be married, should not be pregnant or have given birth to a child. Since the late 1930's the competition has not changed in many ways, unless you are a huge fan of the pageant. Although recently, many changes that have occurred that are considered wrong and/or dangerous. In September of 1999, the pageant board lifted a ban on divorced women and women who have had abortions. (http://www.rightgrrl.com/carolyn/missamerica.html) In addition, Miss America has definitely gotten smaller over the numerous decades that the pageant has been in operation. And according to scientific standards, she looks deathly ill or like she is suffering from malnutrition. Where is the beauty in looking as if you are dying? What type of message does Miss America emulate to her fans and spectators if she looks like she s anorexic? I personally believe that this is ridiculous and no one should be on the verge of death to be considered attractive.
According to a new report published in the March 22/29 Journal of the American Medical Association, the waistlines of Miss America contestants are shrinking. Many researchers feel that some contestants meet the World Health Organization for undernourishment by having body mass indexes of 18.5 or lower. A body mass index for a healthy young woman based on height and weight is between 20-25. Back in the beginning of the Miss America pageant, the normal body mass index was in the healthy range of 20-25. But according to books, the BMI has been below that ever since. The smallest Miss America winner weighed in at a mere 108 pounds, and the heaviest was 143 pounds. (http://www.onhealth.wwebmd.com/women/briefs/item%2C86770.asp) Many scientists believe that the preliminary judges should screen out underweight women and attempt to promote a message of healthiness for young girls and women. Officiators of the pageant feel that the contest is more about brains that beauty, since the swimsuit competition only accounts for 10 percent of the total overall score. Experts believe that in America s media-crazed culture, the pageant is teaching us that the only way to be considered beautiful is to be thin. America is becoming obsessed with being skinny, and it shows. For instance, look at all of the weight loss products, dieting books, and major surgeries to help people become the thin little people that society desires everyone to be. Consumers spend millions of dollars at weight loss centers like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers only to lose the desired weight and gain it all back once they stop spending the extra money on buying the specialty food that is required to keep the weight off. Once the patrons have finally reached the goal weight, they stop coming to the centers and go back to eating all the food that they were eating before. And then they have to deal with the inevitable. They are fat all over again.
Body Mass Index is determined by a simple equation: Divide a person's weight in kilograms by his or her height in meters squared (BMI=kg./mXX). This number is not to be confused with more simple height/weight tables, BMI has become a popular way for physicians and researchers to judge obesity. But according to BMI, the basketball great Michael Jordan is overweight. His body mass index, which is 26.4, is not much over the number that is healthy which is 25. One of the most common criticism of BMI, is that it doesn t take into account the percentage of body fat, which tells you much more information about the body. Another criticism is that the calculation can not differentiate between fat and muscle, which is part of the reason that Michael Jordan is considered overweight. Scientists have concluded that BMI is not a good way for people are becoming fit, to tell if they are overweight or not. (http://www.onhealth.com)
Lifting the ban from the pageant to allow divorcees and women who have aborted children was a very touchy subject for a long time. The new rules simply state that the debutante sign a legal form saying I am unmarried and I am not pregnant and I am not the natural or adoptive parent of any child. (http://www.rightgrrl.com/carolyn/missamerica.html) This means that divorced women, women who have had abortions and women who had children who later died, would no longer be prohibited from participating in the pageant. A woman who has married and then divorced should be considered divorced and not single. If the pageant coordinators make the stipulation that a future contestant should be single never married, and never have been pregnant. Of course there is no way to ever tell, but any woman who wants to be Miss America should be honest and tell the truth about her past life. More than likely the truth will come to light in the day and age of DNA, technology, and especially how money is the driving force for all morals and principles.
According to court documents, the rules were changed to avoid violating New Jersey's discrimination laws. These rules are supposed to assist in keeping confusion and discrimination in the competition to a minimum. But personally, I feel that this rule contradicts everything that board members feel that Miss America is supposed to stand for. The contest is supposed to personify young women who are wholesome and exemplary. If the contestants are supposed to characterize the ideal American woman, and according to the pageant directors, at that stage in their life they are to be unmarried and childless, how is it possible that a woman who has been divorced or who has had an abortion still fit those requirements? The implication here is that a woman who breaks her marriage vows, or who kills her unborn child is still "ideal" but one who keeps her vows or keeps her child, or even adopts a child, is not? What kind of message does this send -- that it is better to have an abortion than to keep your child? That it's more "wholesome" to be a divorcee than a married woman? What if the woman gave birth but then gave her child up for adoption? The message this sends is that being pregnant is something women should hide -- get the abortion and then you have potential of being Miss America!
The Miss America pageant has its good points and it also has it flaws. But under no circumstances do I feel that she (Miss America) should be the epitome of beauty, brains, and talent in this country. She should be a pretty face, modeling toothpaste or something to that effect. Perhaps, there shouldn t even be a pageant to begin with. There are many smart women who choose not to parade around in bikinis and have petroleum jelly on their teeth to make them smile easier. There are also women who are beautiful but will never have the opportunity to be Miss America because her body mass index states that she is overweight or in many cases, obese. That alone is reason enough to make many people reconsider the rules and regulations of the Miss America pageant, and pageantry as a whole. I feel the beauty pageants are a waste of time, money, and effort. These women should find other ways to spend their time instead of trying to become deathly thin to be considered the most beautiful woman in America or the world. It is great that the Miss America pageant offers the winner and the runners-up a scholarship for college, but there should be a different method of competition than besides how pretty in the face a woman is. Whose to say which woman is beautiful just because she has ice blue eyes, or the most pouting lips? Whoever is on the panel of judges for that evening. I personally feel that Miss America should have more to offer to her country than a great pair of legs, nice eyes, and illuminating, Vaseline-covered smile.
Alter, Judy. Beauty Pageants: Tiaras, Roses, and Runways. Canada. Franklin Watts, 1997.
OnHealth with WebMD. Is Miss America Getting Skinnier 22 March 2000.
11 November 2000.
Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, Deputy Editor; Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Fishbein Fellow.
Journal of the American Medical Association Is Miss America an Undernourished Role Model? 22/29 March 2000 11 November 2000
Carolyn Gargaro Get a Divorce, Have an Abortion, Be Miss America 15 September 2000
25 November 2000