Yo, sister, what are you thinking? Getting rid of swimsuits and evening gowns in Miss America? Why don’t you just cut their heads off?
I admire Gretchen Carlson, the new chairperson of the Miss America Organization and maker of these decisions (even though she hates my guts over something I wrote 28 years ago). I was thrilled when she became the new head of the organization, after the misogynistic mishegas of last December when, in the middle of the #MeToo movement, we discovered that then-head Sam Haskell was trashing and slut-shaming his winners behind the scenes. (And in emails! How dumb can you be?) It was clear then that the only thing that could salvage the already-precarious pageant was if it was run by a real queen, like Carlson. (Vanessa Williams would have been good, but I’m guessing she’s in the who-needs-this-crap camp.)
Carlson was the perfect choice. She’s the woman who took down Fox News’ Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, for heaven’s sake! And she got $20 million for it — leading a lot of women to wish their statutes of limitations hadn’t run out. She was indeed the “smart Miss America” — she went to Stanford, after all — and obviously has a set of brass ones. She’s exactly what the pageant needed to bring it into the future.
And this is what she’s come up with? So disappointing.
Getting rid of everything that makes Miss America Miss America? She says that she wants the pageant to be “inclusive” in this era of #MeToo. Who wants inclusive? It’s like the New York Yankees saying any boy can play. Either you’re the Miss America Pageant or you’re not. Own it! Embrace it. This is edging way too close to “every kid gets a trophy” territory.
Before the feminists get their scrunchies in a twist, it is OK to be a feminist and still want the swimsuit competition. If you really want to be a #MeToo girl, you can stop telling women what to do. Women who enter the Miss America program — many are my friends! I’m not making this up — know they have to look great. That’s part of why they do it. And they work their butts off to get into shape like that. They tell me it’s empowering. Plus, if you can walk on a stage in a swimsuit and heels to a nationally televised audience, who knows what you can do in the world! Talk about #YesSheCan.
And what’s so bad about wearing an evening gown? Feminism and #MeToo don’t mean that women have to be dumpy. Aren’t well-rounded women supposed to be gals who can go “from the office to a night out” (or, OK, a coronation) with utter ease? Without the glamour of fabulous evening gowns, there is no Miss America. Would you want to watch the Oscars without the evening gown part? Me neither.
Do the new rules mean no more parade? Because, gosh, it might not be inclusive or #MeToo-y to let them sit on the top of convertibles and show off their shoes.
Miss America critics will argue that women should be judged by their skills and abilities, not their bodies, but let’s get real here: One of the recent winners played a red plastic Solo cup, for chrissake. Nor was it ever an intellectual contest. (Though I am available at a reasonable fee to write the questions this year since the last writer got deep-sixed in the email scandal that brought down Carlson’s predecessor.) That said, I am delighted that one of the new rules is to feature their judges’ interviews. I always thought that should be part of the program. But not the whole thing! We have The View and The Rachel Maddow Show for that.
One of the reasons I like Carlson is that she is “the smart Miss America.” But didn’t she take a business course at Stanford? Purely from a business point of view, how does she plan to keep the Miss America pageant alive and on television — the ratings are already pretty dicey — by stripping it of everything that screams Miss America? Next they’ll have to change the name since Miss America is not inclusive of all women.
Ms. Carlson, I’m sorry I wrote that story you hated. But please don’t ice swimsuit and evening gown. As Melania would say, Be Best. Or at the very least, Be smart.
Lisa DePaulo, a freelance writer, has been covering the Miss America Pageant since 1982.