I have been thinking a lot about this weekend’s Miss America pageant and winner, Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American to win in the pageant’s history. A few questions have been floating around my mind that I will ponder in this post. First, why has there been such backlash on social media over the winner?! People all over the internet called her things like “terrorist,” “Muslim,” “Arab,” “un-American” and so on...Just check out Buzzfeed's article. Why do people think that it is OK to say these types of things online?! There is so much anti-bullying discourse especially when it comes to social media and online bullying, and I just do not understand why the message does not get through to some people that if you do not have something nice to say, you should not say it.
Don’t people realize that America is a diverse place?! And like Ms. Davuluri said during the competition, the “girl next door” (even though all of the contestants are clearly women...see my thoughts on “girl” versus “woman” a few posts down) could be ANYBODY! However, to many folks though, Miss America and the “girl next door” implies whiteness (and potentially blonde hair...and even blue eyes). This is highly problematic. America is a diversifying country. According to most data on US demographics, white people will no longer be the majority and will begin to become a minority in the year 2043. Times are a-changin’ (preach Bob Dylan!), and people better start realizing that 30 years from now, America will be a new place and people must realize that the words “American” and “white” CANNOT be synonymous.
Another question though is why does Miss America still exist?! Sure it is classified as a scholarship competition. However, there are plenty of other ways to win scholarships that do not require one to look good in a bikini and high heels, which is an impractical combination anyways. People claim that America is now “post-racial” and “post-feminist” but this shows that we are far from “post-[insert system of oppression here].” Miss America should either embrace itself as a beauty pageant or actually require more from their contestants to win the $50,000 scholarship besides just showing off one’s body and oh yeah, showing some knowledge of current events and pop culture.
I have to give the Miss America pageant a bit of credit though, as it certainly has come far over the course of its history since it began in 1921. However, more could be done to modernize and not play so much into gender stereotypes. For instance, why do all of the talents have to involve showcasing stereotypically feminine activities like dancing or singing or playing musical instruments? It would be great if more contestants could break down the stereotypes and do something different on stage to show that women have so many other talents! I just hope that young girls today learn that they do not have to look like models to lead successful lives. All of these pageants that exist certainly perpetuate that idea, and I think that more girls need to learn that one should not aspire to look like a model but rather to learn to become a role model to others.
-Lindsey Skerker ‘14