Miss America: The Ultimate Feminist Nightmare

Have you ever wondered to yourself “I wish I could view not one, not two, but SEVEN examples of sexism, sizeism, racism, and self-loathing, all in one easy-to-swallow sitting!”. Well my friend, you are in luck, as Miss America 2013 is here! Down below you will find a few key points of everyday injustice, amplified by this year’s pageant, guaranteed to get your panties in a bunch!

Obsession with appearance: I probably don’t need to say much about this aspect, but let’s just be honest to get it out of the way. There are no overweight women in the competition. There are really no average-weight or average-looking women in the competition. There is no one competing that hasn’t drastically altered their appearance to get to the top, be it through makeup, plastic surgery, fake tans, or even fake teeth. Major points are given simply on how the women look in different clothing (or lack thereof). This competition is about appearance. It may include other factors like the talent or interview segments, but the message is plain and clear: While minor nuances of beauty may not be the final determining factor, you won’t even get a chance without it.

Body image: During the pageant, the swimsuit competition is described as a test of the candidates’ dedication to health, fitness, and confidence. But in reality, it’s confidence only while you look like the ideal of what a woman should look like… and health, even if it means potentially dangerous plastic surgery to look “healthy”… and fitness, as long as you’re thin, and actual muscle tone and definition are not really necessary. Many of the women mentioned in the pre-show interviews that they were hungry and that they held back on eating quite a bit before the competition. Afterwards, the losing Miss America candidates were given donuts, partly as a jab at the fact they’ve been starving themselves before the competition. Nothing screams the “health” they promote like starving and then eating donuts. Oh wait, no, that’s bulimia. Ha ha! I get it! So funny! Oh Miss America pageant, you get me every time!

Race: I don’t want to get myself in a conundrum by guessing the race or ethnicity of specific contestants, but as you can see below…

'Nuf said.

‘Nuf said.

Tiptoeing the virgin/whore dichotomy: In the pre-show, one of the heads of the Miss America pageant defined the how just about any woman could have a shot at becoming Miss America. Amongst his already narrow appearance requirements of “anyone” (which were being “thin” and “pretty”), he also stated that Miss America can never been married, pregnant, or have any criminal record. Criminal record… ok, I don’t expect a competition like Miss America to be as open-minded to accept that everyone make mistakes (or that there are sometimes very reasonable and sometimes honorable reasons to disobey the law), but marriage and motherhood? The explanation is that to be married or be a mother, the Miss America competitor would have had to… do the deed (gasp!). And we can’t have them openly admitting that. One of the candidates also stated that Miss America is more like “classy” than “sexy”, while another explained that Miss America is a different type of sexy than, say, Victoria Secret, because Miss America is about “character” and “poise” (because Miss America contestants model tiny bits of cloth labelled “swimwear” in front of millions of people, while Victoria Secret models tiny bits of cloth called “lingerie”, which makes them entirely different and makes Miss America more respectable than Victoria Secret. Got it.). Oh the balancing act. I must hand it to the women, it takes an awful lot of work to make sure you are sexy, but not dare to be sexual… or too sexy for someone else’s liking… or call your underwear the wrong thing (like my bra? I mean, BIKINI TOP! BIKINI TOP! I promise it’s a bikini top! I’m not slutty I’m classy!!!)

VS Fashion Show

Victoria Secret Fashion Show

Miss America Swimsuit

Miss America Swimsuit Competition

ss

ss

ss

ss

Totally different

ss

ss

ss

aa

Love to hate: While we may ooo and ahh at the beauty (and, occasionally, yes, the talents) of these young women, it is typical sexism to want to believe that a woman can never “have it all”. If you are too sexy, you’re probably slutty; if you’re too strong, you’re unattractive; and yes, the winner of them all… if you’re too pretty, you’re probably dumb. The airhead beauty queen is a treasured stereotype that we love to hate, and the Miss America pageant loves to give us what we want. From this year’s feature of Miss California confusing the term “euthanasia” with a vaccine to former Miss Teen USA South Carolina’s stumble over an incomprehensible answer, it’s assured that even as we admire these women, we will take a bit of satisfaction to still look down on them and take them down a notch.

Pseudo female empowerment: Similar to Sarah Palin calling herself a feminist, the Miss America pageant loves to tout female empowerment through oppression. One of the candidates mentioned how Miss America now embodies the “modern woman”, one who could be a leader in the business world, or even the next president of the US. Given that programs like Miss America consistently push for girls to spend their time and resources on self-objectification to look pretty (because, remember, it is the most important quality), I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

Mainstream sexism: Of course, women should be able to do what they want, and if they really want to get in this type of competition, that’s their prerogative. However, like the Victoria Secret fashion show, this is hosted on a major, free network and the announcer directly suggests to YOUNG WOMEN that they can go online to find out how they could try to become Miss America. Unfortunately, Miss America and beauty pageants in general are not a small, off-the-wall hobby that only the dedicated will frequently find and be exposed to. Like so many other negative, image-focused, sexist messages young women are exposed to, it’s readily available and in your face.

So there you have it. Seven key embodiments of the need for feminism, all wrapped up in a 2 hour special. We’ve got some work to do.

But, for one little ray of sunshine, Miss Montana became the first autistic competitor. Though I’m obviously not fond of this competition, kudos to her and the competition for at least broadening their diversity in the realm of disabilities.

Skinny, Curvy, and Still not Fitting the Mold

Whether you’re a seasoned body image activist or an average consumer of Western media, no doubt you’ve heard the battle between “curvy” and skinny. After decades of being bombarded with images of extremely thin models and starving ourselves to fit the waif-mold, some women and organizations (such as author of Fat!So?, Marilyn Wann, movements like The Body is Not an Apology, and, of course, sites like Adios Barbie, along with countless others) have worked to bring back body- and fat-acceptance.

However, despite the push for variety, we’ve been left with little in the mainstream media for representation and acceptance. “Curvy” has become the new ubiquitous term to define anyone who doesn’t fit the skinny definition, while still promoting a narrow ideal by highlighting specific features  and rare hourglass figures. Meanwhile, popular catchphrases such as “Real women have curves” have pitted women against each other in a definition of who is “real”, who is desirable, and who isn’t. We’ve fought to see a wider variety of body types in the media, and to accept that some women are fatter, flatter, and shaped in innumerable ways, but have we actually made progress? Is the promotion of “curves” a legitimate backlash against an industry with a narrow and thin definition of beauty, or is it yet another highly unattainable standard in the guise of caring about women’s self-esteem and body image?

In the mainstream media, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Lopez have been the most famous poster-ladies of “curvy”. Beyonce touts how she rebels against traditional beauty standards by having a voluptuous figure, Kim states she knows she will never be a size zero but loves her butt and thighs anyways, and Jennifer responds to criticism by saying “I have a butt, I have boobs, and I have a woman’s curves”. Even petite Scarlett Johannson has been classified as a curvy womanwho needs to fight criticisms against her body.

Commonplace online conversation and memes such as “When did this become hotter than this?” pit skinny celebrities of today, such as Nichole Richie, against bombshells of the past like Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page in an attempt to show that larger women can also be attractive, but unfortunately at the expense of other women deemed less “hot”.

However, when we look at photos of women highlighted as the curvy alternative, are they really representing a huge rebellion against mainstream female ideals? True, they carry more weight on their bodies, but in societally-acceptable areas that are most sexualized. Although curvy celebrities are quoted saying loud and proud that they have curves and have nothing to be ashamed of, their fat stays in all the “right” places. Flat stomachs, no sags, no stretch marks, just a fuller hourglass figure than the overly-thin models, singers, and movie stars before them. In fact, a study referenced in The Independent found only 8% of women fit the hourglass figure. The majority of us are either top-heavy, pear-shaped, or ironically, rectangular; 47% of women are actually shaped the opposite of curvy, with a waist less than nine inches smaller than their hips or bust.

While it’s important to address the overwhelming push for thinness purported by the media, the current curvy ideal can also bring up its own feelings of inadequacy. The movement of “loving your curves” has been spearheaded by images that refuse to acknowledge societally-unacceptable fat. Women in the US and UK are increasingly lining up for breast enhancement procedures because we are told only certain shapes of fat are sexy. Butt lifts and implants have also seen a jump, with some unfortunately losing their lives in the chase for the perfect curvy figure. We are seeing that our curves are allowed to be sexy, but only in specific forms. What if we are flat-chested with a belly? What if our arms are flabby with stretch marks? What if our fat doesn’t form an hourglass figure? What if we are not thin, but not “curvy” either? Where are the celebrities and spokespeople openly admiring their round bellies, cellulite, and sags? The few larger women who fit the more typical rectangular body type (such as Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids and Shannon Beiste from Glee) are rarely represented as sexy and desirable.

“Curvy” was meant to be about loving your body AGAINST the media norms. If women who are literally the closest living thing to the Barbie ideal are continuously portrayed as body outlaws, what does that say for the rest of us? If women who have a more average, fatter body type are rarely shown as sexy (if they are shown at all), how does that affect our ability to appreciate our own bodies?

In Hollywood and mainstream media, being anything over 110 pounds may cause a few comments, blog posts, and headlines; I applaud these women for widening the body acceptance realm. However, the depiction of what it means to be beautiful still leaves much to be desired, and we should refuse to pretend that our modern understanding of “curves” is entirely inclusive. Bodies come in an amazing variety. We can curve out at our waists, arms, legs, as well as our butts and chest, or we might not curve much at all. Simply increasing the acceptable inch limit for bust and hips, and calling it an alternative for skinny, does not do us justice. We’ve taken a step in the right direction… lets keep moving forward.

Go-Go vs. Stripper: Let the Slut-Shaming Begin!

I’m a Jenna Marbles fan. However, as a feminist, liberal, and generally cantankerous sort, most entertainment I am a fan of tends to disappoint me from time to time. In this instance, it was a video titled “My Favorite Dance Moves”. There’s nothing much in the video itself to get upset about, but rather a quick comment in the beginning. Jenna talks about how she used to be a go-go, and that people who think that she is the same as a stripper are “fucking idiots”, in a rather defensive manner (I suppose that was already assumed by the term “fucking” thrown in there).

Sigh.

a

a

 

Can you spot the difference?

a

a

a

a

To me, the only difference seems to be the pole. However, I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jenna is upset about (I know I’d be proud to be able to do any pole tricks). The defensiveness comes from the fact that strippers are seen as dirty, shameful, probably lower economic class, but worst of all… SLUTS.

Slut-shaming is nothing new. Ever since there have been “ladies of the night” (so, forever), women have always prided themselves as not being one of “those” women.

“I may be a stripper, but at least I don’t SLEEP with the guys”
“I dance provocatively in front of an audience in what is basically lingerie, but I’m not a STRIPPER”
“My dancing is an art and it’s skilled, I’m not just a HO who dances in their underwear”

Since feminism is about women being free to make their own choices and express themselves, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong or anti-feminist about being rewarded for your sexual appeal (either monetarily or just with positive attention), but ladies, please, OWN IT! For your sake, and for the sake of other women who do as you do. It pretty much throws any semblance of female empowerment out the window if you engage in an activity where you are being rewarded for your sex appeal and fitting the very narrow standard of what is considered “sexy”, and yet shame other women who do pretty much the same thing you do. You’re admitting that you think that women being rewarded for being sexual provocative is wrong (so, no empowerment there) and still participating and promoting a system where the woman’s main function is to look and act sexually appealing, primarily to men (not to mention having to usually pay for it to in the form of dieting, makeup, plastic surgery, the right clothes, etc. etc.).

While stripping, go-go dancing, or showgirl performing are not the exact same thing, there is a lot of wasted female progress and backtracking that we are doing to nitpick them apart, and place one as being “less shameful/less of a whore” than the other. All women deserve to be happy and do with their lives/careers/bodies as they please. Please don’t tear someone down in a show of moral/class superiority. In just as easily as you turn that venom on other women who do things that are “below” you, someone can (and most likely, will) do the same to you.

Are Women More Bisexual Than Men?

A recent study has shown that pupil dilation can be a factor in determining a person’s sexual orientation. When seeing someone attractive, the pupils are more likely to dilate in response. While that, in and of itself, is exciting news for researchers and science-minded people everywhere, it gets even more interesting. Huffington Post states:

“The results showed that pupil dilation matches the pattern seen in genital arousal studies. In men, this pattern is generally straightforward: Straight men respond to sexual images of women, and gay men respond to sexual images of men. Bisexual men respond to both men and women.

In women, things are more complex, Savin-Williams said. Gay women show more pupil dilation to images of other women, similar to the pattern seen in straight men. But straight women dilate basically equally in response to erotic images of both sexes, despite reporting feelings of arousal for men and not women.”

Why exactly does this happen? Are women more likely to have homosexual tendencies than men? Is it, perhaps, as one article theorized, that women have a lower threshold for arousal for survival purposes in cases of rape?

Or is it, as many differences between the genders are, socially affected?

As I mentioned in a previous article, homosexual men are much more often and severely reprimanded for homosexual tendencies. While non-straight women by far do not have it easy, the widespread fantasies of hot lesbians and threesomes have allowed men, and society in general, to be a little more accepting of girl-on-girl sexuality (granted, of course, that these women fit the mold of the fantasy). Perhaps bisexuality is more common in both the genders than we give it credit for, and women just have more leeway to develop and express these tendencies with less shame and fear of being ostracized and facing violent repercussion.

a

Which of these couples is more likely to be accepted and less likely to be killed?

 

On the other hand, perhaps it isn’t lack of suppression, but actual encouragement of viewing females in a sexual light that has lead to these murky results of female arousal and sexuality. While women may not be inherently attracted to other women, our culture and media has instilled an idea of sex=sexy-looking-women. Most porn focuses on on showing the woman (or women) and reduces men to merely something attached to a penis. Advertisements for club nights focus on all the “sexy ladies” available and have posters of strippers/go-gos/female club goers (you really can’t tell the difference). Magazines for both men and women (like Maxim and Cosmo) plaster their fronts with sexually appealing women in come-hither expressions in associations with talk about sex. Very rarely are men posed in sexually attractive positions or situations outside of gay clubs and bachelorette parties, and even then it is almost seen as ridiculous or funny (Which is entirely misguided. Go to a Chip and Dales show in Vegas and you’ll understand why some men lose their minds at strip clubs). With all this association of female images representing ALL sex, it’s no wonder that otherwise straight women would become aroused by images of other seductive women.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

(I’m straight, and I’m pretty sure my pupils are dilated)

Like with all of my posts as of yet, I am only one person with one perspective. Chime in and let me know what your thoughts are on this study!

Thin Women With Tape Measures

Complete knockoff from Fit and Feminist’s “Women smiling with small pastel weights”, which is a knockoff from Hairpin’s “Women Laughing Alone with Salad” and “Women Struggling to Drink Water”, which is probably a knockoff from something else down the line… it just goes on and on (like where did those “Shit People Say to…” videos start?).

Anyways, weight loss ads love the tape measure. It’s a symbol of measurable progress towards supposed health and sexiness. However, it never seems to make much sense. Sometimes it’s around various fruits (fruit + tape measure = cognitive connection towards weight-loss, I guess), but most often, it’s around headless torsos. Thin, headless, female torsos who have no business at their size to be concerned about the inches around their waists (whoo I’m down to 10″! Better keep drinking my weight loss shakes to hit my goal!). So, here’s a collage for all to enjoy of the ridiculousness, courtesy of Google Image search under the search term “weight loss”.

That Dirty, Nasty, Horrible F-word

Feminism.
Come on, you had to know I was going there.
…Ok, I apologize for the cheap marketing trick.
But, in all seriousness, there are few neutral identity words that receive quite the same aversion as “feminist”. I’ve heard intelligent, strong women talk about the need for women’s equality, but often with the tag at the end of “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist”. When talking about the wage gap, the double standard of the word “slut”, the media’s representation of women, the conversation often starts out with “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but…”. And oftentimes, both men and women will tiptoe around the word, avoiding the term “feminism” when addressing women’s issues and say, “It’s more of a people issue, not a feminist issue” (I do actually agree with that to a degree, but the point here is that it seems people use this argument more to avoid using the word “feminism” rather than to have a discussion about societal ills as a whole). Even Scarlett Johansson, who has recently been vocal about the shallow attitude towards women in her industry, has been averse to using the f-word (Natalie Portman wasn’t though. Natalie Portman kind of kicks ass). Though the word stands for women’s equality, women avoid it, and though the term “fem” in the word may simply cause men to not pick it up because it seems to fit an identity that’s not theirs, it appears a lot men do not simply forget about the term, but run full speed away from it… while throwing rocks.

I suppose it’s no surprise, though, that this aversion is here, primarily because “feminism” comes with a lot of negative stereotypes. I think this video sums it up pretty well:

Stereotypes of feminists being hairy, unattractive, obnoxious, loud mouthed, unfeminine, lesbian, man-hating bitches runs rampant. To be a woman who identifies as a feminist, you open yourself to these slew of insults (not that half of these terms should even be considered as insults, but that’s a whole other story).

Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Hughes:
Just two of the ugly bitches produced by feminism

To be a man that identifies as a feminist, you open yourself up to the criticism of being too much like a woman (one of the hugest insults out there for men, as I touched on here), times, about, 100, because you’re actually actively identifying with them.

These insults are enforced in comedy, media, and in everyday society. These stereotypes, though, are more the product of propaganda, rather than actual observations. Let’s look at a little history:

In today’s age, most people think women having the right to vote is a pretty obvious thing, and it seems archaic that just about 100 years ago, it was widely accepted that women shouldn’t have any voice in politics. However, political cartoons of that era often depicted the suffragettes as just angry, mean, ugly ladies who’s main issue was that men didn’t find them attractive, instead of women who were fighting for the basic right to be treated as equal and have their voice heard.

Everyone knows voting is just a substitute for getting laid.

Today, the same tactics are used to trivialize the struggle for women’s equality by reducing the argument to something petty, and to silence those who might want to stand for it by attaching a variety of negative connotations to the word, despite the fact that feminism is about equal rights, and any person on the wide spectrum of humanity that believes in equality may, in fact, be a feminist.

However, sadly, it’s not the “powers that be” that are enforcing these stereotypes, but rather all of us who simply don’t know the myths to be false, and believe one of the biggest myths out there: That feminism is about hating and being superior to men. This is one of the most false, and yet most detrimental myth to the women’s rights and feminist movements. Feminism, in it’s most common form (because of course, I won’t deny that there aren’t extremists, as there are in EVERY subsect of society) is about equality. Feminism is the movement that allows us to speak up about gender inequality, on all sides of the fence. Though it may have started focused on women, it has gained ground on supporting gay rights, father’s rights, trans rights, and men’s rights. It challenges the notion that our gender defines who we are, and what we can and can’t do. It opens our eyes to inequalities and hierarchical structures in all facets of society. It’s time that we challenge the stereotypes we hold about feminism, as well as all other struggles for equality and happiness, so that we can progress as a society and give everyone their fair share of opportunity.

Related Articles:

“Snow White and the Huntsman”: A Surprisingly Feminist Take on a Very Non-Feminist Story

Don’t ask how they did it, but somehow Hollywood managed to triumph in taking the bland, one-dimensional story of Snow White and turn it into something meaningful, deep… and even feminist. So, let’s have a quick comparison of how “Snow White and the Huntsman” spruced up the old tale into something of societal relevance. (Note: My compare and contrast is based on the Disney cartoon version, because digging up the original tales would’ve opened a whole new bag of worms. Apparently in the original story, the prince not only kisses Snow White’s dead/passed-out body, but falls so “in love” with her that he makes a deal with the dwarfs and has his men carry the body back to his castle before she wakes up. Yeah… not even going there).

The definition of Snow White’s beauty:

Disney, circa 1937: The focus of the story lies primarily in Snow White’s appearance (dark hair, red lips, and deathly pale skin… I guess we can give it some credit for not having her tanned and blond). Snow White is said to also be beautiful for her kindness, which is somewhat demonstrated by how she treats animals and the dwarfs. However, she doesn’t seem to do anything extraordinarily kind. She merely cooks, cleans, and talks to animals in a high pitched voice. It appears that the story’s main point with her non-physical beauty is that she is naive, “innocent” (aka childlike), and passive.

The Huntsman, circa 2012: It seems like the new movie did all that it could to not completely base Snow White’s character on her physical beauty, and she is definitely not passive. While they picked an actress who is seen as traditionally attractive, she is not over-the-top so. When the characters initially meet Snow White, they do notice that she is beautiful. However, the movie continuously points out that there is something almost supernatural about her, that people feel better and happier when she is around because of her aura, and that her beauty is based on the fact that she cares about people and has a special connection to earth and all it’s lifeforms.

The queen’s beauty obsession:

Disney, circa 1937: The queen is automatically and innately depicted as evil, vain, and jealous. Her own craziness and evil heart are the only explanations given to why the queen is threatened by Snow White’s beauty and why she is so focused on killing her (those older women are terrible!)

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

The Huntsman, circa 2012: Snow White’s step-mother is, indeed, wicked, but she is made human, almost to the point that you might be able to identify some women in your life to the powerful, yet insecure, queen. The movie twists the tale to make the queen’s beauty obsession stem only from her innate evilness, but of her environment. She speaks of the heartaches and powerlessness women feel as they age and are replaced with younger, more attractive ladies, and how women are ingrained with the idea that if they are not beautiful, they are nothing (in this case, it’s blatantly done with Ravena’s mother placing the spell on her and telling her that without youth and beauty, she will have nothing).

The men:

Disney, circa 1937: Snow White doesn’t really develop or have any sort of relationship with the prince throughout the film. Though he is not a complete stranger, since he saw her at a well singing one time and fell in love with her and her voice, the two don’t really talk, and it seems more like the prince has picked her out instead of it being an equal-sided decision, especially due to the fact that he kisses her while she’s passed out. Snow White only really has the choice of the one necrophiliac/date-rapist/creeper-who-starts-hitting-on-you-at-a-well-while-you’re-trying-to-do-your-work who’s pretty much decided she will be his, given the whole, you know, messing with the dead/passed-out body thing.

The Huntsman, circa 2012:  Not only does Snow White have two suitors (William and the huntsman), she actually works with and has friendships with them. Instead of romance being the centerpiece of the story, the love interest between the characters is more of an afterthought while saving the kingdom and its people takes the main stage. Unfortunately, she’s stilled kissed while she’s dead, but it is much more heartwarming to see the man she’s been working side-by-side with kiss her in his grief, rather than someone who’s barely an acquaintance getting hot and bothered by a dead chick.

Snow White’s fate:

Disney, circa 1937: Did anyone else even remember while watching the Disney movie that Snow White was a princess, and therefore, if her mother and father were dead, she would have a kingdom to rule? I didn’t, and I don’t think that’s surprising as the Disney version only barely mentions the fact she is royalty in the beginning (because Disney loves its princesses). In the end, she is swept away by a prince from another land (I would assume) and lives “happily ever after”, left at that. No going home, no ruling.

The Huntsman, circa 2012: Steering away from the typical narrative of the Snow White story being based on beauty and “true love’s kiss”, “The Huntsman” actually had the ability to make the focus of the story based on her kindness to other people, aka, leading them to get their kingdom back. Therefore, Snow White actually gets her autonomy and the crown, while also (spoiler alert!) not needing to get together with either of the love interests at the end.

While many critics have said that this movie was too involved and deep for such a simple fairytale, a critical look at some of the most beloved tales we had as children is a perfect way to analyze some of our hopes, beliefs, and dreams. With all the subliminal messages we get from children onward (a female’s beauty is her most admirable trait, to be nice you should be passive, a man will come and save you, etc.), taking Snow White and flipping it on it’s head gives us all some ammo to recognize that our Disney stories and their messages are indeed, just fairytales.