Each new announcement by the rebranded Miss America Competition sounds more distant, like the social/political activists now running it have wandered further from mainstream America — and maybe life itself.
First, contestants were banned from appearing in swimsuits, somehow deemed inappropriate despite being everyday summer attire at the Jersey Shore. Next the word “pageant” itself was banned because that implies beauty is an important component of the contest. Contestants may be beautiful, but the beauty preferences of the public and judges have been silenced.
Miss America next dehumanized the nationwide group of mostly volunteers who for nearly a century had made it the annual celebration most connected to all of America — and for a period the most watched show on television. The activists reprogrammed them with “Miss America 2.0,” as if they were a buggy piece of software that, rewritten with the reformers’ superior code, would start showing Americans their version of when women are good.
Now the Miss America Organization has announced (without comment!) that during the contest’s televised finals in December in Connecticut, modeling evening gowns will be dropped as part of the judging and will be limited to opening introductions.
State pageants too have been reprogrammed for contestants to appear in “job-interview” clothes or something an activist might “wear to give a TED talk.”
Having purged the judging of any consideration of the beauty of the contestants, the revisionist Miss America board has added a new scoring segment for the broadcast finale. In addition to their talent demonstrations and interviews in private and onstage, contestants will be judged on their “social impact pitch” — which seems sure to be how well they imitate the values of the activists who have taken over Miss America.
Don’t get us wrong, social activism can be great. We’ve protested wars and brought them to an end, and fought for and won civil rights. We celebrate campaigns to overcome bias based on many kinds of misinformed preconceptions about people.
But beauty isn’t a bias. It’s a constantly changing appreciation of life in all of its manifestations.
Beauty in people includes everything about them — their character, manner, liveliness and range of mind, movement, soul and, yes, their appearance. The appreciation of beauty is a fundamental tool of evolution that has done much to make humans a fabulously successful species.
Too bad the women behind Miss America 2.0 seem to have a bad conscience about feminine beauty. They’re fighting something so deep and essential to people and nearly all other forms of animal life that they are certain to fail.
If only they would instead seek a way to expand the pageant’s idea of beauty to the broader, fuller sense of it that literally everyone knows and acts on at some level. That could make Miss America more fascinating than ever.
Until then, wouldn’t it be great if some of this year’s finalists — who can choose any outfit for the crowning finale — appear in an evening gown … or even a swimsuit! That would bring down the house and be appropriate social activism in this context.