On December 21st, sexist emails written by the Miss America CEO were published in a Huffington Post story. Beauty pageants aren’t exactly revered for their treatment toward women, but here are five ways the Miss America pageant might be more sexist than you think.
1 The swimsuit contest.
While some beauty pageants like Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe have eliminated the swimsuit portion of the competition, Miss America still includes it. Pageants have traditionally defended swimsuit contests as a way to show off contestants’ physical fitness, but if forcing contestants to strut down a runway in a bikini and heels doesn’t seem to actually demonstrate fitness.
2 Appearances are weighted the same as personality.
According to the pageant’s 2018 scoring guide, the evening wear and swimsuit categories make up 35 percent of the score, and the interview section and question make up 30 percent. This suggests that a woman’s appearance is just as important as her intellect, when in reality, it shouldn’t matter.
3 Contestants can’t be married or have children.
Contestants must swear that they are unmarried and not the biological or adoptive mother of a child. To us, this rule seems like a completely unnecessary way to police women’s personal lives.
4 It ignores women who aren’t feminine.
By requiring women to wear swimsuits and evening gowns, Miss America and other pageants convey the message that only stereotypically feminine women can be beautiful. This completely ignores women who may not present in traditionally feminine ways and sends the message that there’s only one right way to be a woman.
5 It excludes women who aren’t thin.
While there are no official rules preventing a plus-sized Miss America, year after year the contestants all have the same body type. And former contestants who gain weight are fat-shamed, sometimes even by other contestants. This focus on thin women perpetuates the sexist notion that curvy or fat women don’t have value.
The bottom line is that beauty pageants like Miss America evaluate women based on their looks and perpetuate the idea that a woman only has worth if she’s pretty. We’re not sure that all beauty pageants should be banned, but these programs have a long way to go before they can truly claim to support women.