(Miss America 2011 – Teresa Scanlan. Source of picture, HERE)
A recent opinion article with the title above, on the Associated Baptist Press website, reminded me of my intention, that I keep postponing, to write some day about another famous pageant participant, Miss California, Carrie Prejean. Until I have time to do that, I submit to your judgment the following text and I invite you to discuss the opinions expressed below by Melody Maxwell.
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On Jan. 15, evangelical Christian Teresa Scanlan was crowned Miss America 2011. When I heard this news, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experience a few months ago attending the Miss Alabama pageant, a preliminary competition to Miss America.
I was surprised to discover that the Miss Alabama pageant was held on the campus of a Baptist university. Apparently contestants participated in a devotional time each day they were together. And multiple ads in the pageant’s program book included Bible verses and words of support from contestants’ churches.
However, I had a difficult time reconciling these Christian messages with the themes implicitly — and sometimes explicitly — promoted by the pageant itself.
Pageant organizers spoke enthusiastically of “the potential of young women.” A surprising number of the contestants aspired to work as lawyers, doctors, professors. Without fail, these young women appeared confident and well-spoken.
Yet the same women also seemed to have no hesitation in strutting across the stage in skimpy bikinis and then in evening gowns — allowing hundreds of spectators not to admire their integrity or intellect, but instead to gawk at their external beauty. In a sense, this spectacle reminded me of the way slaves were paraded in front of potential buyers in antebellum years, allowing the slave owners to judge everything from their muscle tone to the condition of their teeth. Unlike slaves, though, the Miss Alabama contestants willingly subjected themselves to such an exercise.
To me, the Miss Alabama and Miss America competitions represent a disturbing model of womanhood — one that I had hoped had died out years ago. To be successful, these pageants imply, young women should be not only effective communicators and aspiring leaders, but also graceful dancers and singers, elegant dressers and, above all, objects of great physical beauty and desirability.
At one point in the Miss Alabama pageant, every contestant confidently stated her name and her vocational goals. Then each one shifted her hips in a flirtatious, suggestive manner, charming the crowd with her moves. Professionalism juxtaposed with sex allure: is this really the message we want to teach our young women?
Perhaps I was naïve to believe that our culture had moved beyond Southern belle stereotypes to promoting personal character, intelligence, and respect of all persons, no matter their outward appearance. Maybe I should be more pleased than disturbed that the Miss America program provides a greater amount of scholarship money to women than does any other organization in the world. However, I cannot reconcile the apparent priorities of pageant contestants with my own values of modesty, gender equality, and love of neighbor.
I continue to be troubled by the Christian ethos I perceived at the Miss Alabama pageant — a symptom, in my mind, of the unthinking amalgamation of Christianity and culture that too often occurs in the United States. Unfortunately, Christian supporters of not only the Miss Alabama competition but also of Miss America appear to prize the same attributes in women that their less religious counterparts do. For these pageant enthusiasts, at least, physical attractiveness takes center stage.
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Her-meneutics, the Christianity Today blog for women, deals with this topic too, concentrating on the choice between the one piece and two piece swimsuit in that Miss America competition. The article adds new sides to this uncomfortable conversation in Evangelical circles: beauty, modesty, but also Evangelical values vs. Mormon values, etc. Interested? Take a look at the link above.
From this article we also find out that Scanlan has a blog. And it also gives us the link to a video clip from the pegeant, that you may see below:
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What do you think? To what extent do you agree or disagree with Ms. Maxwell and why?