After 97 years of having female contestants parade around in next to nothing, to be commented on and literally judged, Miss America (formerly known as a beauty pageant) is throwing in the towel when it comes to swimsuits. Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors, announced this on Good Morning America today. (P.S. When will the professional cheerleading industry catch up?)
Instead of ranking female body parts like they used to, the competition will now focus on the women’s mind and talents. (Ground breaking!) According to Carlson, the contestant “will highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America…We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance.” (Why did it take so long for adults to catch up to the rules we tell children to live by?!)
Apparently the #MeToo movement has played a role in this change. “We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues,” Carlson explained. “Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.”
As an Orthodox Jewish woman, of course I applaud this development. It is LONG overdue. Of course we shouldn’t judge women by their physical appearance. We’ve been saying this basically since Proverbs: “Sheker hachen v’hevel hayofi” (Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain.) Of course we should value women by the content of their character as opposed to their cup size. That is what tznius (when practiced in a healthy way) is all about! (To see more of this discussion, check out theskingap.com.)
The #MeToo movement should not just be about outing creeps. It will only be meaningful if and when we take a careful look at ourselves and our cultural norms which objectify women and create an atmosphere of disrespect. We must then change those ways and create a world where women are given the equality and dignity they deserve.
Which is why, despite this positive development, I say “big whoop!” Because who are we kidding? While the removal of the swimsuit competition may affect the handful of women who participate in Miss America and the paltry number of viewers who still watch it, every SINGLE day, the most popular porn site on the internet is getting 78.1 million visits (that’s 1000 visits per second!), according to FightTheNewDrug.com.
The women in these “shows” are wearing a whole lot less than bathing suits and are being valued for anything but their character and life goals. Also, according to FightTheNewDrug.com “a rigorous research study found that the vast majority (88%) of the most popular mainstream porn films showed acts of violence.” (Mostly against women.) Where is the female empowerment now?
It took Miss America 94 years to catch up to 3000 year old Torah values. Hopefully as the #MeToo movement continues to grow, society will continue to look to the behaviors that cause the violence and degradation of women and make a real and lasting change. That would be a win truly worth celebrating!