'Miss USA' Switched Networks, But Should It Be Retired Altogether?

NBC recently dropped the Miss USA Pageant, but the pageant quickly found a new home with cable network REELZ. However, it seems like this could have been a good time to stop televising the pageant altogether — and probably should have been.

Although the pageant often highlights the fact that it provides scholarships to its contestants and is thus an academic opportunity, this argument is undeniably incompatible with the contest's emphasis on beauty. If the pageant is truly a contest of academic achievement, appearance should not factor into whether or not participants receive a scholarship or have any chance to enter the so-called 'academic' competition in the first place. How does the way one's body looks in a bikini relate to their academic capability?

What's more, the portion of the pageant supposedly devoted to contestants' intellect — the Q&A round — is notably brief. While contestants have been asked about serious current events — like ISIS's regime, for example — contestants are often only given a minute or less to address these vastly complex issues. That more time is likely spent panning over the scantily clad bodies of hopeful contestants over the course of the pageant than it is on their actual thoughts should be evidence enough to prove just how much this self-proclaimed academic program values its participants' intellect.

So why is this event still televised? Why do we insist on perpetuating the belief that a woman's appearance — specifically, a narrow, largely unrealistic standard of beauty — is more important than her intellect ? Why did 7.6 million viewers gleefully watch women (and just women) compete to prove this point last year?

Even if we don't eliminate beauty pageants like this one altogether, though, surely we can do better. Why can't beauty pageants that claim to be centered around intelligence comprehensively test the intelligence of these women? Why can't they have more time to speak about world issues? Why do they even need to be seen in bikinis?

The truth is that this would make for poor TV. Viewers wouldn't tune in to a show about women's minds. And this is the bigger issue: The true enemy admittedly isn't pageants themselves, but the way the majority of Americans view women more generally.

But while they may not be the source of this issue, they certainly don't help. Ending pageants may not end sexism, but it would be a solid and symbolically meaningful start.

More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Media, Misogyny, Politics
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Natalie H
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