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I know some people will bristle at this, but I have to be honest – I’m not really a fan of beauty pageants.
Though I’ve heard arguments to the contrary, I feel they exploit young women. To me, anytime you base winning a scholarship – or any prize – on how good a girl looks in a bathing suit, she is being objectified. I feel that even more strongly as the ages descend to the yougest girls who compete.
I equate it to our country’s double standard when it comes to drug use and abuse. We spend millions of dollars a year fighting illegal drugs and telling our children that taking drugs isn’t the answer when life gets hard – that experimenting with illegal drugs is dangerous and can ruin their lives, or worse, take their lives.
Then, we barrage them with endless advertisements for legal drugs that claim to fix everything from depression and anxiety to weight problems, acne and sexual dysfunction.
Truly, those are some seriously mixed signals.
Throughout girls’ formative years, there are adults who work hard to build girls’ self-esteem through academics, sports and other challenging occupations through which they may excel. A lot of those things, 40-some years ago, girls weren’t even allowed or encouraged to participate in.
We worry about how popular culture, if left unchecked, can sexualize children too early. We worry about the sexual predators who may live in our neighborhoods or near our schools.
Then, we, have our girls dress to look far older than their years and tell them if they are pretty enough – maybe, just maybe – they can win money for college and get to wear a tiara for a year.
OK. I’m oversimplifying. And even though I’m against the pageant thing as a whole, I do respect the girls who enter them and put themselves out there. It can’t be easy, and it’s expensive. And, there are positive benefits: The girls learn how to stay poised even when they are nervous, how to think on their feet during the question rounds, and how to look their very best for any occasion, be it casual or formal.
Are the benefits worth the price? I don’t know. I guess that depends on whom you ask.
Now, here’s the part where I’m conflicted. Despite my own opinion of pageants, I feel like it was a mistake to open up our County Fair pageants to girls (and in the Little Mister pageant, boys) who live outside of Trimble County. I understand; participation was low, and pageants are costly. Entry fees help pay for the judges, the trophies and everything else that goes along with a pageant.
Pageants are deeply engrained in this state’s culture, and I respect that, too. But, if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it right. I think it should be a mandate that any girl or young woman representing a county in the Miss Kentucky County Fair Pageant should be a resident of that county. Otherwise, what we end up with are girls who spend their summers going from county to county, competing over and over again to win a pageant for the honor of going to the state competition. They practically become professionals at it.
That was obvious Tuesday night. None of our own girls won anything – not even a runner-up among them. Why? Because they were up against girls who do this as a serious hobby. Two of the contestants in Miss Trimble won the same title in different counties last year. Those girls clearly have a huge advantage because they have so much experience walking the runway. They probably could do it in their sleep.
It just seems to me that it should mean something to each girl who represents a county in the state pageant – that she are representing her county and her neighbors, friends and family. Otherwise, she is just in it to win it.
Editor Phyllis McLaughlin lives in Milton and watched the Miss America Pageant every year as a teenager.