As I watched coverage of the Miss Louisiana Pageant on WBTR Channel 19 Saturday night, the 1968 Miss America protests in Atlantic City besieged my thoughts. It was then that many Americans first learned of the Women’s Liberation Movement, as the New York Radical Women tossed their high heels, bras, girdles, curlers, dish detergents, Ladies Home Journals, Playboy’s, and other “instruments of torture” into the “Freedom Trash Can.” Though the protesters burned nothing, the term “bra burners” originated here.
The 1960s were a period of astonishing flux for this country, and many consider 1968 to be the crowning year (pun intended). Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Vietnam War was raging, and the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention protests displayed the government’s severe inability to manage dissension. But troops withdrew from Vietnam, Nixon was elected president, and tremendous accomplishments in civil rights were made. Yet, Miss America still reigns over our country, and as of Saturday night, 23-year-old Ruston native Melissa Clark, crowned Miss Louisiana 2003, reigns over our state.
Writing the manifesto “No More Miss America!” for the New York Radical Women, Robin Morgan criticized the pageant’s “Madonna-Whore” contradiction that likened Miss America to a Playboy centerfold.
“To win approval, we must be both sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure yet titillatingly bitchy,” wrote Morgan. “In this … democratic society, where every little boy supposedly can grow up to be president, what can every little girl hope to grow to be?” she continued. “Miss America … While women get patronizing pseudo-power, an ermine clock and a bunch of flowers, men are judged by their actions, women by appearance.”
The Louisiana Senate passed a bill Sunday that put a moratorium on any new state-mandated coverage for certain illnesses. Currently, state law requires insurance companies to cover child immunizations, breast cancer screenings, prostate cancer checks and certain mental health costs. The state does not require insurance companies to cover birth control, and many do not.
Sen. Paulette Irons proposed an amendment to the bill requiring insurance companies to cover birth control because it is “basic health care.” After a heated debate, the bill failed in a tie, 18-18.
“You don’t have to take the Pill,” Sen. Lynn Dean told the Advocate. “If you abstain from sex, you won’t have a baby. All you have to do is abstain. What’s wrong with that?”
The problem is not everyone is an elderly white male, male being the integral word. For decades, we’ve put Miss America and thousands of other pageant contestants on stage to prance around semi-nude while we judge them on superficial qualities, breeding a culture of masochism, narcissism, capped teeth, breast implants and most of all, sex.
Several state universities give thousands of scholarship dollars to Miss Louisiana contestant winners. The governor also sponsors an annual social for beauty pageant queens from across the state at the governor’s mansion.
Hibernia Bank, which was the primary supporter of this year’s Miss Louisiana pageant, gives almost all the senators who voted against the proposal campaign contributions, totaling well into the millions. As a society, we must reject this hypocrisy. If we overtly sexualize females, through beauty pageants, or television or whatever, we then cannot expect females to be chaste. If our government encourages sexualization of women by encouraging beauty pageants, then it must be ready to accept the ramifications.
Hannah Anderson, Louisiana State University