June 28, 2010

As pageants go, Miss Texas stands tall

Miss Texas 2009 (Top Ten at Miss America)

In the world of Miss America, Miss Texas is the overachiever. She almost always places 
among the top 10 at the national pageant, and three Texas winners have gone on to win 
the sparkly crown. Expectations again are high for the woman who will become the 
75th Miss Texas on Friday in Arlington. But in 2010, beauty pageants are fighting for relevancy. 
Just 33 women are competing for Miss Texas, a far cry from the early '80s, when 82 
contestants vied for the state crown.

The Miss America Pageant, suffering from low TV ratings, was banished to cable, although it returns to network television next year in time for its 90th anniversary.
For as long as Miss America has been celebrated, she has been despised. Critics call the pageant antiquated and sexist, saying it focuses too much on beauty and bikinis. But pageant organizers say the national and state contests help empower women.
Whether Miss America makes you roll your eyes or slip on an evening gown and sing "There She Is ...," the pageant deserves a critical look, said Tricia Rose, a professor at Brown University who studies popular culture and race.
"It's worthy of significant critique if it's going to continue to play this symbolic role that it seems to continue to play," she said. "We should be thoughtful of what we're encouraging."
But focusing on pageant contestants simply as trophies is "an old beauty pageant stigma," said Sam Haskell, the board chairman of the Miss America Organization.
National and state pageant winners travel across the country, talking about education and spreading a message that women aren't objects.
"They're real living, breathing individuals that bring the best of what they've got to the table," Haskell said. "We're all about the complete girl next door. ... We're all about today's young woman."

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