Miss America’s #MeToo Moment
By John D. Winer
July 17, 2018
Beauty pageants like the Miss America competition have long come under fire for objectifying women and judging women against an ideal version of beauty created by men. Finally, thanks largely to the #MeToo movement, Miss America and other pageants are reckoning with the damage this has caused and taking steps to change.
Beauty contests are becoming a thing of the past as Miss America rebrands itself as a scholarship competition. The women who participate are no longer being called contestants. Instead, they are candidates who will be judged on a new scoring system that rightfully gives the greatest weight to their talents. But in a sign that our society still has a long way to go when it comes to its attitudes about women, the change that received the most publicity when it was announced last month was the elimination of the swimsuit competition.
These changes are not only in the best interest of pageant contestants, but will also help move the needle when it comes to the treatment of women in our society.
We’re all on board for Miss America’s new mission statement: “To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women.”
The organization’s transformation began last year, after longtime Miss America CEO Sam Haskell resigned for using degrading language about the winners in leaked emails. Several former Miss Americas assumed leadership positions in the ensuing shakeup.
Uniquely poised to lead these changes is the new board chair, ex-Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. Not only was she crowned Miss America in 1989, but she has also spoken out about her own experiences with sexual harassment. She filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the former Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, winning a $20 million settlement in 2016.
The repercussions of the #MeToo movement created a ripple effect throughout the state and local organizations that hold preliminary competitions leading up to the national event.
At a local pageant in Massachusetts, a skit that was billed as comedy making fun of the #MeToo movement prompted the resignation of Miss Plymouth County- who used her platform to speak about her experience as a rape victim. “It went against everything I have worked hard for.” Maude Gorman said of the offending skit. “I was Miss Massachusetts World in 2015. I saw myself as a leader in the community and made appearances to speak out about sexual assault and tell my story.”
All these developments show that thankfully our society may finally be owning up to the negative impact of institutions and traditions that treat women as if they are second-class citizens. We can only hope that this will prevent more women from becoming victims of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Here at WMB&T, we abhor discrimination and harassment based on gender. We are committed to helping women confront their accusers in court and receive the just compensation they deserve. If you believe you’ve been a victim of this kind of horrific treatment, please call us. We can discuss the circumstances of your situation to explore your legal rights.