While legal pundits are busy analyzing the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission handed down last Monday, we mustn’t ignore what the truly important judges decided last week.
Like eliminating the swimsuit competition from the Miss America pageant.
Yes, I’m joking. But in truth, the decision is a watershed, reflecting further fallout from Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein debacle and the resulting #MeToo movement. It also raises the question of whether there remains a market for beauty pageants — or whatever their successor iterations might be. Miss America chairwoman Gretchen Carlson — a former Miss America and Fox News anchor — told The New York Times that the new event will be a competition that will “focus more on the contestants’ talents, intelligence and ideas.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, whether the public will have any interest, and whether such a competition reflects a cultural sea change.
Some observers still have their doubts. New York Times columnist Bari Weiss is among them.
Weiss authored a witty piece titled, “The Bikini Contest is Over, But We Are Living Inside the Beauty Pageant.”
Weiss’ primary argument is that, swimsuit competition or no swimsuit competition, women in our society will still be evaluated on how they look. She states, “Getting rid of the bikini contest won’t stop judges — and the rest of the world — from critiquing contestants’ outer beauty. As all women know, that happens even if we are shuffling down the block in old sweats.”
No doubt she’s right. Weiss cites instance after instance of the lengths to which women will go to achieve contemporary standards of beauty. But many of these are further evidence of how far removed the movers and shakers are from the rest of the country.
For example, a lot of women DON’T:
Finally, Weiss dances around but doesn’t really come out and speak the truth that the more honest — or perhaps the more experienced — among us know: All of this preening and primping and agonizing is really caused by and for the benefit of other women, not men. Men — at least heterosexual men — aren’t reading fashion magazines. They aren’t scouring social media pages to find perfect women against which they can compare the women in their lives. They’re not even comparing us to the Miss America contestants in their bikinis.
Men — especially if they love us — are generally both more appreciative and forgiving of our appearances than we ourselves are.
The Harvey Weinsteins and other predators behind the #MeToo movement notwithstanding, women tend to be each other’s harshest judges. If we truly want a cultural change, we can start by lightening up on ourselves and on each other.