Rants & Raves: Miss Boston Pageant 2011

By: Anne Vickman

The annual Miss Boston Pageant is this Sunday, February 20 at the Omni Parker Hotel. I have mixed emotions about the event. I want to see these girls achieve their goals, but I just can’t shake the feeling that pageantry, at its base level, is total BS. Ultimately this is a scholarship competition. And I can get behind that. Why, then, do pageants ultimately conjure up visions of young and teenage girls alike, prancing across a stage in princess dresses with fake smiles plastered across their faces? And don’t even get me started on TLC’s rage-inducing reality show Toddlers & Tiaras.

The ladies in the Miss Boston Pageant must be between 17 and 23, so we can presume that they are at least competing of their own volition. The winners take home prize money for academic and modeling scholarships, while the crowned Miss also scores credit a pageant-wear store, a gift card to Whole Foods, a six-month membership to the Boston Sports Club, a professional photo session, laser teeth whitening (really!), a ticket to the Miss Mass Pageant, and community service opps and public speaking engagements throughout the rest of the year.

I don’t doubt that these young women are all intelligent, nor that they care enough about their careers, goals, and causes to get up on a stage and compete for (gag) a crown and sash. So why am I so cranky? I’ll tell you why: The judging process. When all is said and tallied, 35 percent of each contestant’s score is determined by how great she looks in an evening gown and a swimsuit. Since when did either of these things have any impact on a woman’s ability to have a positive effect on the world? Do you think Drew Gilpin Faust or Anne Finucane (or any of the rest of our 50 Most Powerful Women, for that matter) got where they are today because of their ability to rock an LBD or a string bikini?

Why do we, as a society, consistently (and constantly) package a woman’s success with her outward appearance? Positive body image is the de rigueur topic of women’s magazines, talk shows, feminist-leaning credos, and anyone with a rational noggin on their shoulders. Yet women are simultaneously spoon-fed advertising campaigns that send an entirely different message. (Have you seen those NeuroDrink ads?) The takeaway is that we reward (in this case, literally) those with slimmer, sexier bodies. Ones that fit into form-fitting dresses and swimsuits (or will if you buy stuff).

While I wish each of these young, talented competitors the best of luck, I sincerely hope that at some point that the people behind this competition that seeks “new young ladies interested in scholarship and community service opportunities” will consider eliminating the antiquated portion of the scores that hold no bearing on any woman’s ability to kick ass and take names. Speaking of which, one thing we do know is that all our potential Miss Bostons will run circles around Miss South Carolina.