If you’ve overlooked the Miss America pageant as nothing but frivolous cheesecake, you are not alone. But consider taking a closer observe this cultural artifact, which has been around almost as lengthy as girls have had the right to vote. In Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood, historian Margot Mifflin encourages us to view Miss America as more complicated than simply sashes, hairspray and excessive heels.
If you’ve not noted the Miss America pageant as nothing but frivolous cheesecake, consider taking a closer examine this cultural artifact.
Miss America has by no means represented all American women—and that was sort of the point. From its beginnings on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1921, the pageant has rewarded an idealized model of young womanhood: white, childless, unmarried, skinny and beautiful (by using the beauty standards of the day).
As patriarchal white America ceded its control of women and those of color, Miss America slowly changed along side the culture. The festival grappled with social revolution regarding girls’s “ideal” bodies, sexual expression, sexual orientation, educational opportunities, gender roles and careers. “The competition has been in steady dialogue with feminism, even though rarely in step with it,” writes Mifflin.
Mifflin’s deep research, severa aid texts, nuanced analysis and punchy writing weave a fascinating account. (The records of the bathing in shape part of the festival is specifically fascinating.) She interviewed over a dozen beyond festival contestants, pageant employees, a decide and others for a comprehensive behind-the-scenes narrative.
Even if you’ve by no means watched a unmarried Miss America festival on TV, every body with an hobby in American records would advantage from this deep dive into a complicated cultural figurehead.