Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Beautyless Miss America Pageant

For those who might have missed a post or two I was recently musing about what is called the age of invisibility. It refers to the age when women no longer attract the male gaze, when they feel invisible walking down the street. It’s a function of biology and nothing but biology. If I recall correctly, researchers have figured out that women suffer invisibility at around age 45, but for men, the age is 47.

I am sure you wanted to know all about this.

Anyway, now Gretchen Carlson, the new fiftysomething leader of the Miss America Pageant has abolished the famed swimsuit competition and has declared that women will now be judged on their brains and accomplishments, not on their physical appearances.

Few have noted that the fiftysomething Miss Carlson is beyond the age when she can compete in the beauty category… and thus, why let any other woman show her up. Women who no longer turn heads do not like it when women who do turn heads distract men from observing their… achievements. One might say that a woman can attract the right kind of attention by manifesting charm... but, on that score, Miss Carlson seems, to an outside observer, to be notable deficient.

Beyond the obvious fact that women who are vying for college scholarships by appearing in this pageant are simply too young to have racked up that many accomplishments, the formerly pulchritudinous Miss Carlson would have made a better case for her decision if she had appeared to have a mind herself. In truth, her decision has been greeted with gales of derision… as though anyone would watch the show for any other reason than to appreciate female beauty. And that concerns women, too, btw. And as though there is anything wrong with that. Do you really care what these contestants have to say about world trade?

Among the reasons that American culture has entered a downward spiral is quite simply that too many brain dead celebrities direct too much of the public debate. Admittedly, our minds are being polluted by the incoherent ramblings of rock stars on public policy.

A spokeswoman for the pageant explained that contestants would be judged by how much “self-confidence” they “exude.” Evidently, the IQ level of the new pageant management barely makes it into triple digits.

Writing in The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman explains what’s wrong with their reasoning. And explains it with clarity and cogency:

Let’s be honest: Absent putting contestants behind a dark screen the way “The Voice” does for its auditions, which does not seem like it is in the pageant’s game plan, this is an impossible ideal. To judge someone’s self-confidence is to judge how self-confident she seems in her attire. And that is O.K.

As soon as, say, Miss New York or Miss Kansas (and shouldn’t we be calling them Ms. New York and Ms. Kansas if we are being consistent?) appears onstage, people will be assessing her appearance whether they admit it or not. We all do it every day. Making these kinds of judgments is a reflexive part of human nature. It’s part of why clothes matter: They act as signals to those around us about who we are, cues to membership in a group we are in — or want to join, pieces in the chess game of public perception.

Yes, indeed, let’s be honest. We judge people by how they wear their clothes. Our clothes signal who we are, where we belong in society. They are, kudos to Friedman for a great insight, moves in a chess game that we play with public perception. We dress to be observed and to be known. To think otherwise is not to think.

Adding to the sage commentary in the Times, Bari Weiss calls out the pageant directors for their shortsighted and limited view of the way people today look at women. Five decades of feminism and women are more objectified than ever... so it seems to Weiss.

We will grant that Miss Carlson no longer attracts these looks, but such is the life experience of younger women. Undoubtedly, this offends Naomi Wolf, but, truth be told, women are seriously concerned with their appearance, even their beauty and the way they present it in public.

In Weiss's view our politically correct age has advanced to the point where we all no longer use terms like beauty. We are more discreet. Women, in particular, under the aegis of feminism cannot even call ministrations in favor of beauty for what they are. But, note well, women cannot even use their titles, Miss and Mrs., to designate their availability or unavailability. Miss America is not Ms. America... the girls who compete are competing for the male gaze, and for male attention... and, dare we even say it, for husbands.

And yet, despite feminism, or perhaps because of this, beauty is alive and well. Weiss considers it all rather objectifying… but I believe that Friedman sees more clearly what is going on.

Weiss offers a memorable riff on the experience of being a New York woman today, where a woman spends a ton of money and undergoes every manner of torture to affect what might be called a natural look. That is, she does not want to look cheap:

We wear stilts to hike around concrete jungles and lie about how they are anything other than medieval torture devices.

We get the tiny horns on the tips of our fingers and toes painted in shades so subtle that heterosexual men don’t even realize we got them painted at all.

We shell out hundreds of dollars for magic elixirs and oils the size of Theranos Nanotainers that don’t even promise youth but boast that they are “clean.”

We lie under fluorescent lights and hold our thighs open for strips of burning hot wax while we chat about the new season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

We read about the beauty routines and morning routines and nighttime routines and midday routines of women infinitely more wealthy than we are and then study their social media accounts to see how we might approximate their lives.

We spend hundreds of dollars on makeup that makes it look as if we aren’t wearing any makeup at all.

We muss our hair and pout our lips and Google “best angles” and hold our cameras ever so slightly above our faces.

We practice for future careers in STEM: If I burn 450 calories at Soul Cycle I can totally get away with a little sushi at lunch. Or maybe better go for the sashimi and hold out for a second glass of rosé at dinner?

We give ourselves shots in the stomach that make us want to murder everyone at the office so that one day we can become the boss of that office and have a kid alone at 50 with our frozen eggs.

You’ve come a long way baby. Now you can have it all… except perhaps the social status that involves having a husband and a family. Perhaps it is sad to say, but a woman will feel more confident and will not exude so much anxiety about whether or not you can attract a man... after she gets married.

Young women, especially young women who were brought up with feminism, find themselves suffering from massive insecurity… about their femininity or their feminine mystique. After all, they are obliged to signal with their appearance that they are available, but not too available.They yearn for the day when they will no longer need to do so... not because they have reached the age of invisibility but because they are married. Once married they are not going to give up looking good. They are going to give up looking available.

Sorry to have to point this out, but feminism's insistence that women be sexually liberated but that they should not under any circumstances become housewives has taught men that feminists can be great dates, great hookups, great friends with benefits… but not great mates. 

Being good feminists, they might as well be dousing themselves in Essence of Man Repellent every time they go out into the world… looking for the elusive Mr. Big.


JPL17 said...

Great piece, Stuart. The mind boggles at the pageant's idiocy in minimizing female beauty.

P.S. Ever since the pageant announced this farcical decision, I've been looking forward to commentary from 2 sources ... Stuart Schneiderman and Camille Paglia. One down, one to go! (If Paglia has already commented, I haven't seen it yet.)

Anonymous said...

What good is self confidence without a healthy body to sustain it? A health fit body indicates discipling and a person with the wherewithal to meet both the physical and mental challenges that anyone truly representing this country should exhibit.

Walt said...

The "we don't have to be beautiful" thing or the deeper idea that beauty itself betrays feminist causes is not new. A woman I know wrote an article defending beauty in MS Magazine 30 years and said she got hate mail for it. She also recently recalled having been on a talk show panel at the time where the 4 other women, speaking ahead of her, all self-righteously swore off makeup, after which she applauded and encouraged their decision and hoped it would catch on because, she said, it would let her to be the best-looking woman in the world.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...


It’s on TV. TV is about images. If you want it to be about brains, put it on the radio or in a periodical. If it”s not about physical beauty, there’s nothing to watch.

The Left destroys everything, and hates beauty especially. The Left’s most ardent ideological adherents are not beautiful, and its leaders can’t create anything beautiful.

Ah, and the RAGE about this points to something dark and irrepressible in the feminine soul. It’s like Michael Corleone in (his only memorable) line in Godfather III: “I keep trying to get out, but they keep pulling me back in!”

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Bari Weiss is indicative of some wisdom that I suspect is emerging. I don't recall many past women of cranial repute saying such things. Perhaps the Truth is coming around the corner, and we can put an end to all this militant, menial, mediocre madness feminism hath wrought.

If I were Bari, I’d watch my six. Everyone else is. Meanwhile, the long knives are in hand...

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

I am confused why we need a "swimsuit competition" to judge a woman's attractiveness. Of course all the other aspects of judging like talents are just for show, just pretending it is something dignified.

Maybe Giuliani was right when he diminished Stormy Daniels as not credible in her claims as a porn star, which is just a bit more explicit in its male fantasies they sell. Women's beauty is an asset men use and then dismiss when they're done. So it's all just a matter of who is profiting from those assets, and traditionally many older women, now invisible but know the game, are just as willingly profit off from younger women's beauty as older men.

Overall, talking to young women over the years, it does look like if you're interested in cold hard cash, stripping for college tuition looks like a better bet then trying to win a beauty pageant for a scholarship. Young men are stupid, and they'll drop a lot of cash for very little action.