Let me say some things right up front:
I have tremendous respect for women and what they have had to endure. Throughout history, they have been exploited, abused (often horribly), underpaid, ignored, taken for granted, and generally treated like second-class human beings. Most of the positive attention they've received has been of the most superficial kind, concentrating on their physical appearance and sex appeal at the expense of everything else. Millions of them are fed up and mad as hell, and we're seeing the results. I don't blame them for a moment.
Your Honor, will the court of public opinion stipulate to that? Okay, good, let's move on...
Gretchen Carlson, the new chairperson of the Miss America organization -- and a one-time Miss America herself (1989) -- recently announced big changes for the upcoming pageant. For starters, it's no longer a "pageant," rather a "competition, " and it goes on from there. Ms. (Miss?) Carlson said the competition...
"...will no longer judge candidates on their outward physical appearance... It's going to be what comes out of their mouth that we're interested in."
In other words, no more swimsuits.
I know I'll take heat for this, but I think we're pushing the boundaries of political correctness and common sense here.
Atlantic City started this almost a century ago as a public relations stunt. It was strictly a "bathing beauty" contest at first, although they soon added talent and personality standards, and it evolved into the (forgive me) pageant we've seen over the years.
In terms of supposedly exploiting women for their physical appearance, the whole Miss America phenomenon is about as mild, innocent, and family-friendly as it gets. Compare it to other beauty pageants, not to mention events like the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Then take it a step further and compare it to other prevailing forms of popular culture: video games, music videos and the entire music industry, moves, television, and advertising in all its forms. Compared to this stuff, the perceived exploitation of Miss America contestants is G-rated to the point of being corny. A nun could probably become a Miss America contestant, and do so comfortably. In fact, I wonder if a nun has actually tried this; I wouldn't be the least bit shocked or surprised.
So, how will the new competition be judged? Gretchen Carlson says it will be "a live interactive session with the judges, where she will highlight her achievements and goals in life, and how she will use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America."
In other words, a televised job interview in front of a live audience. Reality TV at its best.
I have no doubt the contestants will all be impressive young women: charming, personable, articulate, funny, engaging, and very smart. Does this make for compelling television? I suppose so, if your idea of compelling television is watching a panel of academics interviewing candidates for a Fulbright Scholarship.
There are countless outrages against women that merit a lot more attention than this harmless tradition. Keep the swimsuits. Save the energy, anger, and retribution for slimeballs like Harvey Weinstein.
And, for old times' sake, here's a look back at our own Miss America, Syracuse native Nina Davuluri, who won the title in 2014:
Finally, here's a conversation we had with Tonya J. Powers of Fox News Radio, who reported on this story Wednesday morning. And since Tonya is a highly-educated professional woman herself, I asked her what she thought about all this: