The Problem with Ms. America (Hint It's Now What You Think)

I stumbled upon a video via Facebook when I was doing important things wasting time on the internet. It’s both humorous and makes valid points, though it’s not making fun of the contestants. I hate it when that happens. As John Oliver points out, they ask women to answer incredibly complex questions in twenty seconds in front of a TV crew, a panel of judges, which included Ian Ziering from 90210 & Sharknado. They ask one woman about the threat of ISIS and what our country’s response should be. Her answer was essentially that the U.S. shouldn’t face this alone, but rather the U.N. should come together as a larger organization. She was certainly more articulate than I would have been when put on the spot in a similar situation.

John points out that Miss America can’t be married and she can’t be pregnant or have ever been pregnant. Interesting. Think about this and I’ll come back to it in a minute.

He also points out that Miss America claims they are the largest provider of women’s scholarships in the nation, providing $45 million in scholarships annually. John did a little research and couldn’t understand how they came up with that number. $45 million is no joke. When they come up with that amount, Miss America is counting any scholarships available to any of their contestants. So if Miss Washington is given four scholarships to four different schools, Miss America counts the dollar amount of all of those scholarships in their statistic despite the fact she is logistically only able to accept one scholarship and go to one school. Needless to say, the information Miss America provides isn’t technically wrong, but it is misleading. Considering the scholarships they give out, Miss America is in fact the largest provider of scholarships exclusively for women in the United States. According to their IRS documents, the Miss America organization gave out about $482k in cash scholarships last year. That is more than any other women’s-only scholarship organization in the United States. This includes The Society of Women Engineers, The Patsy Mink Foundation and The Jeanette Renkin Foundation. So to clarify, the organization with the most financial scholarship support designated just for women in this country requires that you have never been pregnant, cannot be married, and that you compete in a swimsuit competition. Maybe we haven’t come as far as we thought we have?

Here’s my take: feminists are against being limited in your opportunities by your gender. As Lena Dunham says in one of her promotional videos for her new memoir, “Feminism means giving other women the freedom to make choices for themselves that aren’t necessarily the ones you would make for yourself.” By the way her book is on my Kindle and I’m about to dive in. I have no doubt it will be great. So while I wouldn’t take part in Miss America because I think it doesn’t make sense to have women compete to be judged largely on their physical appearance. But hey, if that’s an opportunity that floats your boat, go for it. I will do my best to withhold judgment.

You can see John Oliver’s video here or just click below. Lena’s video is below that too.