And your new Miss America is…

Miss Virginia, Caressa Cameron from Fredericksburg.

Frankly, there was no reason for me to watch the Miss America Pageant, but I have almost every year since I moved here. I like the glamor of it, the excitement of the girls, seeing which state has the prettiest Miss and honestly, Clinton Kelly’s witticisms are enough. Every year it makes me ask a myriad of questions about how the pageant operates and what it means as a cultural object.

This evening I watched it with Paul fact checking the backgrounds of the contestants on the Miss America website and in text dialogue with my friend Katharine. We went back and forth commenting on whose hair, which dresses we preferred, and which girls we thought were likely picks to win. (As a Facebook post can evidence, my picks were Miss Virginia, Miss District of Columbia (Jen Corey), and to reduce geographical bias, Miss Tennessee (Stefanie Wittler)

Miss America, 2010, Caressa Cameron

What interests me about this how it figures the way an “ideal” for a young American woman is imagined. Repeatedly, the host, Mario Lopez refers to the women as “accomplished”.  What does it mean for a young woman in America in 2010 to be accomplished? Certainly, Miss America contestants seem to sing and dance, they get good grades and they have “opinions” about world and national issues. They also appear to be the picture of good health, with sparkling white teeth, trim little waists, rosy cheeks and shiny, flowing locks. Certainly, early ideas about accomplishments and womanhood did not revolve around looking awesome in a bikini or interpretive jazz dance but rather being a fully rounded individual.

I suppose it seems suspect that these women are given so many moments to demonstrate their often extraordinarily beautiful bodies and dresses, a mere seconds to demonstrate whether they are intelligent, well-spoken, charming or eloquent.

Also, Father Winter has deposited his glorious flakes upon fair Virginia once more,  I am snowed in the weekend I needed to drive to Richmond. Thank you, you icy bastard.