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Exploited Miss America. Empowered Miss USA.

  • Mary Kassian Author, Girls Gone Wise
  • 2010 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
Exploited Miss America. Empowered Miss USA.

In 1968, a group of "women-libbers" protested the Miss America Beauty Pageant. They argued that the pageant symbolized the cultural problem of men chauvinistically defining and exploiting women as sex objects. The protesters crowned a live sheep "Miss America" to parody that men treated women like animals at a county fair. They chained themselves to a life-size Miss America puppet which was paraded and auctioned off by a woman dressed up as a male Wall Street financier. "Step right up, gentlemen, get your late model woman right here-a lovely paper dolly to call your very own property … She can push your product, push your ego, or push your lawnmower …"

The highlight of the afternoon was the famous "Burn Your Bra" Freedom Trash Can. With elaborate ceremony and shouts of joy, the protesters threw away what they identified as male-promoted "instruments of torture"-high-heeled shoes, corsets, girdles, padded bras, stockings, false eyelashes, curlers, and copies of Playboy, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies Home Journal. They shouted "Freedom for Women!" and "No More Miss America" and hung a banner from the balcony reading "Women's Liberation."

The display marked the cultural launch of feminism—the philosophy that women have the right to define their own existence. Feminists argued that women had been wrongly defined by men as housewives and/or sex objects. They reasoned that women would find happiness, wholeness, and self-respect when they had the freedom to define themselves. And culture promptly set about giving them the power and right to do so.

Fast forward to 2010.

Last week, Miss USA released the official contestant photos of  51 pageant hopefuls. The look? Lacy black lingerie, fishnets, smudged kohl eyeliner, knee-high boots, stilettos, voluptuous cleavage, and naked flesh, the like of which have traditionally been associated with prostitutes and porn stars, not beauty queens.  The photo shoot, entitled "Waking up in Vegas," featured steamy, seductive Playboy-like poses on a large bed and other bedroom furniture.

Rima Fakih made history as the first Arab-American to win the pageant. Besides being crowned Miss USA, she also has the dubious distinction of procuring top honors in a pole dancing competition. What's even more startling than her lewd behavior, is that this behavior is supported by women. It's women who uphold the right of Fakih and other contestants to break the "princess, good-girl" stereotype. According to female organizers, princess is passé - but the woman who exerts her sexual power is smart, sophisticated, and worthy of a Miss USA title.

What was once considered exploitative is now considered empowering.

How did this happen? The feminists of the past protested against the sexual objectification of women. Thus, it would appear that modern women have rejected the tenets of feminism. Ironically, however, quite the opposite is true. The raunch culture of today is due to the fact that young women have so thoroughly embraced feminist thought.

Feminism taught the new generation that:

  1. Men have historically deprived women of power and freedom
  2. Women need to reclaim their power and freedom
  3. Women exert power and freedom by rejecting the restrictive, male-defined roles and boundaries of Judeo-Christianity
  4. Women have the right to define their own behavior
  5. Women have the right to define what womanhood is all about

The daughters of the feminist generation were raised on these ideas. They embraced them and took them to heart. Since sex is power, what better way for women to exert their power than through sexuality? They concluded that Girl Power is best expressed by throwing off all boundaries and becoming brazenly sexual. The Spice Girls, The Sex & the City stars, and celebrities such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan all modeled the idea that empowerment equals the right to be raunchy. The idea quickly caught on.

Joe Francis, the Hugh Hefner of Gen X and founder of the Girls Gone Wild porn video series, capitalized on the trend. Accompanied by his camera crews, Francis visited beaches, nightclubs, and parties across America seeking "everyday" college-age women who would flash their breasts, make out with each other, and be sexually lewd on camera in exchange for GGW-emblazoned T-shirts or hats. Francis raked in as much as forty million dollars a year from the sale of these videos. When asked why he thought thousands of young women were so eager to exhibit themselves for his cameras, so willing to objectify themselves in exchange for trucker hats and tank tops, Francis simply said: "It's empowering. It's freedom."

This generation thinks that raunch equals power and freedom. Newsweek has dubbed this, "The Girls Gone Wild Effect." Nowadays, raunchy sexuality has become the prevalent expression of a woman's freedom and power.

Joe Francis sees the Girl-Gone-Wild phenomenon as the ultimate expression of feminism. Muzi Mei, the Carrie Bradshaw of Beijing who became a superstar by blogging about her sexual conquests, agrees. She told a reporter, "I express my freedom through sex. It's my life, and I can do what I want."

It's the ultimate irony that the foundational beliefs of feminism have contributed to the increased sexual objectification and pornographication of women. Society's thorough acceptance of feminist precepts is one of the reasons why behavior that was seen as destructive in 1968 is celebrated as desirable in 2010. When Miss America 1968 appeared in an evening gown and swimwear at the bequest of men, feminism identified her as "exploited." But when Miss USA 2010 appears in fishnet stockings in sexy bedroom porn, and boldly rejects social convention by entering a pole dancing competition—and does so of her own choice, self-determination and exerting her right to freedom—she embraces and lives out feminism's core tenets. Given a feminist belief system, culture has no choice but to identify her brash, immoral behavior as"empowered."

Feminism didn't provide the answer for woman's happiness, wholeness, and self-identity. It's just led us further away from the truth. Girls, I've said it before, and I'll say it again…. I think the time is ripe for a new movement—a seismic holy quake of counter-cultural men and women who dare to take God at his word, those who have the courage to stand against the popular tide, and believe and delight in God's plan for male and female. A revolution of women embracing God's design is the needed antidote to counter the self-deterministic feminist mindset that unwittingly justifies the Miss USA type of madness.

Originally posted May 19, 2010 at GirlsGoneWise.com.

© Mary A. Kassian, Girls Gone Wise. Visit Mary's Website at: GirlsGoneWise.com