Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Miss America

Over this past weekend, a new Miss America was crowned. I'm not big into the whole pageantry thing, but I occasionally like to watch the shows. Don't get me started on child pageant shows though which I think are just little girls dressed up to be sexualized adults. In college, I did a paper on child beauty pageants and the "male gaze" which just reaffirmed my thinking.

Apparently, the Miss America organization is trying to change their image, making it more modern and hip from years past. Some people could say it is trying to be more like the Miss USA pageant, especially since they added the swimsuit portion and vice versa. There's always been marked differences between the two pageants with Miss America seeming to be the idea of a more "All-American," the girl next door look versus the Miss USA pageant which is more about glam and looks. Both of course do have looks involved, but Miss America does at least have a talent portion. Miss America also considers itself more of the "scholarship" pageant and each contestant has a platform issue whereas Miss USA has charities she represents

Anyway, my point of this post isn't to talk about the differences between the two pageants. The new Miss America winner this year is 19 year old Kirsten Haglund from Michigan
Kirsten Haglund
image: byrev

Her platform is raising awareness for eating disorders. Three years ago, she suffered from anorexia and is now recovered. What I find interesting about all this is how other people suffering or recovering from eating disorders feel. Now, I do not want to make some generalization statement that all people associated with eating disorders feel this way, it's just something I've noticed in forums I've read.

There seems to be applaud that she is raising awareness for this issue, however, some judgment reserved as well. First off, that's she's only been recovered a short time (no report mentions how long), that's she's only 19 years old, that maybe she didn't have a serious illness--just a phase thing, and that she chose to use this platform in an ironic setting of the Miss America pageant. Sometimes I think "we" place harsher judgment on these type of individuals without really knowing all the information. Even so, we give immense applause to a celebrity who comes out talking about their eating disorder and raising awareness for it. We don't seem to question how long they've had the illness, how long they've been recovered, etc. Many times, it ranges with some celebrities having dealt with an eating disorder for a short or long period of time. Some have just begun to seek treatment, while others have had treatment and recovered. Then we tout them all as positive role models. Some even become speakers for NEDA.

Who's to say this is any different? Since now winning the crown, Miss Haglund has put herself in the public eye. I just don't think it is fair to cast judgment like this. I haven't heard Miss Haglund speak other than this brief clip on Access Hollwood, so it's hard to predict how the year may go. But even so, I view this as a positive thing. We all want more awareness out there, so let's not shoot the messenger.

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