The interwebs are all in a tizzy because some nitwits on Twitter took to their anonymous, 140 character soapbox to enrage their fellow tweeters with racist, inflammatory comments about Indian-American beauty Nina Davuluri being crowned Miss America. Yeesh! Settle down, Interwebs! Racism is unacceptable; there’s no need for me to assert that. All intelligent, thinking people agree and those crazy outliers are just attention-grabbing Twitter whores. I just think there is a problem when what we are focusing on here is how awesome it is that women of all races are eligible and promising candidates to win this misogynistic vestige of the past. Seriously, it’s a leap forward because women of all races can enter a beauty contest?
Ok, so on the surface we can look at this year’s contest and exclaim how far women have come. After all, not only was this year’s winner the first Indian-American woman to win, we also had a one-armed woman and a tattooed Army sergeant. But look a little more closely at all that surface area. Miss Iowa’s Nicole Kelly was born with one arm, and that is exactly how she competed. Miss Kansas’ Theresa Vail chose not to cover up her large tattoos. However, even with their differences, do they really look all that different from the others on that stage? Not really. Most are tall, some are short, all are rather thin and all are beautiful in the most classic, beauty queen sense. Ever seen a full figured Miss America contestant? I’ve seen plenty of big, beautiful women. They’re everywhere! Except on that stage. The idea of beauty is narrowly defined in this contest, no matter how many different ethnicities are included.
It’s not just a beauty contest, you know! Yes, yes, I know. Beyond judging how a woman looks and walks in a ball gown and a bikini (her two most likely choices of everyday wear), she is also judged on how well she can speak on command and what type of talent she can display. Whew! With those categories, you can definitely tell how accomplished a woman is. Probably why geisha girls are judged that way too. Where else have I read about using those categories to figure out a woman’s worth? Hmmm… Oh, I know. Nineteenth century romance novels! I adore those. Jane Austin is my favorite. So much so that I am writing a thesis paper on Mansfield Park. I have spent many a happy evening wrapped up in a soft blanket, good cup of tea in one hand, Jane Austin novel in the other, imagining I am walking the halls of Pemberley or exploring every dark corner of Northanger Abbey. However, truth be told, this is only something I like to experience in my imagination. I don’t want to live there. Call it my affinity for deodorant, my adoration of my toothbrush, or my joy at sinking my teeth into that perfect balance of chocolate and peanut butter that is a Reese’s Cup, and you would be partially right, mostly wrong.
The truth of it is that I don’t want to live in that time period because I value my self worth as a woman, something those women often had to set aside because of the daily reality of living in a world where a woman’s entire worth was judged on how accomplished she was. Was she pretty? Well spoken? Talented? Shoot, the accomplishments of these women who could speak multiple languages, paint, dance, sing, play and so much more would absolutely skunk the Miss America contestants! They needed these things to not only kill off some of the boredom of being a well bred woman with not much to do, but also to be eligible to make a good match. Marriage was a woman’s only chance at income, her mother’s way of securing her own widow’s income, and her father’s bargaining chip to increase his own wealth and influence.
I don’t want to live there. I don’t want a list of things that I should accomplish in order to make me a good woman, eligible for the most lucrative marriage. I don’t know why women are still competing to be there. Instead of a good marriage, it’s a sash and a crown declaring her to be just what a woman should be – speaks on command, entertainingly talented, and looks smashing in a swimsuit. Woman are so much more than that, so much more complex and way more varied for there to be an ideal woman reigning over all others.
What do I think a woman should be? Whatever she wants.
A child I knew passed away today. She was 15 years old, the same age as my eldest son who went to school with her for many years. As heavy as my heart is, I can’t even fathom what her parents are going through. It’s unbearable just thinking about it. God give them strength for having to live through it. And He is. We moved away two years ago, and so we are not there, but I have been reading and watching any and everything that the people we know in common are posting about it and you know what is so amazing to me? The hope they have. The family is without a doubt in very deep grief over the loss of their precious little girl, but it is not a grief without end. They have every faith that they will one day be reunited. I’ve been reflecting on that, and I wrote this for Katie and her family.
Love began a dream
of someday’s and maybe’s
A future beyond
love’s last breath
A hope of tomorrow
The dream grew
and began tiny firsts
Laughs, words, and steps
But all of these moments still couldn’t show
Tomorrow wasn’t where it was
supposed to be
It came too soon
It ended before love became
a precious memory
Where does love go
It goes to hope, it goes to faith
that tomorrow is now with Jesus
and love will see tomorrow again
Poetry is less of something I write and more of a feeling I have that just explodes on the page. I think that is why I can’t use a computer to compose it. There is something so innate about the tactile experience of putting pen to page; I can actually feel my innermost thoughts becoming words.