Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Carrie Prejean and Beauty Pageants

Everyday it seems more and more scandals are popping about about Carrie Prejean, former Miss USA hopeful, and current anti-gay-marriage spokesperson. First, it was her ignorant fumbling response to her panel question during pageant. Second, came the news about her breast implants– they were paid for by Miss USA Pageant. Finally, today semi-nude photos were released, in an effort to mock her Christianity and paint her as a hypocrite. All throughout, Ms. Prejean has been running through the press circuit, defending herself and her position on same sex marriage.    

What Ms. Prejean says and represents is wrong. We should criticize what she said about same sex marriage the night of the Pageant. Furthermore, she says the following in response to the release of her ‘racy’ photos:

I am a Christian, and I am a model…I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But these attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive.

Its blatantly hypocritical to suggest that she is the victim of intolerance while simultaneously positing the immorality of GLTQ people marrying the person they love. She is also quoted perpetuating ridiculous stereotypes about how homosexuality is a “choice,” which (I like to think) is an antiquated idea and is harmful for the fight for equality.

HOWEVER. What is also flat out wrong is to call her a “b***h,” a “c***t,” and to degrade her body and the choices she makes with it. 

A day after the pageant, Perez Hilton, a Miss USA judge and gossip blogger, posted about the controversy, calling her a B—h and “Stupid C–t.” Besides throwing around these slurs, nearly every major media outlet has jumped all over news stories about her breast implants, and her “sexy” photos. Most of these news stories aim to belittle her for these decisions. I see a huge problem with this back-and-forth media jumble about Prejean. This preoccupation with every misstep she takes and everything she does with her body isn’t getting us anywhere. Her answer to the gay marriage question was wrong, offensive, and poorly argued. But the debate about gay marriage has nothing to do with Ms. Prejean’s breasts. Her answer may not be right or legitimate, but sexism is still sexism, and it hurts us all. 

Samhita at Feministing says the following about her breasts:

As a feminist, I hate when women’s breasts make the news, since it is rarely to uncover the sexism embedded within a system. The fact that Carrie Prejean got breast implants is not newsworthy to me. The fact that the California Pageant Association paid for them, well that is. Not because it is scandalous, but because it shows that pageants aren’t about highlighting women as they are or for their talents, but for their physical appearance and to make spectacle of a specific type of femininity.

I think Samhita nails it on this point. Her breasts aren’t anybody’s business– HOWEVER, the fact that the Pageantry Association bought them should indicate to everyone what their standards are, and how they judge femininity. This should be a huge red flag— that their image of a “real woman” is basically unattainable without body alteration. This pursuit of the perfect body and perfect femininity is seriously dangerous. Women are dying trying to achieve it. And we need to recognize that and think seriously about why women are still striving to parade themselves like dolls and commodities, in 2009.

Pageantry is a bad thing. I believe the world would be better without it. Beauty pageants honor nothing but one unachievable representation of femininity and physical appearance, while still trying to pretend they care about ‘talent’ and ‘intelligence’. Women like Ms. Prejean are socialized to believe their physical beauty is what matters. In fact, American society tells all women this; its just that some of us have the resources and networks to reject this. We can’t berate one contestant for her choice to get breast implants when the system supporting her is not only giving her emotional but financial support. 

Yes, Carrie Prejean is an offender. Yes, she’s a reinforcer of ignorance and stereotypes. But she is also a victim. A victim of a culture that forces women to construct their self-worth based on their looks, then degrades them when they do. In the glitzy world of beauty pageants, the picture ain’t a pretty one. But if we can switch the dialogue from the individual to the system, maybe we can get somewhere.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bodies, Pop Culture, Queer

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