Reforming the Miss America Pageant: Brains Trump Beauty

The leadership of the Miss America beauty pageant announced this week it would eliminate the historic “bathing beauty” or swimsuit portion of the competition. The decision was explained as a reform to stop the young ladies who compete, from being judged on their appearance.

Those statements were made as if they were obviously related; that there is no real difference between being judged on one’s appearance, and being judged on one’s nearly-naked appearance. It’s rather sad, that those notions would be so blithely conflated; sad, and in its own way, as revealing as a skimpy bikini. If you can’t find a middle ground between cheesy exploitation and angry androgyny, you might be a 21st-century feminist.

Reversion to older standards (say, 1950s bathing suits, or even 1920s…) would have resolved the pageant’s problem much more neatly, just as a reversion to standards of ladylike and gentlemanly behavior would go a long way towards solving other ongoing problems which the Sexual Revolution bequeathed to us. However, “progress” doesn’t permit any such option to rewind and correct; the pageant apparently had to move inexorably “forward” toward either total nudity or Mao suits.

The declaration that appearance will no longer be a factor in this beauty contest, seems to be an attempt to address this dilemma. Even the evening gown competition will now supposedly de-emphasize appearance, allowing women to appear in whatever outfits they prefer (I’d expect Boy Scout uniforms to be popular). Still, some room is left for appearance to prejudice the judges, and there is some danger that the pageant might retain an element of pageantry. Clearly, the organizers have not gone far enough in their reforms.

Happily, I have the perfect solution to the remaining problems:

Rather than presentation skills, which are terribly subjective and always retain some element of “judging by appearance,” Miss America ought to be selected by chess competition.

No, that’s chess, with two s’s, you lecherous oaf.

I think the advantages of this approach are manifold and obvious, but I will enumerate them briefly nonetheless:

Chess competition is truly oblivious to appearance. Bust measurement, a voice melodious or shrill, posture, hairstyle, teeth whitened or yellowed—none of these factors influence the movement of the pieces or the domination of the board, in any way.

Chess is not linked to traditional femininity but, rather, linked strongly to what the Left wants to see from women: STEM interests, strategy, and a cutthroat competitive spirit. In fact, if what the world needs is more Hillary Clintons (with better strategic insight), what better way to train our young women than by teaching them to angle for victory by throwing away pawns?

Finally, there are the social justice metaphors that postmoderns can read into the game. The Queen, the only clearly female piece on a chessboard, can go anywhere she pleases, overpower any other piece, and is immune to the rules that restrict others. The King, by contrast, is a severely constrained, Stay-At-Home piece who, if he leaves the castles, risks ruining everything. In fact, entrapping the King, rendering him helpless, is the Queen’s ultimate goal. If that isn’t empowering, what is?

And there’s even a beautiful parable for those upset by the limitation of the definition of “female” to, you know, females. Chess (in a startlingly progressive way, considering the antiquity of the game) permits any pawn crossing the board to Jennerize xirself into a Queen, gaining great power and status thereby.

Chess prowess, then, is an ideal replacement for culturally-conditioned arbitrary standards of beauty. Ladies, it’s time to get out your chess boards and chess persons and fight for that crown.

Photo credit: Chaloner Woods/Getty Images

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About Joe Long

Joe Long lives in Cayce, South Carolina. He holds a master's degree in history from Georgia College and State University. His book, Wisdom and Folly: A Book of Devotional Doggerel, was published in 2020. He has a very patient wife, five homeschooled children, and a job.

Photo: circa 1955: Two women playing an unusual game of chess, with lipstick instead of chess pieces. (Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)