A lady I know through pageants is currently studying for her Masters degree in the field of women's studies at a local university and she decided to present on the positive aspects of pageantry and how they can be advantageous to today's woman. I was surprised when this pageant friend asked if I would sit on a panel of other pageant queens to answer questions from students in her class; and, I graciously agreed. The questions centered around beauty, pageantry, and feminism. I enjoyed answering the questions and hearing the strength and quality of the answers from the young ladies who sat with me.
There were the students who were concerned about the family dynamics that pageantry created, asking: At what age did you start pageants? How involved is the father in the whole process? Why did you start competing? Some wanted to know how we fight stigmas, what obstacles we have come up against, and causes we support. One young lady stood up and was very honest with us. She shared that her hesitation about pageants comes from the idea that this one woman (this "Miss America") is suppose to be a representative for all of America's women. She stated that she didn't feel like she could see herself with a crown on her head. But one of the mothers of a panelist brought up a great point: if you can see yourself as a scholar, as someone who is involved in her community, as a successful individual, or a woman with her own unique sense of style then you embody Miss America. You embody the four points of the crown.
For me, however, there was another student who caught my eye. She had the tough questions ready and seemed to be attempting to glean the most from the answers the panel was giving. She wanted to know how we felt about the Miss Canada USA scandal and if we thought a transgender female should be allowed to compete. And then my favorite question of the evening: Are you a feminist? I had to admit to the room that I didn't know the true definition of the word (!) which caused an interesting shuffle in the room as the students were eager to enlighten me. I was told - in more or less words - that a feminist is someone who is against sexism, one who advocates for equal rights of women. After hearing the definition, I proudly declared that, "Yes, I am a feminist." I am a business student - so I am quite aware that there is a 23 point earnings gap between men and women and that women only make up 3% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. So, I am going to be strong and confident in the office and in all that I do. And I won't let anyone tell me I can't accomplish something, let alone a man.