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                                      THE SOUTH


                             BRITTNEY FLATT MOBLEY

                        (Under the Direction of John A. Weaver)


       Using cultural theory and feminist theory as the theoretical framework, and

various forms of popular culture and face-to-face interviews, I explored the experiences

of a former pageant contestant, current contestant, child contestant, and pageant mom.

The study particularly explored how society perpetuates stereotypical roles of females

through popular culture and beauty pageants. It also examined the suppression of

Southern women through deep traditions and family values, reinforcing conceptions of

their physical beauty and personal characteristics. This study unveiled how self-worth is

directly linked to females‟ success in conforming to the stereotypical views in society

that they are constantly being judged against. The commodification of the female body

was a common theme found throughout the study as females adorn their bodies with

various items to gain approval in society. Furthermore, I explored how the consumption

of the female body oppresses women in the educational realm. Here, the separation of

mind and body does not allow for advancements to be made in a patriarchal society. One

very important theme was the disciplining of the body creates an imprisoned mind. This

separation causes females to resort to competition with one another to advance in a male

dominated society. Similar to beauty pageant contestants, this study also explored how

students are manipulated by society and forced to “learn” using a competitive approach to


        The significance of my study is to bring about awareness and uneasiness to the

ways in which females are contained in their stereotypical positions in society, which

fosters strong competition both on the stage and in the classroom. It is my hope that

through this study, the image of the female body will not remain an object to be gazed

upon by the male and to ultimately end the competitive approach to education. I strive to

promote a curriculum that focuses on the body as a whole, including the mind and

emotions, one that offers complicated conversation and reflection. This study is my first

task, a small contribution to the field, in working to promote a cultural change, evening

the playing field for all.

INDEX WORDS: Media, Beauty Pageants, Gender, South, Education, Cultural Theory,

Feminist Theory


                                   THE SOUTH


                          BRITTNEY FLATT MOBLEY

                      B.S., Georgia Southern University, 2003

                     M. Ed., Georgia Southern University, 2004

 A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Georgia Southern University in

               Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

                           DOCTOR OF EDUCATION

                            STATESBORO, GEORGIA

        © 2010


   All Rights Reserved


                                  THE SOUTH


                          BRITTNEY FLATT MOBLEY

                    Major Professor:   John Weaver
                    Committee:         Dan Chapman
                                       Olivia Edenfield
                                       Ming Fang He

Electronic Version Approved:
December 2010


       Although this has been a tremendously rewarding experience for me, it was not

done without obstacles along the way. There were times when it seemed as if I would

never see the light at the end of the tunnel. I thank God for being my strength and

guiding me through every day. The opportunity for me to embark on this journey is due

to my parents‟ support throughout my college career and their never-ending desire to help

me achieve my educational, professional, and personal dreams. I could not have picked

two better people to be my biggest fans. To my supportive husband, Travis, I could not

have accomplished this without your faith and encouragement along the way. I sincerely

appreciate you giving up your time so that I may work in peace and quiet. It is from the

bottom of my heart that I dedicate this to my two wonderful children, Cooper and

Gunner. Thank you for being my sunshine always, especially on days when your

laughter made everything else seem so small. Thank you for embarking on this journey

with me, as both of you sat through several hours of book studies as babies. I hope that

each of you live your life to the fullest, fulfilling all of your dreams. Lastly, to my nieces

Brooke and Cameron, I am so proud of you and am proud to be your aunt. Thank you for

all of the fun times and laughter that you have brought to me. I hope that you will find

the words that I have written helpful as you go through life. I love you all so very much.


        First and foremost I would like to thank Dr. John Weaver for his constant

guidance and encouragement. Throughout this process you were always willing to listen

and helped guide me down the correct path. Thank you for the numerous ideas and

suggestions that you gave throughout my doctoral journey. You taught me to challenge

and analyze events and issues in a way that opened my eyes tremendously, while still

remaining true to myself. I appreciate your willingness to help and am thankful for all I

have learned from you. You are truly an amazing teacher and mentor.

        To my committee members, Dr. Chapman, Dr. Edenfield, and Dr. He, thank you

for your commitment to my study and for your ideas and suggestions that allowed me to

explore this important topic and challenge the views of society along with strong

Southern tradition. Each of you helped lay the foundation and encouraged me along the

way. Dr. Edenfield, thank you for shaping my writing back in my undergraduate days

and now. You have made a lasting impact through your wisdom, teaching, and sincerity.

Dr. He, thank you for helping me develop this topic and allowing me to go down a not-

so-traditional path. Dr. Chapman, thank you for the numerous ideas you brought to the

table and for challenging me along the way.

        To the “Hinesville Mafia”, (my sister Shannon Dasher, Debra Sukaratana, Reggie

Burgess, Chris Connors, and Bridget Townsend) thank you for the never-ending support

when I did not think things were possible. I miss the late nights as we attempted to grasp

and understand the “multitudinous cacophony of voices” we were hearing. Chris and

Bridget, here is to all of the late nights of driving after class, quote searching, trips to the

library, and of course our Starbucks outings. I love you guys and couldn‟t have made it

without you!

       Sincere appreciation is also extended to those women who allowed me to

interview them for my study. Thank you for sharing your personal feelings and stories in

order to help me conduct this project.

                         TABLE OF CONTENTS






          The Final Judgment: Learning to Judge Myself through Pageants..……..31

          Coming on Stage..………………………………………………………..47

    2 BEAUTY OF THE PAST: MEET ANNE…………..………………………..50

          Life Lessons: A Look into Anne's Problem……………………………..50

          Girl World versus Boy World…………….…………….………………..51

          Anne's Story..……………………………..……………….……………..54

          Big Screen, Big Competition……………………………….……………59

          Living the Double Standard…………..…………………….……………65

          More than Just Looks?…………………………………………...………68

          Big Girls Make You Cry………………………………….…...…………71

          Beauty Queens and Drama Queens……………………….………...……76

          Help Wanted Needed……………………………………….……………78

          Passing on the Crown…………………………………………………….81


          Life Lessons: A Look into Elizabeth's Problem………………………...85

          Elizabeth's Story…………………………………………………………87

        Role Call……………………………………………………….………...91

        Cotton Pickin' What?…………………………………………………….93

        Southern Sets…………………………………………………………….97

        Learning to be a Good Girl……………...…………………………...…102

        Time to Wake Up………………………...…….…………………...…..107

        Cookie-Cutter Girls………………………...…....……………………...110


        Life Lessons: A Look into Juliana's Problem…………………….....…113

        Living the Glamorous Life……………………………………………...115

        Pageants Take the Large Screen…………………………..……………117

        Pop Goes Perfection!...............................................................................119

        The High Price of Beauty………………………………………………122

        In the Hot Seat………………………………………………………….124

        Juliana's Story…………………………………………………………..128

        Monkey See, Monkey Do…………………………………………...….129

        Time for a Change……………………………………………………...136


        Are We Stuck?………………………………………………………….164

        Don't Let it Go Too South: Further Research & Implications………....169

        The Body and Emotions as Curriculum in Unison..................................170

        Becoming Unstuck: Where I Go From Here……………………….….175



You are the Next Contestant

       The comparison of schools and beauty pageants shows strikingly similar

characteristics. These both serve as institutions where the innocence of children is killed

and the joy of learning is demolished. Children are forced to conform to the norms of

society, which perpetuate the ideals of the female body. The body and the mind remain

separate entities while, for females, emphasis is put on the body. Through this study, it is

not my goal to request protection from society, but instead to raise awareness of the

issues in order for true transformation to take place.

       In both schools and beauty pageants, constant comparisons are made, escalating

the competiveness of individuals. Scores are given by judges, who are often not the most

qualified to do so. In schools, standardized testing regulations are pushed down through

the government. Many of the decision-makers are disconnected from schools and do not

have a true understanding of maximizing student learning. Many politicians are

successful businessmen and lawyers having no experience in education. Stress is put on

both teachers and students to meet the minimum standard in order to achieve adequate

yearly progress. No consideration for individual needs or learning styles is explored.

Although teachers may truly care for students and desire to meet their learning needs,

they are often unable to address them to the fullest as budget cuts have increased class

sizes and taken away extra help such as paraprofessionals. All that matters is the number

that appears after perfected bubbles have been scored. The testing companies come out

on top as millions of dollars are wasted on the testing process. Neither the testing

companies nor the government officials spend time in classrooms and truly understand

the needs of students. Sadly, teachers are restricted in what they can do to help students.

A couple of years back, I worked with a class of struggling first graders. One of my

students needed more remediation from outside resources and in order to obtain these

services for him, I had to document failing scores in all of the major academic subject

areas. This was difficult for me as I watched him struggle and get frustrated over nearly

every assignment he had to independently complete. The process was lengthy and during

that time, my student fell further behind. My hands were tied as I had to document his

failure without providing assistance to him. In my school, teachers with high

standardized test scores were recognized and rewarded. After the test scores came in, my

principal placed a printout of every teacher‟s overall test scores in our mailboxes. This

frustrated me as I worked with struggling learners and did not have flawless scores like

some of my colleagues. Many teachers teach to the test and resort to teacher-proof,

scripted materials to ensure successful test scores. Just as government officials and

testing companies are not the most qualified to judge students, in pageants the judging

panel normally consists of former title holders, business owners, and in the national

arena, celebrities and athletes. Score sheets allow for judges to rate each contestant on a

scale from one to ten. Trying to succeed, contestants dump money into the laps of

pageant producers and cosmetic companies.

       Either in a desk or on the runway, students and beauty pageant contestants are

required to compete in different categories. In school, the categories are defined by

subject matter and in pageants the categories are defined as casual wear, formal wear,

swimsuit, talent, and interview. A low score in any one of these categories results in the

failure of the individual. Perfection is demanded and expected, therefore, creativity is

hindered. Teachers resort to rote memorization of facts and contestants rehearse typical

answers to interview questions to ensure success. In both instances, the ones being

judged are preparing for what the judges want to see. When the ultimate goal is

perfection, competition is apparent. A competitive environment is fostered as individuals

aim to make the grade in both the school and on the runway.

       The problem that exists does not lie with schools or beauty pageants, students or

contestants. It lies in the way in which society has set these up to function as they do.

Schools are not meeting the needs of students. Students are not becoming problem

solvers and critical thinkers. Instead, they are required to memorize information that only

deems them successful on standardized tests. Women are forced to look beautiful and are

constantly being compared to others. In turn, many women‟s self-worth is directly linked

to their success in conforming to the stereotypical views in society that they are

constantly being judged against. These have become the norms in which society


       For females, emphasis is placed on the body, not the mind. Females are often

unaware of the injustices pushed down through popular culture, and the current

curriculum in schools does not allow for this exploration. The focus remains on the

achievements of males. Take for example the Georgia Performance Standards for fifth

grade social studies. The standards specifically require students to study 37 people, and

out of those, only 2 are female (Georgia Performance Standards, 2010). This study is an

attempt to bring about awareness to this important topic and to alter curriculum to meet

the needs of all learners. Schools should be a place where females can learn about

themselves and celebrate the advancements made by women. If females are made aware

of the problem, they could challenge the images seen in popular culture and work to bring

about equal opportunities for all.

Theoretical Framework

        I employed two theoretical frameworks to help guide and analyze my study of

how society is reproductive in nature and perpetuates stereotypical roles of females

through popular culture and beauty pageants. Society is dominated by males and

therefore, their opinions form the standards by which women are measured. These then

influence different aspects of society such as popular culture and beauty pageants. These

are two strong mechanisms for reproduction, but there are ironic and ample ways that

women can and do resist. Personally, it took taking my place on the pageant stage before

even thinking about the injustices they provide to women. Additionally, as it is explored

later in this study, seeing images through the media may show women alternative

lifestyles and allow them to challenge and resist the stereotypical roles that they have

fallen into.

        Looking through the lens of cultural theory and feminist theory, I investigated the

relationship between females, particularly Southern females, and the male-dominated

society in which they function. Theoretically drawing upon the works of Stuart Hall

(1993, 1997), Henry Giroux (1998, 2000, 2006, 2009), and John Weaver (2005) in

cultural theory, and Madeline Grumet (1988, 1994) and bell hooks (2000, 2004) in

feminist theory, specifically allowed me to address the oppression of females in society

and how they have conformed to stereotypical identities through an investigation of

popular culture and interviews.

       Cultural theory deals with the study of day-to-day events and how they impact

society. This lent itself to the investigation of how society is reproductive in nature and

perpetuates the stereotypical role of women through popular culture and beauty pageants.

This further allowed for an examination of how the female body is represented. Society

portrays representations of the perfect woman through various means such as pageants

and the media to include movies, television, commercials, magazines, video games, and

music videos. Then women often try to duplicate what they see, trying hard to represent

something that they are not. “Representation is an essential part of the process by which

meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It does involve the

use of language, of signs and images which stand for or represent things” (Hall, 1997, p.

15). The representations displayed are very meaningful. Although the images seen

represent perfection on the surface, it represents much more than that. Those flawless

images of women represent the power of males in society and their influence to suppress

women into disciplining their bodies and imprisoning their minds. Hence, the female

body is represented by man‟s power. Victoria‟s Secret Angels are ideal examples of

how perfection is displayed. Females with thin, tall bodies and large breast sexily wear

undergarments. When females see these images, many try to reproduce what is seen. It

is this desire to replicate that perpetuates women‟s status through popular culture and

beauty pageants. The body remains the focus while the development of the mind is not


       Furthermore, this notion of representation is applied to the commodification of the

female body through pageant sponsorship. Giroux (2000) notes that several pageant

contestants are sponsored by businesses, thus adding an additional image, other than their

own, onto the individual.

       The message that often informs such relations is that the identities of the young

       girls who enter the pageants become meaningful only when tied to the logic of the

       market. What a young girl learns is that “in order to enter [the] contest she must

       represent someone other than herself.” (p. 55)

The contestant who is supposed to represent herself is now also represented by someone

else. Her body becomes a commodity as it is tied to a business. Contestants receive

monetary donations as long as they advertise for the company. Ties to large, popular, and

wealthy businesses help the images of the pageant contestants. Even in the local pageant

I participated in, the girls who were sponsored by the big businesses in town tended to

perform better than those who were not. Those sponsored by wealthy lawyers and local

business owners occupied the top spots. The more precise a female represents the

qualities deemed appropriate in a patriarchal society, the more successful she will

become. These images are internalized from a variety of sources as popular culture

works to dispense the stereotypical portrayal of women.

       Expanding on Hall‟s concept of representation, Giroux linked the images found

through popular culture with the danger of disappearing childhoods. The images that are

seen are careful depictions of society from a set group. Attempting to conform to these

ideals, the innocence of childhood is killed. As explored by Henry Giroux (1998, 2000),

children are rushed through childhood, forced to dress and act like miniature adults, and

enter in a competition with others. He emphasized that childhood games are disappearing

while parents resort to structured activities such as little league and beauty pageants.

Parents push their children through a fragile time in their lives causing much harm,

wanting them to reproduce the representations seen in popular culture. “Advertising and

fashion photography… also play an important role in marketing children as objects of

pleasure, desire, and sexuality” (Giroux, 1998, p. 36). Children are taken, dressed as

adults, and are unable to live out the joys of a normal childhood. I personally believe that

childhood should be filled with playtime that encourages exploration and friendships, not

dressing and performing as adults. This is a danger to society as future generations are

taught at an early age that it is okay, and even expected, to discipline the body and

imprison the mind. The male‟s consumption of the female body only intensifies the

commodification of it. In his book Stealing Innocence: Corporate Culture‟s War on

Children, Giroux points out, “Only in a culture that represses the evidence of the senses

could child pageantry grow into a $5 billion dollar industry without anyone noticing.

Only in a nation of promiscuous puritans could it be a good career move to equip a six-

year-old with bedroom eyes” (Goldstein in Giroux, 2000, p. 39). Our society is quick to

make consumers out of any and everyone it can while ignoring the dangers it produces.

Parents, who often claim that pageants are great learning opportunities for children, send

the message that in order to make it in this world, they must exaggerate their womanly

features and outperform those around them. Children are deprived of a healthy, joyful

childhood in an attempt to make consumers out of them at an early age. Beauty pageants

have run with the notion of dressing children as adults, furthering the commodification of

the body, and turned it into a large money making industry.

       The strong patriarchal bonds of society are hard to break, and popular culture

works to further perpetuate the stereotypical role of females. Magazine ads for Hooters

showcase beautiful, young girls with large breast wearing tan pantyhose and short shorts.

Music videos by performers such as Lady Gaga are so provocative that body parts are

blurred out. Giroux recognizes the power that images such as these have on the lives of

its audience. The power of the media is much greater than some might imagine. It is

here where students gain information and ideas about society and themselves.

“Television, movies, the new technologies of enhanced video/computer games, and of

course, the ubiquitous internet have transformed „culture especially popular culture, into

the primary educational site in which youth learn about themselves, their relationships to

others and the larger world‟” (Giroux in Reynolds, 2003, p. 101-102). Children are able

to see how people are portrayed in the media and come to form their own beliefs about

themselves and where they belong. This is how stereotypes are formed and produced.

Although similar topics may be discussed in school, children trust and take in what they

see and hear from the media. They look up to and idolize the celebrities that are seen as

they attempt to reproduce their looks and actions.

       Popular culture holds dangerous stereotypical and oppressive views of women as

a result of being created from the same leaders who rule our patriarchal society. John

Weaver recognizes the dangers of popular culture in perpetuating women‟s status, but he

also proclaims the need to understand and implement it with youth. He understands that

young children learn from popular culture as they look up to celebrities and replicate their

looks and actions. For example, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen launched a clothing line

that allowed their fans to dress similar to them. Youth are very impressionable, and the

role models that they look up to have a profound effect on their development. “Popular

culture is much more sophisticated in its ability to teach young people and adults what

and how to think” (Weaver, 2005, p. 108). Because popular culture is so powerful in the

way youth think, it is crucial to develop critical, complicated conversations over the

injustices seen in an attempt to end the suppression of women. Without this

conversation, popular culture will continue to reinforce the patriarchal beliefs of society.

        Popular culture tends to take the backburner when educators attempt to

understand and develop curriculum. When looking through the Georgia Performance

Standards, the only class that specifically addresses the influence of popular culture is

sociology. This is not offered until high school; hence youth have several years to

internalize the injustices portrayed through popular culture. Popular culture should not

be separated from the curriculum, as it is what students most readily relate to. Popular

culture should be infused into the curriculum in an attempt to allow students to make

connections between it and the content taught through the traditional subjects. It can

supplement the curriculum in order to further investigate the core skills addressed. For

example, when learning about fact and opinion, students could explore commercials and

how exaggerations are made to enhance people‟s opinions. Students are able to tap into

their previous knowledge and make connections with new ideas. As with the previous

example, students are familiar with commercials and by relating it to new concepts that

are required through set curriculums, students are able to relate and make it relevant in

their personal lives.

        Popular culture serves as a forum to raise issues that are of concern for young

        people, and schools should permit these issues to be developed within the

        confines of daily school activities. The cultural studies of education can play a

        vital role in creating new approaches to learning that invite young people and

       their cultures into the dialogue about what knowledge matters most. Such an

       approach to learning need not be done at the expense of eliminating traditional

       subjects but rather popular culture can be incorporated into the current curricula

       core subjects. (Weaver, 2005, p. 108)

Educators can use all forms of popular culture such as movies, television, music, music

videos, and video games, to their advantage in an attempt to break the cycle of

suppression for women. Implementing it with the core subjects that already exist would

provide students the opportunity to recognize and challenge those beliefs filtered down

through a patriarchal society. This would in turn help to eliminate the competition that

exists both in pageants and in the classroom.

       Interestingly enough, the cultural theorists highlighted here are males that shared

common concerns to shift this patriarchal paradigm to one that allows women the ability

to explore the injustices done to them and work to cease the disciplining of the body and

imprisoning of the mind. This is a problem in society, affecting more than just females

striving to operate within. With this in mind, Stuart Hall (1993) welcomed feminism into

cultural studies noting that he and the other theorists were “being good, transformed

men” (p. 104). However, when feminism came, it packed a heavy punch as it targeted

the pressing issues in society with great force. Even those who supported its entrance

into the field were taken aback, holding on to their “fully installed patriarchal power.”

Traditions are hard to break, even for those whom are aware of its injustices. Feminist

theory attempts to attack those issues and traditions that perpetuate the notion of

women‟s status in a male-dominated society.

        Popular culture, schools, and family traditions allow females to watch and learn

what their role in society is. Looking at these through a feminist lens helped identify the

inequalities and examine why they exist. Feminist theory explores a wide variety of

topics as it investigates the differences of males and females, celebrates the

accomplishments of females, and seeks out injustices to females.

        The analyses and critiques of the 1970s examined the ways gender differences

        were produced and maintained in society and in the schools, including the

        ramifications for education, educational research, and notions of knowledge and

        of the relationship between the knower and the known. (Pinar, Reynolds,

        Slattery, & Taubman, 1996, p. 364)

The analysis and critique of this notion has been ongoing for several decades, showing

that females will not end the fight until changes are made. The field will continue this

conversation and move to put an end to the injustices to women in a patriarchal society.

This process must go beyond the fact that differences exist between males and females; it

must investigate why and how society produces these differences. Though women have

equal rights and equal opportunities, images in the media rely on stereotypical images of

women as less capable when compared to men. These stereotypes affect females‟

education and careers as they fulfill stereotypical roles that are deemed appropriate for

them. Once females are made aware of the injustices done to them, challenges can be

made to the current curriculum taught in schools. A standardized, competitive approach

to education does not allow females to question their roles or foster their personal


       Tradition plays a large role in the reproduction and suppression of women‟s status

in society. The home and school are places filled with deep tradition that allows women

to learn what their role is. In Conception, Contradiction, and Curriculum, Madeleine

Grumet examined the ways in which males and females reproduce themselves. “I want

to argue that what is most fundamental to our lives as men and women sharing a moment

on this planet is the process and experience of reproducing ourselves” (Grumet, 1994, p.

150). The act of reproducing oneself is a way of socializing the next generation.

Parenting is a great example of this. As a parent, I raise my two sons by the values and

beliefs that I deem important. What is important to me may not hold importance with

another individual. For instance, my sons are required to address adults as either ma‟am

or sir. I was raised that by referring to adults as ma‟am or sir was a way of showing

respect. However, there are many adults who do not reinforce such behavior or

mannerisms. The way in which individuals reproduce themselves plays a large role in

traditions. Certain beliefs, acts, and characteristics are passed down through generations

and many of these become embedded in the youth. Simply put, children learn from their

parents. As individuals fill their specified gender roles, this is internalized by others and

filtered down through society.

       Until people are made away of the way in which traditions perpetuate

stereotypical roles of females, the cycle will continue. Females will continue to serve

their husbands, raise children, and tend to the house. It is important to note that some

women may find this fulfilling. It is my personal belief that that is okay. On the other

hand, I find it problematic when females are not aware of the opportunities available for

them. “For Grumet a feminist curriculum theory offered the possibility of transcending

and contradicting those curricular programs and epistemologies which reproduced those

intrapsychic structures developed in culturally constructed asymmetries in parenting and

childbearing” (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1996, p. 375). Feminist theory is a

light of hope for the end of this reproduction. Females are not bound to predetermined

roles and careers. Several opportunities are available, and schools should serve as the

place where females explore various career options. Society, including schools, is

responsible for the reproduction and suppression of women. This notion is addressed in

the coming chapters as teachers reinforce females for good behavior, politeness, and

being quiet. Females merely fill their roles as expected, unable to advance under the

power of males. Beauty pageants are one way that females fulfill their expected roles in

a patriarchal society. They are judged based on their physical appearance and other

feminine mannerisms. Their success on the stage is linked to how well they portray

femininity. Works such as those by Grumet are voices that will hopefully invoke thought

upon this process, bringing awareness to this sometimes unconscious act.

       Tradition allows for reproduction to occur unconsciously. Males and females

know what is expected of them and work to achieve that status, therefore disciplining the

body. Grumet goes on to state that, “The achievement of masculine gender requires the

male child to repress those elements of his own subjectivity that are identified with his

mother. What is male is „that which is not feminine and/or connected with women‟”

(Grumet, 1988, p. 13). Males work to highly distinguish themselves from females.

Whatever is connected to women, men must repress. For example, many women apply

makeup on a daily basis, and this is not done by males. Pink is characterized as a

feminine color so most males turn away from it. The definition of what constitutes males

and females are learned from society and passed down through traditional measures.

This great divide keeps the two sexes separated based on judgments of what comprises

males and females.

       The act of judging actually allows the cycle that perpetuates women‟s status

through popular culture and beauty pageants to continue. I propose that as judgments are

passed, the views and opinions of those deemed superior in society reproduce, thus

creating tradition and history. Taking a feminist approach, the judgments made by males

are what is represented through popular culture, homes, and schools. Take for instance in

the book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, bell hooks (2004) recalled her

childhood as one where her brother and sisters lived under the shield of her dad who was

very patriarchal in his beliefs. His judgments became the way that she and her siblings

developed. Her brother conformed to his dad‟s stereotypical beliefs after he criticized

and ridiculed him for not acting masculine enough (p. 12). It is by this that “[f]athers

challenge and then judge us – their role in socializing the next generation” (Saslow in

hooks, 2004, p. 47). When parents judge their children, the children will work to please

the parents in order to gain their acceptance. By filling their specified roles, being tough

for boys and being pretty for girls, the children fall victim to stereotypes which ultimately

perpetuate women‟s status. Those who are being judged work hard to please those who

do the actual judging.

       When images are seen and reinforced through the media, schools, and homes, that

is what becomes expected from others in society. Critically thinking, who are the ones

who act as judges in society? Yes, everyone in some shape passes judgments on others,

but those we see acting as official judges in society, business owners, administrators, and

even pageant judges, uphold the stereotypical beliefs that exist. Parents and teachers also

act as judges as they judge others and pass their beliefs on to children and students.

Because they serve as role models to youth, adults are highly influential on youth‟s

actions and beliefs. When growing up, my parents raised me as a Southern Baptist. I

conformed to their beliefs because I was expected to do as my parents said. Although I

never quite understood all of their beliefs, I fulfilled my role and never questioned their

judgment. It was not until having a family of my own that I thoroughly looked at my

religion and took ownership of my own beliefs.

       The traditions that perpetuate women‟s status have been in the making for several

years. It is not going to be a quick fix. No changes are going to occur instantly.

Achievements will be made through hard work and ambition, providing women with an

eye-awakening experience that fosters uneasiness with the world around them. This is

where the complicated conversations begin.

Beauty, Popular Culture, and Reconcepualizing School Curriculum

       The schoolroom and the runway have much in common. Those who enter are in

strong competition with one another, upholding the beliefs formed in a patriarchal

society. When searching for information on the history of beauty, it is obvious that

popular culture focuses on the female body, not mind. Throughout history, women took

drastic measures to look a certain way. Chemicals were used to dye skin and cosmetics

helped create a flawless face. Presently, images of what is deemed acceptable are

plastered for everyone to see. Ads such as Dolce and Gabbana feature half-dressed

females being gawked over by a group of males. Singers such as Beyonce Knowles

flaunt a perfect body on stage while performing provocative dance moves. People are

quick to conform in order to fit in and be socially accepted. Sadly for females, being

beautiful is on the top of the list of their gender expectations. Certain gender

expectations remain because many females are unaware of the stereotypes that push them

into set roles. This allows the issue to continue without being challenged.

       The study that follows was an attempt to open dialogue with women of the South

looking into how society is reproductive in nature and perpetuates women‟s status

through popular culture and beauty pageants. The participants for this study were four

White, middle to lower-middle class, Southern females who have participated in beauty

pageants. Their stories provided insight into why females participate in beauty pageants,

allowing their voices to be heard in a different light rather than the rehearsed, scripted

answers given on the stage. Taken off of the stage, both positive and negative aspects of

pageantry were investigated.

       Race, although a very important issue, was not taken into account in this study as

the main focus remained on gender. Beauty pageants are still one area in which

segregation remains, particularly in the South. Although there are some African

Americans that enter White pageants and vice versa, there is not an equal representation

from different ethnicities. Miss South Carolina (an African American female), Molesey

Knox Brunson, noted the need for a separate pageant by looking at the differences

between African American females and White females. “„It's different because instead of

conforming to a certain ideal, we are allowed to define beauty on our own. We bring to

the table what we think is beauty. We celebrate our curves. We celebrate our dark

complexion. We celebrate our natural beauty‟” (Brunson in Brown, 2009). While the

majority of White females tend to conform to certain ideals, African American females

celebrate their physical characteristics that make them unique. Similarly, Roger Bobb, a

pageant judge for Miss Black USA, noted that racial tensions are still alive and well.

“„But it is very important that when you are considered a subculture to have your own

reward system. If you try to assimilate, you will always be looking for validation from

the majority group‟” (Bobb in Brown, 2009). Separate beauty pageants allow African

Americans to refrain from assimilating with the majority group, Whites. They are able to

be rewarded for their differences, which remains an important part of their identity.

Because such differences exist, I focused on only one ethnic group for this study. The

differences that exist lend themselves to more studies to further investigate the

differences and similarities amongst beauty pageants of different ethnicities.

       This study was designed to deepen the awareness of traditions in the South and

how these produce females who accept without question preset gender roles. It was also

designed to help end the competitive approach to both identity development and

education. Teachers have the power to aid in this awareness, just as Georgia Southern

has done for me.

       As educators, it is our responsibility to understand what appeals to students.

Popular culture is very influential in the lives of children, and therefore teachers should

make students aware of the power that it holds instead of letting the cycle continue. By

opening the gate to communication, students would be able to see the injustices within

popular culture and critically think about how they fit into society.

       It is, rather, a perspective that constantly reminds us to question the ways in which

       students and teachers make sense of and respond to a sexist culture. It is a

       situational strategy, one that lets the patterns of discrimination themselves

        determine which particular action to take to eliminate bias. (Houston, 1994, p.


Students need to be able to think for themselves and determine how and if to take action

against certain instances. Students should learn about discrimination and stereotypes as

they question their validity. The actual discrimination in popular culture can ironically

help to eliminate bias. Once students are confronted with the discriminations,

complicated conversations can begin. Making students aware is the first step in

combating the traditional way that society has raised and shaped children into followers.

        As teachers we work to keep the bonds that bind alive, in order to be heard, in

        order to hear, in order to teach and learn. Our interest in our students is, of

        course, partly parental; we wish them well, independently of our self-interest. We

        want our students to succeed, even if our ideas of success differ from theirs.

        When we fight for cultural progress, we do not (only) seek our own narrow

        political gain; we fight for what we perceive to be in the public‟s-in the next

        generation‟s, the culture‟s-interest. (Pinar, 2004 p. 169)

Teachers obviously want students to succeed and develop into individuals who will fight

for cultural progress. Strong bonds need to be formed with those who have the culture‟s

interest at heart in order for their voices to be heard. Not only will this improve students‟

abilities to think about real world applications, but once this thought process has been

absorbed, it is bound to reproduce just as the many other negative characteristics in

society. Educators must serve as a force to keep the field moving in the right direction

for the good of all.

                                        CHAPTER 1


       Having grown up primarily in the public school system of Southern Georgia, I fell

victim to the traditional teaching methods employed by teachers who taught to the test. I

rehearsed facts, recalled statistics, labeled diagrams, and yes, was successful on the

standardized tests I was required to take. I do recall a couple of projects that did not keep

my attention, but rather I remember the people who were in my group and the social

conversations that took place. High school was a time of personal development and

socialization. Although I managed to make good grades, it was not until reaching

graduate school that I truly understood what an education should entail.

       While attending Georgia Southern for my Bachelor‟s degree in Early Childhood

Education, I spent numerous hours perfecting learning objectives for my scripted lessons,

which normally reached around ten pages in length. When filling in the formula, I took

note of the required student materials, expected outcomes, and level of mastery required.

An example objective looked something like this: Given a picture of a flower, the

student will label the five parts with 100% accuracy. The objective setting for the lesson

was a blanket rule that pertained to all students, not taking into consideration special

learning needs. We were not required to differentiate instruction for students based on

their interests or skill levels. This is what I assumed curriculum development to entail.

       Coming into the Curriculum Studies doctoral program, I was oblivious to what

lay ahead. Although I had an inkling of what it was like, thanks to my sister being a year

ahead of me in the program, I did not truly understand until I made the journey for

myself. During the first night of class I came to understand that this was not a curriculum

development degree. My professors spoke openly about the problems with curriculum

development and how it does not address the needs of students. Instead of focusing on

students‟ needs, schools mold them to be successful on standardized tests. My professors

spoke of topics that I originally thought were disconnected from education. For example,

I was unsure of the connection between education and topics such as environmental

racism. A couple of weeks later there were some empty seats where doctoral students

previously sat. Honestly, the radical beliefs of many of my professors were not

welcomed by many students. This was such a different way of looking at education, and

it did take time for me to begin to understand where they were coming from. Throughout

the program we were reminded constantly to give it time and eventually their views

would become clearer. This was a challenging experience as it made me face personal

beliefs and challenge those. What I learned through the program was that I was unaware

of the many factors that shape education. As I spent several semesters of hearing words

that were as foreign to me as French, I eventually got somewhat of a grasp on them. I

was thankful that weekly tests did not quiz me on the vocabulary used in the program; I

would not have done very well. Now as others ask me about the Curriculum Studies

program and what my dissertation topic is, they are stunned when I tell them that I am

doing a study on popular culture, pageants, and Southern women. “What does that have

to do with education?” is the question that I have to immediately answer. Thankfully, as

I will explore in this study, I am able to explain how it has everything to do with


       Education is more than learning facts to succeed on a test. Although this is what

society has constructed as a good education, students are left feeling confused and

isolated. Schools and students are compared to one another on numerical scales. Those

who meet the cutoff score are deemed successful, while those falling below do not meet

the standard. While so much emphasis is placed on this to ensure funding and other

support, topics of real concern to students are not addressed. Those such as body image

and personal beliefs should be infused to the curriculum. Not ever learning about these in

school, I internalized images on a daily basis, trying to find out who I was and what I

stood for. I took my spot as a contestant on the pageant stage to help construct my beliefs

about who I was and my capabilities. The following is my story as I explored pageants as

a way of identity development, before I was awakened.

The Final Judgment: Learning to Judge Myself through Pageants

       Before facing the world each day, endless time is spent primping; ensuring that

hair, makeup, clothing, and other details are flawless. Mirrors are placed in homes so

that people can see their reflections, how they look to the world around them. Not only

are they found in homes, but most other places we visit daily. Throughout the majority of

the day, however, this reflection is kept from us. So why exhaust over the small details

of the body? The answer is to gain approval from others. A walk down any street,

through any store, through any school, and this answer is apparent. For me, a walk down

memory lane brings back many remembrances of growing up female and how I have

evolved over time.

       As a young girl, I paid close attention to my body, just as many others do. I was

often compared to my sister in terms of physical stature; I was the more chunky one who

was one day going to have to watch my weight while she ate everything in sight without

gaining an ounce. Perhaps this was why when I got a little older, I admired the many

women who were plastered on television shows, movies, and magazine spreads. My

sister and I played dress up with our mom‟s high heels, fake jewelry, and clothes that

were too big for us. We would even get lotion bottles and attempt to make our own

perfume by smashing flowers and other aromatic substances. Our secret stash of perfume

stayed in the bottom of our closets so we would not get in trouble. For the most part, my

childhood was just that: a childhood free of worrying about my appearance while just

focusing on being a child. I believe this had a lot to do with the place in which I spent the

early years of my life.

       Growing up, my family traveled and lived in various places due to my dad serving

in the Army. Before moving to South Georgia, my family and I lived in Germany,

California, and Kentucky. Of these places I remember Germany the most as I spent my

kindergarten through second grade years there. Looking back on these times, I remember

life being much different in Germany compared to Georgia. In Germany my sister and I

stayed active. We were constantly going to the many activities that our community

offered such as roller skating, skiing, and visiting local fairs. While there, I did cheer on

a cheerleading team. However, the feeling of this was quite different to that of South

Georgia. In Germany everyone who wanted to cheer was guaranteed a spot on the team.

When my dad received orders to move to another station, we were excited about

relocating to the States. Given the choices of New York, Colorado, Kentucky, or

Georgia, we somehow chose Georgia. The town that awaited us was going to provide us

all with a great learning experience. Moving to South Georgia was a real eye opener to

my place in the social ladder and expectations as a young girl in the South.

       Hinesville is a small community where all of the “locals” know each other. There

is a large military population, which does not, or actually cannot, compete with the

“locals.” At the age of eight, I was introduced to a whole new ballgame. Although boys

are competitive, I would argue that girls are more competitive with one another than

boys. Girls bragged about clothes, hair, and special trainings they received. All of my

friends participated in some sort of activity outside of school. Many of them took dance

lessons, others played on a traveling soccer team, while others took horseback riding.

Even though I was not interested in any of these, I attempted to play soccer on the

traveling team to fit in with the crowd. My parents took me shopping for all of the soccer

gear the other girls wore. Umbros and Adidas were expensive, but my family was

excited that I was trying something new, especially my dad. My dad always had a

competitive edge and had always wanted me to participate in sports. This was the closest

to having a boy that would ever happen for him. I remember going to the practices and

hating every minute of it. When a ball came my way, I had a natural reaction to grab it,

not hit it with my head. I played a few games before I quit. It was not me. My family

knew it was not me. More than anything I just wanted to fit in and be able to share the

experiences with my “local” friends. I continuously tried different avenues throughout

middle and high school.

       As I grew up, the pressures of competition were getting fiercer. Although I did

not take dance lessons, I managed to make the dance team in middle school. I also

competed for the spot of Student Council President in middle school. My strongest

competition was a local boy whose family was very well known, so I was very surprised

when I was the one who won the position. I had done fairly well for myself in middle

school, but would all of that change now that I had to move to high school? Sure, we

were all starting out as freshmen, but the majority of my friends had older siblings there,

which gave them a head start on fitting in. My sister was older than their siblings and

attended the other high school in town. I was on my own.

       When preparing for the big transition to high school, I wanted to make the dance

team there more than anything. On game days, the dance team and cheerleaders wore

their uniforms and performed at the pep rallies. I hoped that soon I would be able to wear

my own short uniform of white and gold sequin. Many of the local girls occupied the

spots, and I knew I was up against some strong competition. I practiced day in and day

out. On the day of tryouts I was pleasantly surprised when I heard my name amongst the

four new members they called out to join the team. I was officially “in” with the crowd.

       I constantly strived to keep up my reputation and seemed to do as well as I could

for myself. I made honor roll throughout school and was actively involved in many

clubs. Although always on the ballot, I never made anything like prom queen or

homecoming queen. These slots were reserved for the locals. It is important to note that

locals attain power from holding high-paying positions in town as well as holding power

by “my folks knowing your folks.” In a small town it is all about whom you know and

your connections. However, I did make the captain of my school‟s dance team with the

big lawyer in town‟s daughter being co-captain. What a sense of accomplishment I felt!

Now that I was blending in, I attempted to keep this up by trying yet another activity that

was popular with the locals.

       Even before becoming my sister-in-law, Christina and I had a good relationship.

We danced together on our high school‟s dance team. As the reigning Liberty County

Junior Miss, she came to me and encouraged me to participate in the pageant. She told

me that she thought I would do very well because of my personality and looks. I figured

I had nothing to lose. Little did I know that I was about to lose all confidence that I had

in myself. In order to know what pageants were all about, I decided to give them a try


          Weeks before the pageant I began making preparations. I found outfits that

matched the image of Liberty County Junior Miss. I used fashion to portray a fantasy

world for me. “It is a keystone in the shifting architectures of class, sexuality, national

identity. Fashion is situated within the framework of industrial development; it interacts

with the rise of consumer capitalism and mass-media imagery. It is a way in which

people identify themselves as individuals and collectively” (Ewen, S. & Ewen, E., 1992,

p. 81). I was able to transform my identity to match those around me through changing

my fashion. This allowed me to identify myself as one of them. These clothes were

nothing that I would normally wear. In fact, they were hideous as I accented them with

huge, gaudy jewelry. A local dress boutique rented the dresses for the pageant. They

were very traditional with a Southern flair, right from the set of Gone with the Wind.

Layers of toile were used to make the dress spread out like an opened umbrella. The

emerald green fabric was bright and vibrant.

          Since this was my first pageant, I was pretty much clueless as what to do or

expect. I practiced mock interviews and learned the “correct answers” to frequently

asked pageant questions. I worked with Christina on the proper stage etiquette and poise.

I spent days going over the walk with the turns and head pops along the way. A fake

smile was plastered on my face as I pretended to love what I was doing. I attribute this

ability to my participation on the dance team. I could turn it on and off like a lamp.

Christina was amazed at how much of a pageant natural I was. I thought it was easy to

imitate someone. This someone was one accepted and looked up to based on appearance.

The flaws were hidden and everything seemed perfect on the surface. This was not me.

The real me had, and still has, many flaws, which defines my character. I was easy

going, laid back, concerned more about others than myself, and sincere.

       Christina also helped me learn to apply makeup. I always wore makeup but not to

where my face looked as though it was plastered. She taught me to pull the corner of my

eye out when putting on mascara. This would allow for the lashes to spread out and look

fuller. My mascara was thick because in pageantry, the more the better. Bright lipstick

would allow judges to see it from their seats. My cheeks looked as if I had a sunburn.

After taking hours to straighten my naturally curly hair, I spent hours having it rolled.

Afterwards it was teased and poofed as high as it could go. This was a far cry from the

normal me.

       The normal me was a fairly common girl. Although I always attempted to look

nice, I never was obsessed with the way I looked. My hair is naturally curly and it

basically does whatever it wants to. I wear makeup but do not go overboard with it. I

wear only a few pieces of small jewelry as they tend to bother me. I was making myself

into a whole other person. All of this fluff was not who I truly was. Unknowingly, I had

been taught by society to change what I was comfortable with and transform myself into

the most appealing person I could be. I had given into society‟s demands.

       However, as the pageant approached, I felt very confident in myself. There were

a total of thirty-one girls competing for the crown. The day started off with interviews. I

went from table to table, talking to the judges. The interview questions were exactly as I

had practiced. The typical questions such as why I felt I would make the best Liberty

County Junior Miss were asked. I felt that I did very well and spoke honestly, while still

ensuring to say what they wanted to hear, when answering the questions. I typically do

well talking with people, so this was not an area of concern for me.

       On the stage I did not miss a beat. I smiled the fakest smile I ever had and walked

with great poise. My turns were perfect, and I felt as if I nailed everything. After all the

contestants had their time in the spotlight, we gathered backstage to hear the top ten

names called out. As the names were called out, I somehow did not hear mine. The

thing was I did everything perfectly. I stood on the stage in front of a large audience

feeling like a fool. Although I was fake before, now was the time I had to pretend the

most. I hugged friends who made the cut and smiled the biggest smile for them. It is

noteworthy to say that all those who made the cut were of well-known, established, local

families. Inside I was hurt, sad, and angry. I felt defeated and embarrassed. All of the

locals, families with deep roots who were born in raised in my hometown, were there to

watch as I failed. My family was also there to witness my shortcoming. They were also

hurt, but not because of me. Watching a family member hurt was difficult as well, and

there was nothing they could do about the outcome. Their words of encouragement were

exactly what I needed at the time. I knew that regardless of how others judged me, I

would always be the winner with them. Being in this pageant discouraged many of my

thoughts about myself and my capabilities. I was very self conscious about my looks and

my body. I was constantly looking for faults within.

       I absolutely dreaded going to school the following Monday. I wanted to pretend

as if nothing had happened. Humility surrounded me. These local pageants remain the

big talk for a long period of time. My self-esteem began to go down. My “friends” who

did well in the pageant began to act differently towards me. The competition among girls

in high school was fierce. Competitive by nature, I was not ready to give in. I was very

self-conscious about my looks and my body. Being in this pageant not only made me

aware of my faults but made me search for ways to fix them.

       I was never happy with my teeth and hated to smile. The space between my two

front teeth bothered me tremendously. When I went for my initial appointment at the

orthodontist‟s office I was told that the muscle in my mouth was longer than it needed to

be, therefore causing the gap. If I didn‟t get it surgically removed, the gap would

reappear even after braces. I begged my parents for both the surgery and braces. I

suffered through the surgery and shortly afterwards got braces during my sophomore year

of high school, one year after the pageant. After getting them off, I got my teeth

bleached. My mom bought a tanning salon, and I soon looked as if I went to the beach

daily. My parents always tried to do their best for me in order to keep up with the locals,

and that I did. Although my parents aimed to make me feel good, this may not have been

the best thing for them to do. However, they, too, were influenced by society and gave

me the essentials to compete with others. At that time, I felt better about myself and gave

my town a run for its money. I began to see how things in my hometown operated and

realized my failure was not solely based on my appearance in the pageant.

       About this time I convinced myself that I could not live from day to day based on

the observations of five judges. I was the person who had to judge myself on the inside,

not them. I knew that I held beauty inside myself, and I was not going to let them stop

me from showing it. Instead of taking their judgments as criticism as I had done, I

decided to make a stepping stool out of them. I knew that I had a loving family to

support me, and I did not need a title, crown, or banner to show me that I was special. No

longer did I feel the need to become more than what I already was. “In wanting to

become more than we are, and in sometimes acting as if we were already superhuman or

divine, we risk despising what we are and neglecting what we have” (Smith, 2005, p.

189). I realized that I had all that I needed at that time.

        Without the title of Liberty County Junior Miss, I still managed to do well for

myself. Throughout high school I stayed involved and managed to graduate number

eight in my class. I was very relieved at the end of my senior year in high school. The

pettiness of high school was getting old, and I was ready to start a new chapter in my life.

I had learned more about Hinesville and became aware of the horrors of a small town.

Many things are given to people based on who their people were rather than their

qualifications. Locals were always networking, never for true friendships, but for what

was convenient for them at the time. For the most part, when moving to college, no one

cares who anyone is or who anyone‟s parents are. That‟s what I was ready for.

        I was awarded several scholarships for college and decided that Georgia Southern

University would be the place to further my education. Although I was away from

Hinesville, the previous pageant that I participated in always stayed with me somewhere

in the back of my mind. I believe that it is difficult for anyone to take such a blow to

their self-esteem and completely dismiss it. My not placing continued to bother me as I

still questioned myself. My roommate, who was my best friend from high school, and I

were watching the Miss USA pageant on television. After making our own personal

judgments of the contestants, we decided that there is nothing that they had that we did

not. Even though I knew what I was doing, it was hard not to pass judgments on others.

Society has made it second nature. This prompted us to look into the Miss Georgia USA

pageant. I believed this was the reassurance I needed for myself that I could do this

whole pageant business. That is me. If I get knocked down, although I can come to

terms with it for a while, my competiveness with myself will not allow me to settle. This

one would be different because contestants came from all over the state, alleviating the

majority of the local pull contestants had in the previous pageant. However, did I need to

heal my wound caused by judging with being judged again? Why is this acceptance from

others so important? I needed bodily affirmation of others to see the value in myself.

Even though I was aware of what was going on, I could not escape it. I, too, was

influenced by societal norms. There I went again.

       I filled out the paperwork and sent in my photograph. When having my pictures

taken, I did not do anything fancy, wearing my hair and makeup as usual. Although I

straightened my hair, this was normal for my high school and college years. I soon got

my acceptance letter back in the mail. The pageant fee was right at nine-hundred dollars,

so I immediately began looking for sponsors. I typed up a letter and went around to

different businesses. I quickly attained the nine-hundred dollars and was ready to go.

       The message that often informs such relations is that the identities of the young

       girls who enter the pageants become meaningful only when tied to the logic of the

       market. What a young girl learns is that “in order to enter [the] contest she must

       represent someone other than herself.” (Giroux, 2000, p. 55)

I never much thought of the sponsorship in this way, as a commodification of the body,

but the individual is also a reflection on the business being represented. The contestant

no longer represents herself, but rather the business that footed the bill for her

participation. Generally, those participants who have the big name sponsors tend to do

well in pageants. Even in pageants, money talks. My dad was not a lawyer, and his firm

did not sponsor me. Many small businesses donated, though none of these businesses

would be known to others not living in Hinesville.

         In addition to the entry fee, I was also required to buy a swimsuit, evening gown,

jewelry, and shoes. The materials that are required for a pageant are expensive. Large

amounts of money are spent on making young girls look like licentious adults. These

acts are reinforced, not typically criticized, in society. Although some of the items can be

reused, many regular pageant contestants will not reuse them. It is not worth the risk of

another pageant contestant getting similar attire. The money adds up quickly, which

obviously puts some at an instant disadvantage.

         For the previous pageant I disguised myself. The way that I appeared on stage

was not the way that I normally looked. This go around I figured that I would not change

the way I looked. My hair remained naturally curly and continued to do what it wanted

to do.

         My family drove nearly six hours to Dalton, Georgia, to watch the Miss Georgia

USA Pageant. When we first arrived, I went to the welcome dinner for the contestants.

What a joke this was. The room was filled with very thin, obviously fake girls laughing

as they talked to strangers. The mere tone and manner in which they spoke small talk had

fake written all over it. Everyone appeared to be in the best mood they had ever been in

throughout their lives. I thankfully had my roommate going through this pageant with

me. They served salad for dinner. This was not my idea of a good dinner, so our parents

snuck McDonalds into our room later that night (contestants were not allowed to have

any visitors after the start of the pageant). The common perception is that these

contestants basically starve themselves before the pageant to have a slim figure. I was

not too concerned with this; I was hungry.

       The following morning I got up and got ready the same as I did every morning. I

did nothing differently, except in the clothes I wore. Just as with the last pageant, this

one started off with judges‟ interviews. For this part of the competition, I dressed

normally. I wore a dress that already had a place in my closet. I had a whole different

attitude this go around. I would not go out of my way to make myself look different. I

was doing this pageant for myself, and, therefore, I wanted to be myself. The judges

were very nice and were interested in what I said. They actually carried on a

conversation, which was a nice change from the previous pageant. There were no

rehearsed questions. After this I went back to the hotel to change into the next outfit.

       After collecting all materials required for getting ready, my roommate and I

headed to the convention center. One of the rules for this pageant was that there could be

no professional hair or makeup artists on site. I had not planned on this, so it was fine by

me. However, one contestant who clearly took this seriously had an artist in the room

where contestants get ready. Nothing was said to her. There was no doubt about it; she

looked beautiful. She owned a modeling company and participated in pageants


       Instead of doing sportswear in this pageant, all contestants wore the same Miss

USA t-shirt with black shorts. It was in this outfit that we went onto the stage and

introduced ourselves. I was Brittney Flatt representing Midway, Georgia. Who knew

about Midway? Most others were from the bigger, more well-known cities such as

Peachtree City, Lilburn, and Atlanta. From this we got ready for the swimsuit


       After walking back to the dressing room, all of the girls began to switch into their

swimsuits. Although I was not disappointed or embarrassed of my body, I did not feel

the need to prance around with absolutely nothing on either. Girls walked around with

tampon strings hanging out like it was something they did all the time. Busts were

enhanced with tape to make them seem larger. Butt glue was used to prevent bathing

suits from riding up while walking down the runway. Here I realized how little I actually

knew about preparing for pageants. Instead of feeling intimidated, however, I thought it

was rather hilarious. My family was very amused at the stories I told afterwards.

       For the swimsuit competition, I purchased a one-piece blue and green suit which

was not revealing at all. For this pageant, it was required to have a one-piece suit

although this rule was soon replaced by the bikini. Some others had very low cut suits

showing off their cleavage. After this we quickly had to change into our evening gowns.

Thankfully there was no talent in this competition. I could have pulled off a dance, but I

preferred to leave this area untouched.

       After the first night of the pageant was over, I felt relieved. I did my best while

being myself. My hair and outfits looked like they did on a daily basis. I did not try to

create myself into something that I was not. That night my roommate and I joked about

the pageant. It was actually a fun experience, and I am glad that I had her to go through it


        The next morning we did very little to get ready. This is embarrassing to admit,

but I did not even shower beforehand. I basically got out of bed, brushed my teeth, put

on my makeup, got dressed, and left. All of the contestants were on the stage as they

called out the top ten. This time it was different than the last pageant. I heard my name

being called. I was shocked, happy, and relieved all at once. Although I did not place in

the top five, this was such a huge self accomplishment. I needed this victory to feel

confident once again about myself. Even though I had previously come to terms with my

failure in Hinesville, it never quite left the back of my mind. When you take such a blow

to your self-esteem, it is hard to recoup quickly. The competiveness of girls in my high

school and the images I saw through the media constantly reminded me of my failure. I

felt successful in that I could go to Miss Georgia USA and place in the top ten compared

to not even being considered a part of the pageant in Hinesville. It was several years

later, after both pageants, that I began to truly see myself as beautiful without ever

winning a crown. I had much more than my physical looks that defined me as a person.

I learned to look at my other attributes that made me the person I was and am. “Beauty

was given a similarly functional definition. It is what „keeps you from being able to find

something wrong with something‟” (Turkle, 1995, p. 146). It was this functional

definition that I was able to relate to. Although it took a long time to believe this, I

learned that I was beautiful. It did not matter if other people thought so, as long as I

believed this. I also learned that being beautiful is not just about my outer appearance.

Who I am as a person plays a large role in my definition of beautiful. This was a hard

lesson, which was learned from more than a beauty pageant, I am glad I learned.

        Although I did not have a good experience with pageants to begin with, I do not

regret the decisions I made. I did not participate in a pageant until I was old enough to

make my own decisions. I was old enough to understand and accept failure and

humiliation, even though it was still hard. Through pageants I learned that life is not fair.

I learned that people sometimes receive things that they necessarily do not earn due to

who they are within the community: I also learned that there are standards by which

females are judged, and not everyone judges in the same way. “As long as humans exist,

there will be bias” (Weaver, 2005, p. 48). Obviously the opinions of the judges in the

two different pageants were not the same. Different people look for different things.

Most importantly I learned that what is important is what I look for in myself.

        I learned to look into the mirror and not be disappointed with what I saw. My

self-esteem is important and necessary for my drive and determination. It is not worth

putting myself forward to be judged and losing self-esteem, when chances are I will not

be the sole one to succeed. I have to risk total failure to succeed. I did just that; I failed

and then succeeded. With this, I learned a little about pageants and more about life:

“The more mature you get, the more you realize things that you didn‟t realize before…”

(Fine & Weis, 1998, p. 249). I have learned what is truly important in life. It is not

important how others judge me; instead, it is important how I judge myself. Most people

appreciate receiving praise from others, and yes, it is still nice to receive praise, but the

true confidence and acceptance comes from within.

       I feel like I took the scenic route in learning who I was. This was not a topic that

I was able to explore in school. As a female functioning in a male-dominant society, I

used images in an attempt to alter myself to fit in and become accepted. I looked at my

surroundings and made myself blend in. School did not afford me or any of the other

girls the opportunity to learn about our bodies and ourselves as individuals. If only my

experience with Curriculum Studies occurred before my other schooling, the outcomes

would have been different. I would have been given different learning opportunities that

were meaningful and relevant. Even though I learned about myself the hard way, and a

little later in life, I am appreciative that I was afforded that opportunity. There are many

females who are still lost, not knowing their true identities.

       Who am I? I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, granddaughter,

friend, teacher, student, and numerous others. Who I am is very important to me.

Although society has played a large role in shaping who I am, I am proud of myself. It

took a while growing up for me to realize, but I would not prefer to be anybody except

myself. I have drive and determination. More than anything, I am proud of my academic

accomplishments. I had no one pushing me to attain this degree. It is something that I

wanted for myself. I know who I am and do not need for someone else to tell me nor

judge me amongst others. After learning for myself what a beauty pageant is and is not, I

am curious to see how others females view it and how it has shaped their lives. It is

important to note that I am not doing this project as revenge against pageants. I know

many people who participate in pageants and thoroughly respect their decisions to do so.

It is also important to emphasize again that I do not regret my decisions to participate in

pageants. The lessons that they have afforded me are far worth any hardships that I

underwent in the process. I desired to do this project to examine why females participate

in pageants and how their decisions have affected their lives. With little research done in

this field that focuses exclusively on females‟ participation in beauty pageants, the

implications for further studies are great. There is research on the effects of popular

culture, but narrowing this to beauty pageants will aid in progressing the complicated

conversations to bring about awareness in others.

       The key research question for this study sought to answer if popular culture

reproduces women‟s status in the South through events such as beauty pageants. I

examined the interviews to see if individuals described their experiences in pageantry,

including reasons for participating and beliefs about pageants, in a positive or negative

manner. Now at the age to have children, it was explored if former and current pageant

participants will choose to put their own children in beauty pageants. When delving into

the pageant mom‟s interview, it was explored as to why mothers choose to make their

children participate in pageants before the children are old enough to decide for

themselves. The interviews and research sought to answer whether the media helps or

hinders the reputation of pageants and their participants. Lastly, this study explored if

pageants help to promote internal self-worth or destroy it.

Coming on Stage

       Chapter 2 will reveal the stories of a young woman who was born and raised in

Hinesville and participated in several pageants while growing up. She never had a

flawless body and picture-perfect face, and she had trouble fitting in during her school

years. She did not have many true friends and was more mature than other people her

age. Her imperfections allowed her to see just how cruel girls could be through her

school years. She began a pageant career as an outlet to help her make more friends, gain

self-esteem, and expand her interview skills. Although she has put this part of her life

behind her, she now has a two year-old daughter. Will she choose this same path now

that she can make decisions as a mother? Anne‟s stories will be interweaved with

research on what it is like to be a female, the role society plays in molding females, and

how females contribute to these.

       Chapter 3 will look into the life and story of a twenty year-old who has

participated in many pageants and still actively participates in them. Her family has deep

roots in her Southern hometown, and their last name is one of the well-known names.

Her attendance at a private high school enhanced the Southern traditions that were passed

down to Elizabeth. Not long out of high school, her stories will give insight to being

raised in the South and how pageants have played a role in her Southern upbringing.

       Chapter 4 will explore the journey of a sixth-grader who has participated and won

several pageants. Child pageantry is a large business that has hit the big screen and has

drawn a lot of attention. The idea of turning young girls into sexually appealing adult

lookalikes has turned many heads. I believe that the voices of children are too often

hushed when valuable lessons could be learned from listening. This chapter will also tell

the story of her mother, who stays actively involved in the pageantry business. Their

stories play a critical role in my research as they give a glimpse into the future.

       Chapter 5 will provide an analysis of the interviews in this study. I will examine

each one and establish common findings that are intertwined within them. These findings

will specifically address the research questions stated for this study. I will also explore

recommendations and implications for future studies. Using the research gathered, I will

address how current curriculum and policies can be addressed by proposing a curriculum

of unison. The joining of the mind and body would help foster environments in which

females are able to learn about their bodies as a whole, addressing the many emotions

that accompany identity development.

                                       CHAPTER 2

                        BEAUTY OF THE PAST: MEET ANNE

       Walk into a room and Anne would not be one of the women that makes men‟s

heads turn twice. She is an overweight woman in her mid twenties, but to hear her talk,

she seems much older than her age. Her job often puts her in the spotlight as she works

for a state politician. Anne thrives off of attention and is very much a people-person.

Her social nature takes control as she hosts several parties at her home throughout the

year. Her friends mainly consist of people that she met and hung around when she was

previously married. Not having many female friends, Anne focuses on her relationship

with her new boyfriend and strives to have a better body by working out frequently at the

YMCA. She has recently met with plastic surgeons to discuss possible procedures. Anne

has set a goal for herself, and when she reaches that goal, she will get a breast

augmentation and tummy tuck. She is well aware that judgments are passed every day,

and these judgments can either hurt or help in life.

Life Lessons: A Look into Anne’s Problem

       Judgments are made every day. Often these judgments are made by only looking

at what is obvious to the naked eye.

       Perhaps the most common – and the most important forms of rapid cognition are

       the judgments we make and the impressions we form of other people. Every

       waking minute that we are in the presence of someone, we come up with a

       constant stream of predictions and inferences about what that person is thinking

       and feeling. (Gladwell, 2005, p. 194)

First impressions speak volumes. It is here that stereotypes come into play as inferences

about what the person is thinking and feeling occur. When this is done, things are

characterized as being acceptable or not by only observing the outside. A lot of

important details can be missed when this is done. Students are often taught in school not

to judge a book by its cover, yet this is exactly what is done in society. When judgments

are passed based on physical beauty, girls strive to have the perfect bodies. In an attempt

to advance over other females, they resort to social aggression to ensure their success. It

is important to explore the different expectations for females and the judgments passed

on them. The difference of being a boy and a girl functioning in a patriarchal society is

huge. For girls, the competition is fierce as they work to build themselves up while

knocking others down.

       Because people are quick to judge based on physical appearance, Anne has never

been much accepted by others. She has taken criticism throughout her life, and has now

committed to better herself through physical activity in order to gain the body she desires.

In an effort to be accepted by the crowd, Anne constantly attempts to represent images

that she is not. The way in which others perceive her is important to Anne. This is a

common belief for females. In order to gain approval from others, girls work against

each other, instead of for each other, to come out on top.

Girl World versus Boy World

       At some point in life, many females look forward to the day in which they

become a mother. Even before a baby is born, much attention and emphasis is placed on

gender. People try to guess the sex through old wives tales; is the mother carrying high

or low, is the belly more rounded or squared, is the mother glowing or not looking as well

as before? All of this anticipation is cured during the twentieth week. This week unveils

the gender of the unborn child. For expecting mothers, everything suddenly becomes

centered around the outcome of this one ultrasound from decorating the nursery to

picking out a name. The differences between male and female begin here as shades of

pink accented with flowers and bows are chosen for girls and shades of blue are accented

with sports, cars, and other masculine décor. The differences only become more defined

throughout life.

       Having a child is one thing that separates females from males. Although it is

considered a woman‟s job to raise children, regardless, it is a special experience but is not

accomplished without hurt to the body.

       But see what the tiniest baby will do to the woman. Stretching her belly and waist

       into the ghastliest shapes before it even emerges from the womb, ruining her

       breasts, turning her pink nipples brown. Producing spots at the hairline, dark

       hairs down her midline, bleeding gums, stretch marks, varicosities, blues,

       alterations of the hormones and perhaps the DNA-and that‟s only the beginning.

       In time comes the ugly crease in the brow between the eyes hewn by incessant

       anxiety and sporadic rage, the rasp in the voice, the knot in the gut, the regret.

       Fear alters the features, and in time the sweetest child will make a shrew of her.

       (Shulman, 1997, p. 91)

Such a special event can be minimized and emphasis still remains on the physical beauty

of females. Above all things, the body is the female‟s most powerful tool and even

childbirth is blamed for an imperfect body. The stress is put on the female‟s body as a

result of having and raising children, not the male‟s. This consumption of the female

body leaves women in a constant state of attempting to reach standards that are


       Why exactly are there such differences in boys and girls? What influences exist

that cause girls to behave the way they do?

       Girls are called incomprehensible. They have always been so since first men

       looked at them-looked at them out of men‟s minds as part of men‟s world. They

       will keep on being so, always, or until we stop looking at them with men‟s eyes,

       speaking of them in men‟s terms, and testing them by men‟s needs. (R.S.V.P. in

       Hamlin, 2004, p. 27)

Throughout history, gender roles have been formed through various mediums thus

creating rigid expectations for both genders. Males have typically dominated society and

have helped to construct the overall firm difference in genders. Boy World and Girl

World are two separate places. However, Boy World dominates and controls the

expectations of Girl World. What is it like to be a girl living with these influences?

       Although identity formation occurs throughout life, adolescence is a time in

which young females become increasingly aware of society and choose to conform or

establish their own identities, both personal and academic. But because these are viewed

as separate entities for females, their feminine identity is emphasized over their brain. As

these identities are shaped, girls are in constant competition for the limelight, resulting in

social aggression. “The struggle both to perform academically and to perform as

feminine must seem at times impossible. No wonder that some of us split them apart in

various ways or have different conscious and unconscious methods for dealing with the

unbearable contradiction” (Walkerdine, 1994, p. 66). Adolescence is a time of struggle

to find one‟s self. Traditionally, females are not constructed to perform both

academically and femininely. As a result, females are unsure of how to deal with this

contradiction and consciously and unconsciously deepen the oppression of women.

Anne’s Story

       Nestled in a rather large house off of a dirt road, Anne was raised by her mother

who worked at the County Courthouse and her step-father who served as the Chief of

Police. Anne and her mother had a very close relationship and could always be found

doing things together. Events that other people her age did with friends, she and her

mother did together: going to the movies, going out to eat, and shopping. Her mother

kept her busy as she was involved in clubs and activities throughout life.

       My main thing from age two and up was dance. I did like fifteen years of dance

class. So once I got into school I was on the dance team in middle school and high

school. I was in eight clubs my senior year in high school. I was president of four of

them. So I was very active and still am. That is something that is very important to me is

extracurricular activities.

       Dance, an activity deemed appropriate for females, occupied a lot of her time and

perhaps set the stage for the interest in pageants she found in her early teenage years. At

dance she was surrounded by older girls who primped and pranced, always trying to

outdo one another for the top spot. Dance provided opportunities for Anne to interact

with these older girls, and she instantly began to look up to them. In particular, Anne

looked up to two girls who were very good at dance and pageants as well.

       I remember Christina and Leah would always bring pictures and newspaper

clippings about their pageants. Almost all of my friends did pageants. Lots of girls that

were in dance were in the pageants. You will find that with the extracurricular activities.

Those were a lot of the girls that were in pageants. I was in the drama club, and a lot of

the girls were in pageants as well. But it really, where the pageants came into play with

me was like Future Business Leaders of America or Interact Club with Rotary: being

able to walk as a high school student into a meeting with professional business leaders in

the community and have the poise and the confidence to sit down next to the president of

the bank and the broker of the biggest real estate agent in town and carry on a

conversation. Most of that confidence came from pageants and came from the pageant

interview having to sit across the table from a successful professional. I think it all ties

together. Even the dance with the poise and the balance. Even in the ones you don‟t

have talent, it all circles back around.

       Anne recognized that pageants gave her confidence as she was able to converse

with leaders in her community. The confidence that Anne claimed to have gained from

pageants did not transform to all areas of her life. School painted a rather different

picture for her. Anne did not have the easiest time attending the public schools in her

hometown. Because her physical appearance was not up to par by society‟s standards,

she had a hard time fitting in. Anne was larger than most girls her age and this impacted

the relationships that she developed. Because her parents were local, she knew and

associated with many other local people her age, but she never really fit in. The girls at

her high school formed tight cliques that she was not accepted into. Her self-esteem, off

of the pageant stage, began to drop and Anne talked her parents into sending her to

private school. This proves that Anne‟s self-esteem was directly related to the positive

and negative experiences she had. After spending a year at private school, Anne did not

make that transition very well and returned back to the hallways of her hometown‟s

public high school. It was then that she began to participate in local pageants.

       I participated in my first pageant at fourteen and my mother, I actually wanted to

do one at thirteen, and she made me wait a whole year and made sure I still wanted to do

it before she would let me in it. My mom was in Liberty County Junior Miss, and was

Miss Congeniality, and she was in Miss Hinesville.

       All together I was in five pageants. I won the title for two of those, Miss

Hinesville and Liberty County Junior Miss. I participated in local pageants. My very

first one was Liberty County Junior Miss. I did that at age fourteen and then I

participated in it again the next year and won it at fifteen. Then I did Junior Miss

Altamaha and I didn‟t place. Then I did Miss Hinesville, which I won. Then I was in

Miss Savannah which is a Miss Georgia/Miss America preliminary and so it was

swimsuit, talent, the full nine yards, and it was my first time in one of those. I did not

place but it was interesting. The level of competition, the level of dedication for the girls

and the mothers was totally different, and that pretty much ended my pageant career. I

was done after seeing that side of pageants. So, local pageants are a lot different from

your highly competitive Miss America and Miss USA preliminaries.

       For the most part, it was a huge boost to my self-esteem. I was always a larger

child growing up. I was always taller than everybody else. I was taller than all the boys,

and I was taller than all the girls. I had a slight weight problem growing up, but I was

very active athletically. I never was a very frilly girl. I was a tomboy, and so I had a

hard transition into dresses, and frilly, and boys and all that. Pageants helped me learn

how to walk and how to hold myself and poise. It forced me to learn to look like a girl. It

really helped. I was an only child. I didn‟t have an older sister or anyone to look up to

so it helped expose me to proper training, how to sit for an interview. I basically walked

on to my state team at my high school for FBLA and got second place in the state for job

interview. The only training I had was pageants. It gave me a huge boost of self-esteem

and poise. Even when you don‟t win, if the pageant is run properly, it is not a bad

feeling. And in most of these, you gain friends, and you get to know people and you‟re

excited. Girls will be girls and one girl you may not like will win and you get all mad,

but generally it‟s a good experience if it is done properly.

       My favorite part of being in pageants is probably the standard answers: getting

to know the other girls. I mean that really was a lot of fun, especially when you do the

regional pageants like the Miss Savannah or the Altamaha. Even the local pageants

here; we have two high schools, and so I got to meet some girls from the other high

school and middle schools. But especially the regional ones. One of the girls I was in

pageants with was in my wedding. We made friends for life. We have children the same

age now, and if we had not done two pageants together, she would have just been a girl I

saw in the newspaper once. She is one of my best friends now. So definitely getting to

meet people. One of the girls I met in Miss Savannah sang at my wedding, former Miss

Savannah. So it‟s just the connections that you make. And that‟s probably always been

my favorite part, but I‟m a people person. Generally you find that with all girls that are

in pageants. You can be as pretty as you want but if there‟s interview, that‟s the first time

the judges see you. So to me that is the most important part of the pageant, so most of

your girls are personable and fun.

        However, the last pageant I was in made me down on myself. So much time and

effort goes into the stuff you see that‟s obvious: the outfits, choosing the earrings,

choosing the hair stuff. And these Miss America preliminary pageants, you don‟t have

anyone back stage with you – it‟s just you, so you have to be super organized. It‟s just

hours of preparation and then hours of preparation on the talent, hours of working out

for the swimsuit. And I felt like I really let myself down because I thought that I had put

in all this effort and when I compared myself to the other girls, I realized that I wasn‟t

truly dedicated to it, which is why I let it go. It was more a disappointment in myself.

Realizing what a huge time and dedication and effort that it takes to succeed in the

pageant world, the girl can be as naturally good and talented and without the time and

training, it is nothing at that level. So that was really the time. I was kind of depressed

about it for awhile. I was like, “I am not to that caliber.” I mean I could have been but

I decided to let it go, which was the right decision for me. But that was probably the

worst was when I realized that I can‟t hang. I mean I was at a totally different level than


        The level of competition for Anne grew with the level of pageants she competed

in. The local pageants provided the most comfortable experiences for Anne, boosting her

self-esteem. Now that she was successful in the competition, her self-esteem rose. On

the contrary, national preliminary pageants provided her with stiff competition that she

did not measure up to. Anne constantly made comparisons between herself and other

girls to judge her own worth. Afterwards, she felt down on herself when she realized she

was not to their caliber. The media brings this national competition to us. Many women

are similar to Anne in that they feel inferior to those images seen on the big screen.

Big Screen, Big Competition

       Popular culture is obviously extremely popular, especially with adolescents. It

serves as an educational tool as several individuals use it to help learn about and define

themselves. Technology allows for it to be accessed anytime. iPods provide movies and

music on the go, and several cell phones are now equipped with Internet access. The

images seen and words heard are absorbed by the audience and used to learn about

society. From these items, it is easy to see where society places emphasis, what is

acceptable and expected, and where individuals fit into the larger picture.

       Images of women are carefully selected according to strict standards. A glimpse

through a magazine or a scroll through television channels proves that the majority of

women that are seen are slender and beautiful. Victoria Secret models, for example, have

bodies that are quite different from many others. Their tall figures are flattered with large

breasts, tight stomachs, slender thighs, and long legs. These images are important to

other females, because they recognize the attention given to such perfected bodies by

males, and help form the ideal image. Although adolescence is a time when self-

exploration and identity formation occur, the exposure to these accepted images of

women are seen starting at an earlier age. Young children become infatuated with

princesses and often dream of living lives like Cinderella. This was made apparent

during a recent trip of mine to Downtown Disney.

       The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a place where young girls‟ fantasies come true

as they are pampered like a princess. For the price of $200.00, girls are dressed in

princess gowns and have their hair and make-up done. The store was packed and there

was actually a waiting list to get in. My nieces settled for the free fairy dust that was

sprinkled on them. Places such as this convey the message that “…the pursuit of beauty

is one of the great joys of being a woman” (Loren, 1997, p. 10). A woman‟s job is to

look beautiful, and it should bring them much joy. Men are there to judge women, thus

making women judge and constantly compare themselves to others. When seeing other

females, they often look at themselves and measure their appearance based off of another

individual. All of this is ultimately done for the pleasure of males. There are other

examples, too. This has been evident since 1959 when Barbie was created. Barbie also

serves as a role model giving young children false hopes of achieving a physical

appearance like hers.

       Playing with Barbie dolls seems as a rule to enhance girls' self-image and expand

       their sense of their potential rather than the opposite. This has become more true

       over the years, as Barbie herself has expanded her horizons: she has now appeared

       as a doctor, astronaut, businesswoman, police officer, UNICEF volunteer, and

       athlete. (Ament, 2007)

On the contrary, making comparisons with Barbie are not realistic and can only destroy

self-image. Although Barbie has expanded her horizons, she still looks dang good while

doing it. In essence, not much has changed. Icons such as these not only convey their

physical appearance, but their behavior as well.

       When thinking back to her childhood in the book Daddy‟s Girls: Young Girls and

Popular Culture, Walkerdine remembers narratives such as Cinderella, The Wizard of

Oz, and Little Orphan Annie. “Here the girls are poor and often orphaned and… they

dream of a place where wishes are granted through the intervention of good fairy

godmothers, thwarted by bad witches, to reach a place where men can grant ultimate

wishes…” (Walkerdine, 1997, p. 94). The good characters are dressed in beautiful

gowns and seen as attractive people, while the evil characters are often dressed in black

and have unwanted characteristics such as warts. These stories end with happy endings

for the beautiful people, but it is important to note that these endings have men coming to

their rescue. These images come from people, often men, thus portraying and forcing

their beliefs on others.

        The images that are seen are carefully selected and intentionally used to portray

certain types of people. In popular culture, beautiful females are the ones who have nice

jobs, houses, cars, and get attention from males and other females. On the other hand,

those who are not as attractive are used to represent people who are not of wealthy

families, do not have a good education, or make poor decisions. Just as this is apparent in

the media, it bleeds over into the real-world as well.

        The news, sitcoms, or ads are not reflections of the world; they are very careful,

        deliberate constructions. To borrow Todd Gitlin‟s metaphor, they are more like

        fun-house mirrors that distort and warp “reality” by exaggerating and magnifying

        some features of American life and values while collapsing, ignoring, and

        demonizing others. (Douglas, 1995, p. 16)

The people who construct popular culture mediums are humans. They hold beliefs and

stereotypes which are then filtered down through movies, television, music, and

magazines. Features that are pleasing are often exaggerated while ignoring the others.

        These exaggerations have a profound impact on viewers of all ages. However,

even young children begin forming opinions and ideas based on these falsifications.

Young females look to these beautiful women in popular culture and begin to pass

judgments on themselves. What they see in the mirror is not merely as satisfying as the

females that undergo great makeovers before being put into the public eye. They then

become dissatisfied with their own bodies and find fault within.

       We have learned to despise the curves, bulges, stretch marks, and wrinkles that

       mean we‟ve probably worked hard in and out of our homes, produced some

       fabulous children, enjoyed a good meal or two, tossed back a few drinks, laughed,

       cried, gotten sunburned more than once, endured countless indignities, and, in

       general, led pretty full and varied lives. (Douglas, 1995, p. 12)

These signs of life are seen in a negative way. The females appearing in popular culture

do not have such curves, bulges, stretch marks, and wrinkles. They are in some fashion

protected from the real world. These wears on the body are often dealt with through

plastic surgery, serving to commodify the body. Just as the popular icons fight nature,

other females resort to the same measures in an attempt to keep up with the status quo.

Natural beauty becomes passé and artificial beauty becomes another sign of privilege.

These images seen become the standard by which they hold themselves to as well.

       After seeing images for so long, one begins to internalize them. Perhaps

unconsciously, beliefs are formed from what is constantly pushed down through popular

culture. One of the most powerful images is that of the female body. Not only men, but

women as well are interested in this phenomenon. “In fact, the vast majority of pictures

women look at are pictures of attractive women in women‟s magazines: they are

interested in checking out the competition” (Etcoff, 1999, p. 62). Women see other

women‟s bodies and attempt to adjust their own appearance accordingly. They realize

what kind of people get the attention and strive to have similar lives. Most everyone

likes to look good, but many women like to outlook another. The images seen in popular

culture become the ground work for most females when it comes to physical appearance.

After polling 16,000 women, Glamour magazine reported that, “[s]adly, more than 40

percent of women are unhappy with their bodies, a number virtually unchanged since

1984” (Dreisbach, 2009). When images of other women are flaunted around, it becomes

easy to pass judgment on ourselves. With so many beautiful women, it is rare that

women will rank themselves at the top.

       Physical appearance reigns at the top of the checklist for females. However,

society also contends that while females should look good, they should not behave in

such ways that are considered unladylike. While men may be able to do certain things,

like have sex with numerous partners, females are given bad reputations if they do the

same. “Their bodies thus become signs of nationalism and racial wholesomeness because

„Miss America must be provocative but wholesome, a pretty but pure vestal virgin, like

Cinderella‟” (Kinloch, 2004, p. 97). A female‟s body is expected to look like she would

behave badly but on the contrary, be innocent. The controversy surrounding Miss

California, Carrie Prejean, demonstrates this perfectly. Standing on her Christian beliefs,

Prejean answered an interview question stating that marriage is meant to be between a

woman and a man. This was unsettling for some and soon after winning the title, nude

pictures of her began to surface. When her crown was in doubt, Donald Trump took her

side and okayed her behavior.

       “We‟ve reviewed the pictures carefully. We are in the 21st century and I talked

       about relevance,” Trump told a packed press conference in Trump Tower Tuesday

       morning. “Carrie‟s a model … We‟ve made a determination that the pictures

       taken were acceptable, they‟re fine, in many cases they‟re very lovely pictures

       and in some cases they‟re modeling pictures.” (Trump in Celizic, 2009)

Once again, stereotypes come into play with this situation. Because Prejean‟s pictures

were not too risqué, even though she was topless, they were condoned and brushed off as

modeling pictures. The double standard is seen as Prejean claimed to be a Christian,

which portrayed her as the good girl, while she still had a racy side within. She talked

the talk, but did not walk the walk when it came to her beliefs, and this was okayed by

Mr. Trump. Women are expected to behave ladylike, but do so while looking appealing

to others. Confusing, huh?

       As illustrated above, females are not certain how to behave and look. They must

be experts on turning on different roles in various situations. They must learn how to

look sexy without dressing like sluts for the satisfaction of others. Clearly this is an

unstable expectation that women must learn how to deal with.

       Dominant norms and conventions of femininity are constructed within the borders

       of a precarious balance: women simultaneously “need” to be protected and

       exploited, must be publicly displayed yet privately consumed, and are considered

       both the guardians of national morality and the largest threat to this moral

       foundation simply because of their gender. (Banet-Weiser, 1999, p. 9)

Gender is a complicated subject for females. Mixed messages are sent and females must

know how to react accordingly. They are seen as a threat because of the actions females

are capable of. The stereotype is that they must be protected by men, yet put themselves

out there for public consumption. If these ideas are hard for women, the identity

formation of adolescents must be that much harder. Popular culture helps feed these

stereotypes into society and thus further the confusion for females.

         Adolescence is a time when young girls attempt to learn about themselves and

realize the demands society places on females. After seeing these images and the

reactions given to each, females must determine which path they will take.

         With puberty, girls face enormous cultural pressure to split into false selves. The

         pressure comes from schools, magazines, music, television, advertisements and

         movies. It comes from peers. Girls can be true to themselves and risk

         abandonment by their peers, or they can reject their true selves and be socially

         acceptable. Most girls choose to be socially accepted and split into two selves,

         one that is authentic and one that is culturally scripted. In public they become

         who they are supposed to be. (Pipher, 1994, p. 27)

Now at the age to realize these expectations, adolescent girls make the tough decision

whether to conform to the majority or to remain true to themselves. They see what types

of girls are given attention and must decide to conform to this look or remain as an

individual. Society has created the culturally scripted female that gives into the images

and is able to change who they are according to what is deemed acceptable at various


Living the Double Standard

         I think we almost do it to ourselves. As a community we don‟t feel like we can do

certain things or should run for certain things. I‟m not sure. I don‟t know. It‟s a double

standard we put on ourselves a lot. I can speak for myself. I have always wanted to have

a career and get out of the house. And I have a career. I am extremely successful. I love

my job, but when I got pregnant I was like, “Oh, well I get to come home now right?” I

mean it‟s a total double standard. I was like “Okay, you need to take care of us, and I

get to come home.”, because that‟s what supposed to happen. And I‟m supposed to get

out of the Rotary Club, and I‟m supposed to not be on the board at the YMCA, and I‟m

not supposed to travel to DC three times. It‟s a total double standard we put on

ourselves. I just think we‟re going to just have to break that cycle. And I‟m still a

proponent of staying at home with your children if you can, but it was almost an

automatic in my head. So I think it‟s something that we do to ourselves culturally. My

grandmother took off five years with my mother. My mother took off three years with me.

You know, you raise your own children.

       A friend came over last night and was like “You sure do boss your husband

around a lot.” And I‟m like “Really?”, and she said “Ya, you called for him twice.” I

was like, “I called for him to come look at a picture. It wasn‟t like I told him to take the

trash out now.” It just threw her off and I was like, “Wow, is that the way it is in your

house? Like you can‟t call your husband to look at something?” There are some things

in this region that are just different. My in-laws live across the street. My in-laws are my

grandparents‟ age. My husband‟s parents are my grandparents‟ age. They went to

school together. Their relationship, compared to my parents, the household I was

brought up in, are totally different. Jason‟s mother cooked every night, cleaned, did

everything. He comes home and sits down. He sits down and she serves. She stands up

and makes sure he gets everything he needs before she sits down and eats. And there‟s

nothing wrong with that. That‟s the way they work. That‟s the way it is. Now in my

home, if my dad wanted something to eat, he pretty much had to fix it and then mom

would wash the dishes. But just that one generational difference… But if a bill needs to

be paid, even at my mother‟s house, my mom has a job but it is still his responsibility to

take care of the family. It is still very male-centric when it comes to the providing. And

I‟m that way. I find myself with Jason, I have a paycheck too but I turn to him like, “Oh

what do we do about this?” And then he‟s like, “Oh what do you think?” I mean I don‟t

know, I‟m not supposed to think about that. It‟s not my job. It‟s a bill. You pay the bills.

It‟s a fallback for women. Because it‟s easier for me in some situations to play the

Southern, you‟re supposed to take care of me. And then the next minute, I‟m like I have a

career and I need you to help with the kids. I know I play the double standard, and I see

other people doing it too. We almost do it to ourselves. And do we really want to break

the cycle? Because I really like my husband paying the bills. It‟s just one of those things

and it effects everything. People ask me all the time, I work for a politician, “Are you

going to run for something? Are you going to run for office?” Well Jason really wants

to run for something, so I‟m sure we‟ll let him run first. Which it makes sense for us, but

that‟s my automatic answer, whether I would want to or not. It‟s a weird thing, so we‟ll

see. Who knows, I could be the first female mayor of Hinesville.

       Anne is confused about the mixed messages that she sees concerning women‟s

roles in society. She feels motivated in her career one moment, and then would love to

fill the stereotypical role as a stay-at-home mom the next. As a psychologist and mother,

Dr. Pipher explores several personal experiences and through these offers ideas on how

adolescent girls can fight this pressure and remain true as an individual. The many girls

Dr. Pipher worked with “… struggled with mixed messages: Be beautiful, but beauty is

only skin deep. Be sexy, but not sexual. Be honest, but don‟t hurt anyone‟s feelings. Be

independent, but be nice. Be smart, but not so smart that you threaten boys” (Pipher,

1994, p. 24). As society sends out one message, females must conduct soul searches to

find their true selves. These messages often contradict one another and leave females

feeling vulnerable in a man‟s world. When mixed messages are sent, it is easy to

understand why young girls feel so confused about their identities. From a young age,

females recognize the need to look good. They are told that “Beauty is skin deep” but the

messages learned in life, through the help of popular culture, prove otherwise. They

understand that looks play a large role in determining one‟s place in society. “As we

leave infancy, we lose the protection cuteness affords. Our white tail tuft gone, we face

the world unshielded: adult beauty is a great advantage, but it protects the few, not the

many” (Etcoff, 1999, p. 39). Not all people are able to meet and keep up with the

standard set by society. The people who are unable to keep up suffer as a consequence.

If only we all were able to keep the cuteness that babies possess, perhaps society would

begin to recognize more than what is obvious to the eye.

More than Just Looks?

        Has society begun to recognize more about women than physical appearance?

Several advances have been made when looking at the role of women in society. Anne,

who is employed by a state politician, believes that women are beginning to get a fair


        Of course it has changed a lot in the last 50 years. It‟s changed a lot in my

lifetime and especially recently. There are a lot more female role models for our children

growing up now than there has ever been before. When you think of a soldier now in this

community, you don‟t automatically think a man. When you think of a politician in this

community, you don‟t automatically think of a man. That is a new thing. Now at the

national stage we have had some women involved for a while now: Condoleezza Rice,

Hillary Clinton, we have had a female Supreme Court Justice for years. But locally in a

South Georgia community, which is a pageant community, there hasn‟t always been.

Walter Cronkite actually did a show on Walthourville, Georgia. We were the first place

in the US that had a full female government. Our mayor was female, the city council was

female. It was like a huge news story. Even though the sealing was broken in the 70s it

really has been kept under wraps. We‟ve got a female county commissioner, Connie

Thrift, that is out there and in the community, and is a good role model. Our local media

is starting to treat them differently, and she is sitting on boards she hasn‟t sat on before.

So I think we‟re getting better. We‟re getting there but it‟s taken the people to actually

do the work. The media isn‟t going to give it to us for free. And the national media has

given the females in places of power a fair shake. I think there are plenty of female role

models right now that are out there. You have your bad apples, your Lindsay Lohan and

your Britney Spears, but you also have on the flipside your Miley Cyrus, that are finally, I

feel, getting equal media attention and trying to showcase the good things they are doing.

       Even though more women have risen to positions of power, the path to get there is

not always easy. For the most part, stereotypes still come into play as women are not

given equal opportunities as men. With the last presidential election, much attention was

paid to Sarah Palin, who sought the Vice-Presidency. I personally knew many males that

supported Barrack Obama because they doubted her strength and knowledge in that

position of great power. Even though they did not sincerely back Obama, they felt that a

woman could not and should not hold that position. This uneasiness comes from

generations that clearly define gender roles. Unfortunately for women, sometimes it

takes fulfilling stereotypes to succeed.

       Having to fulfill stereotypes to succeed? Absolutely, I think so which is

unfortunate. The male side of it, even the Jonas Brothers with their commitment to try to

be celibate until they are married. They have gotten more flack from that from people in

their own age group than they have from the media. And so if you could imagine how

hard it is for those boys, how it is for a female in that situation? It is the media as a

whole with the sex and beauty. That is the one thing that annoys me about these bigger

pageants. It is all about the swimsuit and the flashy. The judges are people from TV, and

the judges are a football player. Those aren‟t correct, personal opinion, that isn‟t the

correct image to be portraying. Half these girls are going to law school or medical

school. I mean these women are phenomenal. The fact that Miss America is now on

CMT is a travesty. I mean it‟s horrible, because I have mondo respect. Not that I think

really highly of myself, but I know that I was of good character, and smart, and talented.

I could sing. I could dance. I didn‟t hold a candle to the girls on the local level, much

less to these girls that make it to the national stage, and no one gives them any respect

and I hate that. These are your leaders. If you really look at the resumes of some of the

people, CEOs of companies, a lot of them have done pageants. And so I don‟t feel like

the media gives them a fair shake. You have to act a certain way and be cute and kind of

be stupid to be appropriately female. To be appropriately feminine you have to be a little

bit stupid, slow, and need help. I‟ve seen Miley Cyrus act that way before and you

realize she‟s not that way. You‟ll hear her talk and she‟s wiser for her years and it‟s

because she grew up around the business, but she has to come off as this vulnerable little

kid. I don‟t think that‟s the best.

        Set a high expectation, and normally people will rise to that expectation. Set a

low expectation, and normally people will fall to that expectation. In the classroom, I

made it a point to never look at my students‟ permanent records because I did not want to

know if they had a behavior problem or what kind of grades they made. This gave me a

clean slate to get to know each of them for myself with no preconditions. This same

principle can be applied when looking into gender stereotypes. We are all aware of the

stereotypes that exist for women, so in more cases than not, females live up to those

stereotypes. However, males cannot be blamed solely for this real-world problem that is

alive and well today. Females heavily contribute to the problem as well.

Big Girls Make You Cry

        Cultural theory provides an avenue to further investigate society and those living

within and under its influence. “The connection between culture and the individual is

what is at stake here. The most critical issue concerns the ways in which culture shapes

human action” (Smith, 2001, p.5). Culture, including popular culture, is highly

influential in the actions taken by females. The males‟ dominance over society shapes

the actions taken by all people within.

        Remembering back to my school days, the relationships that I had with other girls

were dramatic. Hinesville is a rather small town with no real exciting news on a daily

basis. Everyone knew each other and nobody‟s business was kept a secret. There was

always some kind of drama being stirred up. Someone was always mad at another, and

everyone else had to choose sides. During my high school year, one girl at my school

keyed my car right after I had gotten it for Christmas. I did not even know this girl very

well. To my knowledge I never did anything to hurt or upset her; I was never around her

to make her mad. Although I had several friends, I also had quite a few people who did

not like me. Rumors would spread and hurtful looks were passed in the long hallways of

school. For girls, life is a competition. People obviously like winning instead of losing.

Those who feel as if they are losing take out their anger on other girls.

       Adolescence is a beauty pageant. Even if your daughter doesn‟t want to be a

       contestant, others will look at her as if she is. In Girl World, everyone is

       automatically entered. How does a girl win? By being the best at appropriating

       our culture‟s definition of femininity. However, a girl can win by losing if being

       in the running means she has to sacrifice her individual identity. (Wiseman, 2002,

       p. 77)

Life is a competition and it does not matter if you choose to enter or not. Society has

strict guidelines in place and those females who conform to these are the ones who win

according to society. The ways in which women respond to the expectations set forth

vary. Those who choose to remain true to themselves are the ones who win in the long

run. This is hard to do because breaking away from tradition is not deemed acceptable.

For example, when females do not choose to dress “girly” and resort to styles such as

Goth or more manly, they are treated as an “other”. Because some choose to object,

ignore, and not get caught up in the societal norms, they do not fit in well with the

accepted crowd and are subject to being taunted, and other problems may arise as a

result. This proves that attempting to take oneself out of the competition is not a

guarantee to escape the social aggression of other females. Although judgments are

frequently passed by all people, girls often harp on one another. In the classroom, I used

to let my students help in the creation of our class rules and consequences. Surprisingly,

they were harder on themselves than I would have been. This same scenario can be

applied to females judging others.

       Many girls I teach believe that boys are dogs, but girls are the enemy. It‟s this

       belief that makes girls turn the other way when they see a girl so drunk she can

       barely stand get taken to a room to have sex with a guy she met a few hours ago.

       It makes them blame a girl for “being so stupid and weak” when she‟s abused by

       her boyfriend. It makes them look at each other with cold, hard eyes, sizing each

       other up as competition and blaming anyone who makes a mistake. (Wiseman,

       2002, p. 243)

Girls are extremely harsh on judging other females. Instead of consoling and relating to

other females, they are quick to put them down. This is often seen in relationships when

a boyfriend has cheated with another girl. Instead of being mad at the boyfriend, the

girlfriend is quick to talk about the other girl. Faults are instantly found and blame is put

on her. The guy comes out clean while the girl is left with a reputation. The same rules

do not apply for both genders, and females are often to blame for this fact.

       Additionally, when females feel inferior to another, they also attempt to bring

them down. “When the other woman is more beautiful, they feel envious, and may

subconsciously try to even the score (she must be dumb or shallow, a bitch or a bore)”

(Etcoff, 1999, p. 67). Females are competitive and do what they can to make themselves

look better in this daily beauty pageant in which they are automatically entered. For

every plus that exists, females will find a negative to balance out the act.

       Pageants are great examples of how manipulative girls can be. This type of

behavior is evident through the recent events of the Miss Puerto Rico pageant. The

winner managed to smile and pose with the crown even though her evening gown and

makeup had been covered in pepper spray. Jealous contestants attempted to take her out

of the competition and put the spotlight on them. In addition to this, last year Miss New

Jersey was worried about losing her title as threats were made to make embarrassing

pictures public if she did not give it up. These acts are only a few examples of the

measures that females will take to obtain the limelight.

       Although these are obvious blatantly rude acts, females realize the power of

beauty. “In order for women to learn to fear one another, we had to be convinced that our

sisters possess some kind of mysterious, potent secret weapon to be used against us-the

imaginary weapon being „beauty‟” (Wolf, 1991, p. 284). This is exactly what pageant

contestants, as well as other females, use against each other. Beauty is what gets the

most attention, so it is what females use to fight with and use to measure their own worth.

While society has taught females to use beauty as a weapon against others, females also

contribute to the battle and are partly to blame for the predicament they are in as well.

Rosalind Wiseman (2002) emphasizes that girls are much to hold responsible for the way

they behave. It is girls who knowingly reproduce their behavior.

       Girls have strict social hierarchies based on what our culture tells us about what

       constitutes ideal femininity. At no time in your daughter‟s life is it more

       important to her to fit these elusive girl standards than adolescence. But who is

       the prime enforcer of these standards? The movies? The teen magazines? Nope,

       it‟s the girls themselves. They police each other, conducting surveillance on

       who‟s breaking the laws of appearance, clothes, interest in boys, and personality-

       all of which have a profound influence on the women they become. (p. 10)

Girls see the images that are plastered in society through means such as popular culture,

but what do they do to change it? Not too much. Instead, they criticize and judge one

another based on these standards set by society. “Girls know they‟re manipulated by the

media to hold themselves to an impossible standard of beauty, but that doesn‟t stop them

from holding themselves to it anyway” (Wiseman, 2002, p. 77). Girls are quick to call

one another hurtful names such as sluts and whores. Therefore, Wiseman suggests that

girls use Halloween as an excuse to dress provocatively without worrying about what

other girls will say. When girls call one another hateful names, this fuels the fire for

others to be able to do the same thing.

       The film Mean Girls is a perfect example of just how mean girls can actually be.

The main conflict of concern here is the cliques that are existent in this particular high

school and the way that the girls treat one another. Girls are harsh and work against one

another. The key focus is on the relationship between Cady, a new student in the school,

and Regina, the popular “Queen Bee” who bosses others. Cady is out to bring Regina

down. In doing so, she becomes a member of “The Plastics”, Regina‟s social group, and

increases in popularity. She does small things to Regina such as giving her nutrition bars

that are full of fat and replacing her face cream with foot cream. Cady commented at one

time that, “In Girl World, all the fighting had to be sneaky” (Waters, 2004). As much as

Cady disliked Regina, she strangely still wanted Regina to like her. Cady did things that

“The Plastics” wanted her to do to fit in with them. It was better to be a miserable

member of “The Plastics” than to not be in the group. Cady and Regina worked behind

each other‟s backs to bring the other one down. Regina gave the “Burn Book”, which

was a book full of bad things written about various people, to the principal in an attempt

to get back at Cady for stealing her boyfriend. The girl on girl crime was the main issue

throughout the movie. This crime is all too common and finds itself perfectly at home in

the pageant world.

Beauty Queens and Drama Queens

       The very first one I did was Liberty County Junior Miss and it‟s even different

from now, this generation that‟s in it. I am twenty-seven. I graduated high school in

2000. For our generation it was very popular. I remember the year I was in it, I was the

last contestant. I was like number thirty-two. I actually coordinated the Liberty County

Junior miss pageant last year and I had to pull teeth for months to get like ten people. So

it‟s a totally different atmosphere out there. So it was the thing to do so everyone was in

it and it was fun. There were thirty-two girls, and probably only three of them had ever

been in a pageant before. So it was just like a fun, community event. Also the Liberty

County Junior Miss Pageant is sponsored by the local Shrine Club, so you‟ve got all

these funny old men and their funny old ladies, and the stage is decorated, and it all goes

to charity. It goes to help the Shriner‟s Hospitals, so the whole feel of the pageant is

more light-hearted, and like you‟re doing it for a good cause and for fun. Now in

comparison the last pageant I was in, Miss Savannah, it was all business. It was run like

a business, operated like a business. There was a costume check the night before. If you

were ten minutes late you weren‟t in the pageant. It was totally different. People were

walking in with these makeup cases and stuff with locks and I‟m like, “What in the

world?”, and they‟re like “People sabotage each other‟s dresses and each other‟s

makeup.” It was a whole different world. I was lucky my mother never really took it all

that seriously. I had a part time job. I helped pay for some of my clothes. I wore my

dresses to prom. I was just never one of those… These moms were… it was just a whole

different level. One of the girls that didn‟t place that year, like we got back stage at the

end and she just collapsed on the floor. Thirty minutes later we were all leaving and she

was still crying on the floor. So it was just totally different. So that kind of, didn‟t ruin it

for me, but I knew I wasn‟t going to go there. And to succeed at that level, you have to go

there. That has to be your one hobby. And I was always interested in tennis, and dance,

and horseback riding. I had other things going on. And that‟s what I want for my child.

So I will probably steer her more towards the community level, local pageants. And who

knows. I have nothing towards the girls that do it. I have a very good friend who won

Miss Georgia. Good for her, but that was her one thing. She paid for law school with

her money. I mean good for her, but that just wasn‟t me. So I mean pageants aren‟t just

in one category.

        In the local pageants, girls talk about each other just like girls talk about each

other in anything. I‟ve never heard at the local level of someone… maybe a hair curler

got moved to the other side of the room, but no dresses were ever cut. At the Miss

Georgia level they have back up dresses and all kinds of stuff because people will put

black soot in makeup. I‟ve never heard of that happening at the local level or like at the

Miss Hinesville. Even at some of the Miss Georgia preliminary pageants that don‟t take

themselves as seriously, like Altamaha and some of these smaller communities that hold

the preliminary pageants, but like your Miss University of Georgia, Miss Atlanta, Miss

Savannah those pageants are professional level events. I mean the next day you‟re at the

hair stylist getting a whole makeover after you‟ve just won a pageant.

        With the local pageants it was like a community event and there‟s thirty-

something girls in it, so chances are you, as an eleven year old, have an older friend

that‟s in this pageant. So I used to go, I remember as long as I remember, going to the

Junior Miss Pageant every year. And so it‟s almost assumed if you‟re a girl that‟s

interested in dresses at all, when you‟re a certain age you‟re going to be in the Junior

Miss Pageant. It was just kind of a part of the culture here. So it was more initiated by

the community. My mother was supportive but wanted me to make sure I was interested

in it and not just doing it to do it, cause it is a financial burden. Especially some of the

commercialized, Miss Sunburst, these that come through mail order crowns where you

pay two-hundred dollars to enter, and you‟re the only person in the category so you get a

crown. It‟s a commitment. Just like any hobby with a child to make sure they‟re truly

interested in it.

        Anne left beauty pageants before she became one of the drama queens that

sabotage other contestants to win. That was not a side of pageants that she wanted to

explore. With the pressures put on females by society, succeeding can cause much stress

in the process of life. Girls are not allowed to have a voice, so they rely on hurtful acts of

aggression to bring others down in an attempt to build them up. It is important to be

aware of the hidden culture of aggression in girls and know how to react accordingly.

Help Wanted Needed

        Rachel Simmons (2002) also explores similar topics in her book Odd Girl Out.

This book deals with the topic of the hidden culture of aggression in girls. The books and

research that are available on bullying are widespread when dealing with males, but it

offers little when it comes to females. Remembering a childhood memory, Simmons sets

forth to provide further insight to this important yet neglected subject. While reading this

book, I was unable to put it down as it allowed me to take a walk down memory lane.

The personal stories that were explored seemed all too familiar. It brought back many

memories of altercations between other girls and me in high school. Like many of the

girls in the book, I also experienced days when I did not want to go to school. I

remember telling my parents that girls were evil, a repeated stereotype found in this book.

I could relate to the stories expounded upon in this piece; girls who were your friend one

day and gave you the silent treatment the next, starting rumors, and pulling others into the

fight. Why are girls so hateful and rude to others?

       One key element that Simmons notes is that society expects girls to be “nice girls”

who behave well in school, are submissive, and remain quiet for the most part. It is not

permissible for them to act violent. When discussing this issue with adolescent girls, they

say that they are hushed and unable to act as desired.

       A girl learns early on that to voice conflict directly with another girl may result in

       many others ganging up against her. She learns to channel feelings of hurt and

       anger to avoid their human instigator, internalizing feelings or sharing them with

       others. She learns to store away unresolved conflicts with the precision of a

       bookkeeper, building a stockpile that increasingly crowds her emotional

       landscape and social choices. She learns to connect with conflict through the

       discord of others, participating in group acts of aggression where individual ones

       have been forbidden. (Simmons, 2002, p. 69)

Girls learn hard lessons of life at an early age through various mediums. They are unable

to have a voice and a way to deal with their problems. Personal problems are kept inside,

and unable to be handled accordingly, they then build up and become unresolved issues.

       Society is reproductive in nature; the same gender roles are filtered down through

generations which are hard to break and work to further perpetuate women‟s status.

Schools also fall victim to this reproduction. As examined in the book, when girls turn to

their teachers for help, the teachers often downplayed the situation and gave the advice to

ignore the girl who is causing the problem. Because girls are unable to act on their

feelings as males do, they find other ways to hurt that are not nearly as obvious as

physical violence.

       Girls use backbiting, exclusion, rumors, name-calling, and manipulation to inflict

       psychological pain on targeted victims. Unlike boys, who tend to bully

       acquaintances or strangers, girls frequently attack within tightly knit networks of

       friends, making aggression harder to identify and intensifying the damage to the

       victims. (Simmons, 2002, p. 3)

Because these acts are not always visible, it is hard to pinpoint their existence. In

schools, it may go unnoticed by teachers. Girls are not given permission by society to

speak in an attempt to resolve conflicts, so this triggers additional problems.

       This results in an alternate form of bullying. I believe that these acts hurt worse

than any physical act as the effects can be long and painful. The results are devastating

for young girls and self-esteems suffer. When this happens, girls deal with this low

esteem in various ways such as dieting, and even extreme measures such as suicide. The

mean comments made by girls become internalized and instead of helping themselves,

the individual is often just as mean, and sometimes even harder, on themselves. These

feelings can easily turn into depression.

        Teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys.

Teenage boys are less likely to seek help or recognize that they suffer from depression,

probably due to different social expectations for boys and girls - girls are encouraged to

express their feelings while boys are not. Teenage girls‟ somewhat stronger dependence

on social ties, however, can increase the chances of teen depression being triggered by

social factors, such as loss of friends. (Teen Depression-Help for Troubled Teens, 2005)

The social factors that females deal with are hard to cope with at any age, especially

during adolescence. The pressures of fitting in can be so demanding that when these

feelings escalate, suicide is an option. “Girls think about and attempt suicide about twice

as often as boys, and tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting

themselves” (About Teen Suicide, 2010). A problem clearly exists that must be

addressed. Awareness is the first step in correction. Being a good girl is not the answer

if it brings very little good to the girl.

Passing on the Crown

        Now divorced and living in a small apartment in her hometown, Anne continues

to live her life in quite a different manner than that of five months ago. Five months ago

Anne and her husband lived in a new home that they built after being married. Not one

local event passed that Anne did not attend. Not feeling that her husband took care of her

every need, she found comfort in another man that she met at her work. Now publically

dating, Anne does not spend as much time with her daughter as her ex-husband does.

She attends various classes at the local YMCA and has lost weight. She has also talked

to some plastic surgeons about possible procedures once she loses her desired amount of

weight. Anne no longer spends much time with other females as the majority of local

women her age now shun her for her actions. Remember, in a small town, news as

exciting as a divorce remains the talk for quite a while.

        Although Anne has put this part of her life behind her, she now has a four year-

old daughter. Will she choose this same path now that she can make decisions as a


       I think I will pretty much stay on the same lines that my mom did and make sure

that she wants to do it herself. Cause I think pageants are great things for self-esteem

and young girls, but I don‟t think there‟s anything she could gain from a pageant right

now that she couldn‟t gain from another activity. And so being around other kids and

learning stage presence and all that, I mean you could do that at this age from doing

theatre or art class. So I am going to take those other avenues for right now until she‟s

old enough, thirteen, fourteen. When she‟s older she will be more able to deal with it:

the winning, or losing, and understanding. I‟d rather her learn from team sports first,

winning or losing, than it just be all on her. She needs to understand that it‟s someone‟s

opinion, and opinions change from day to day, and I don‟t think children are mentally

prepared for that until they are older.

       Ironically, in the time passed between the interview and now, Anne has changed

her mind on letting her daughter participate in pageants. Now four years old, Anne‟s

daughter will be competing in her first pageant this month, a Christmas pageant hosted by

the private school she attends. This is proof that although Anne recognizes that pageants

do not offer anything to a child this age, she cannot escape the pressure to compete as she

is heavily influenced by society and traditions. Although the results of this pageant may

harm her daughter, they may be more harmful to Anne as she knows all too well how

opinions and judgments impact self-esteem.

       Anne knows the power of judgments and how they can affect a person‟s self-

worth. It is something that she has constantly struggled with. Not accepted by people in

high school, Anne turned to both a private school and pageants to help her cope. Her

physical stature was by far not up to par with those seen in the media. She is aware of

her flaws and is determined to fix them. Just as judgments are passed on her, she in turn

judges her own body against other females. Even though Anne has much more going for

her than her looks, she continues to dwell on this imperfection and has fallen victim to

the way in which females are produced.

       Looking at Anne‟s situation through a cultural theory lens, she tried extremely

hard to represent something that she was not. Going back to Stuart Hall‟s theory of

representation (1997), “meaning is produced and exchanged” through popular culture, the

home, and school (p.15). Anne saw the images around her and knew that she must

represent herself the same way in order to become accepted. She noted that growing up

she was a tomboy and had to learn how to like frilly dresses. She turned to pageants to

discipline her body and learn how to properly act as a female. The stereotypes were

there, and she saw others fulfilling them. These were the people who were popular in

school and got the attention that Anne craved. The images seen in society are

representations of others‟ opinions, and these become the standards for society. Anne

continues to represent the ideals of her Southern tradition through her work for a state

politician. The way in which others perceive her is important to Anne‟s esteem. She

experienced hardships when she did not represent herself they way others deemed

appropriate. Representations are important in the way that females are perceived and the

perpetuation of their status. Traditions are highly influential on the representations that

are seen, and greatly affect the suppression of females, especially in the South where

patriarchal views are dominant.

                                         CHAPTER 3


        The slow Southern drawl may be the first thing you notice about Elizabeth. She is

kind-hearted and uses her manners religiously. Rather shy, she does not seek out

attention from others. Not too short, and not too tall, Elizabeth is an average sized

twenty-year old. Her family has a strong relationship that expands from just her

immediate family. Elizabeth has several of her extended family members close by, and

she can often be found spending time with them. Although she now attends college, she

goes to a school that is very close to her hometown. Her ties are strong, and she relies

heavily on their support. Her Southern upbringing is just as traditional as several

generations before her.

Life Lessons: A Look into Elizabeth’s Problem

        Long dirt roads winding through vast areas of land surrounded by large fences,

plantation style homes, great oak and magnolia trees, fried chicken, sweet tea, and pickup

trucks are just some of the images conceived when thinking of the South. The women

living in the South are also characterized by certain traits. These Southern Belles are

easy on the eyes and just as pleasant to listen to with their Southern drawl. Known for

their kindness and hospitality, Southern women are often seen as pure and followers of

God. “And who, exactly, was a Southern woman? „The loveliest and the purest of God‟s

creatures, the nearest thing to an angelic being that treads this terrestrial ball is a well-

bred, cultured Southern white woman or her blue-eyed, golden-haired little girl‟”

(Graham, 2001, p. 18). The pureness of a Southern Belle could not be found elsewhere.

Their traits set them apart from other women. Being well-bred, and the way in which

children are raised, involve traditions being passed along through family lines.

        Many Southern women are Christians. “Middle class parents, mothers

particularly, attempt to participate in, and to direct all of, the child‟s activity. The child is

sent regularly to Sunday school and to church” (Davis, Gardner & Gardner, 1965, p.

104). The church helps develop the sincere, pure being that Southern females are

supposed to be. The role of the mother is very important in this development as well.

The mother selects the activities and stays involved in them. The relationship then

strengthens, and this tradition is passed down to future generations.

        Southern females are expected to constantly perform the duties that have been

deemed appropriate for them. Valerie Walkerdine (1994) recognized that whether it is at

work, school, or home, females always take their place on the stage.

        We are used, too, to dramaturgical metaphors that tell us that life is a performance

        in which we do nothing but act out a series of roles or indeed that these roles can

        be peeled away like layers of an onion to reveal a repressed core, a true self,

        which has been inhibited, clouded by the layers of social conditioning which

        obscure it. (p. 57)

A female‟s identity is constructed by social conditioning that oppresses the mind, forcing

them into stereotypical roles. They continue to perform according to what is deemed

appropriate through strong traditions in a patriarchal society. Here is a look at

Elizabeth‟s performance.

Elizabeth’s Story

           A true Southern debutante, Elizabeth grew up in a well-known family who

ensured that their Southern traits were passed down to their two daughters. Born and

raised in her current town, Elizabeth holds an advantage over many others. Her family

has deep roots dating back many generations. Her family makes a good living, although

none too excessive. Her family name is known by many people, thus creating an

advantage for her. Elizabeth‟s dad works at City Hall where he runs Building

Inspections, and Elizabeth‟s mother works as a civilian on the Army base. Her parents

are married and can be found together often. She has a younger sister who she spends a

lot of time with. In the past, Elizabeth has volunteered as a cheerleading coach for the

youth through her local Recreation Department, as well as participated in activities


           TV is not my thing. For one I don‟t feel like I have time to sit down and watch TV,

especially being in college. I mean there are certain shows that I do enjoy watching but

it is not the kind of thing that all my friends do like “Oh my gosh I have got to be home in

ten minutes, this show is coming on.” I watch… let me think… I like the real housewives

of California and that kind of thing and I do watch pageants, Miss America and Miss

Universe, and that kind of thing when it comes on. The main thing that I watch is sports.

Me and my dad, I mean if it‟s anything it‟s me and my dad sitting down watching a

football game or a baseball game or something.

           I played softball and I cheered. I came to Liberty County and played softball for

a year in high school. That‟s when I found out public school wasn‟t my cup of tea, and I

went back to private school where I cheered my senior year. I won a national title and

individual cheerleading, I won state level in cheerleading. I was involved in a lot of

things because pageants only took up your Friday or Saturday.

       I have been in roughly about fifteen. I won seven titles. I was twelve when I

competed in my first pageant. My cousin Jennifer initiated my first pageant, Liberty

County Junior Miss. She was the current title holder and she told me, “Hey come try

this.” And I did. It was my very first pageant and I won it. So that‟s what started it.

       Being in a beauty pageant I guess makes me feel, not so much while I am in the

beauty pageant, but after when I get my scorecard and see the comments that they‟ve

made. For one, it boosts my self-esteem to see gorgeous smile, gorgeous eyes, stuff that I

know is naturally mine without all this stuff. But also when they point out your flaws. I

use it as some construction criticism, in a good way I take it. It‟s the stuff that I get

criticized on is stuff that I can use in everyday life. Like the way I answer my questions

or hold your shoulders back, which all goes back to the good posture thing. So I use it as

a tool really and it makes me. I guess the way I feel about them. I know younger kids it

is not the best thing for them because they are so young and they haven‟t figured out who

they are yet. I know when I was twelve if I would have lost that pageant I probably would

have been upset. I have a little sister who also does them. She is four years younger than

me and she is more outgoing. She is very outgoing. So she wins a lot more because of

her outgoing personality. So I see that there are things that I need to change when I am

compared to other people.

       Perceptions of the self are often created by making comparisons to other people.

Whether we live up to standards or not, judgments are passed on other individuals to

measure our own worth. Glancing through a Victoria‟s Secret magazine will more often

than not make a female feel down on her appearance. Photo Shopped, flawless bodies

leave viewers critiquing their own bodies and possible ways to achieve that look.

Pageants also allow young girls to compare themselves to the contestants on the stage and

attempt to copy what they see. "Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a real

combination of beauty, grace, and intelligence, artistic and refined. She is a type which

the American Girl might well emulate" (Hickman in Miss America, 2008). Comparisons

happen both on and off stage, and the good qualities that are seen are often attempted to

be copied. When comparisons are made, people strive to be the one who is victorious.

No one likes to lose.

       I think my high school pageant was probably the hardest for me, because it‟s

really hard to go up against your friends. I mean even though you are going into it for

the fun of things, everybody still wants to win or else you wouldn‟t have signed up for it

regardless of what anyone says. It was hard for me because there was some girls that

just downright by God, they knew they were gonna walk out of there with the crown, and

they knew it the whole time, and they would act like they were a step better than you. In

all reality we‟re all the same age, we all go to the same school, and our parents all pay

the same thing. Seeing my sister, my sister won the pageant when she was a freshman

and she was the sixth one in thirty-seven years to win it and she lost three friends over

that. My sister knew she wasn‟t going to win. She was a freshman and there was

fourteen seniors in it. It‟s bad. That makes it not fun when you see that happen. Me and

my sister are at a age now where we are in the same age group. So I‟ve kind of put

pageants to the side the ones that she‟s entering, because she‟s so young so I just do the

ones that I‟m only in so we don‟t have to go against each other. It‟s hard, like I‟ve said,

watching my sister, I‟ve never lost a friend over it because, I mean come on it‟s a

pageant. You know, it‟s not your fame and glory and one day it‟s going to grow old and

your crowns are going to go in the attic or maybe the trashcan. So I mean if it ever came

to that point, I was like it‟s not worth my time or money to lose a friend over.

       Family and friends are important to Elizabeth, and the tight-knit bonds that exist

allow for traditions to be passed down. From these, gender roles are carried on and

identities are formed. When a family is close, simple events, such as eating dinner, allow

for gender roles to become defined. “In anticipation of their adult roles, boys and girls

are almost everywhere put into different „learning environments‟ with different categories

of „social partners‟ (Bem, 1993, p. 134). Women often take on the task of preparing and

serving the meal. The men typically eat and then relax afterwards on the couch or

outside. The women are left to clean up the kitchen. This same scenario could have been

seen with several generations before.

       Think of yourselves like actors in a play. Your family‟s beliefs are the scripts.

       Your family‟s particular script tells each of you how you‟re supposed to act and

       what to expect from each other as you age. You each act out your roles in father-

       daughter, mother-daughter, and husband-wife pairings. I am not saying that

       there‟s no freedom in families to deviate from our scripts. I am saying, though,

       that long before you were born, your father‟s beliefs and your mother‟s beliefs

       about how fathers were supposed to act and what father-daughter relationships

       were supposed to be were creating the scripts that you and your father eventually

       would act out. (Nielsen, 2004, p. 3)

Traditions have great control over relationships that are formed throughout generations.

Whether aware or unaware, lessons are learned through every day observations. Children

are educated by the environments they are in, and with time, the younger generations fall

into their expected roles, allowing this cycle to continue.

Role Call

       The traditional Southern family has clear lines that define certain role

expectations. The father is seen as head of the household whose job it is to provide

financially for the family. “Eighty percent of the fathers in our country earn most of the

money for their families” (Nielsen, 2004, p. 25). Being the breadwinner also brings

strength and superiority to the father. Most of their time is spent taking care of the

family, not spending time with the family. Generally, this allows for children to develop

stronger relationships with their mothers.

       My dad definitely does not get involved in that kind of stuff (pageants). Dad just

pays the bills. I feel that there are fathers who probably do get involved like on these TV

shows. Like I said, my dad just gives the money to pay for it. He is not my costume

designer by no means. Some pageants recommend you getting a sponsor to pay. I have

only done that once. My parents have paid for it every other time.

       There‟s really two people that I look up to. My mom being the first one, because

my mom obviously busts her butt everyday to provide me and my sister with the very best

and still somehow finds time to have friends of her own and do things that she likes to do.

But also at the same time, she‟s still pleasing us while she is doing something that she

wants to do. She has never told me and my sister “no,” not that I think that‟s a good

thing, but it‟s anything that she‟s been able to provide us, which she‟s been able to. I

also look up to my cousin, Mandy, because taking her situation coming into things, I

know I would have never been able to do what she did. And to stay home with those two

kids and still be able to work part-time, it‟s just incredible. She wants to stay a part of

her children‟s lives, and she doesn‟t want them to be in a daycare somewhere.

       In her eyes, Elizabeth‟s father is seen as the breadwinner for the family. He does

not take part in picking out her pageant attire, but he is the one that provides this

opportunity for her. When asked who she looks up to, her father was not mentioned.

Although he provides the financial support, he is not connected to her pageants. That is a

time that allows her to bond with her mother. She credits her mom for working hard, but

she notes that her mom does anything to please her and her sister. Her mom takes her

motherly role just as important as her career. Elizabeth also respects her cousin, Mandy,

who is basically a stay-at-home-mom. Shortly after high-school Mandy started dating

Elizabeth‟s cousin and became pregnant. They quickly got married and started their life

in the fast lane. Now, her part-time job consists of helping her husband with their family-

owned business. Both of these families clearly depict the stereotypical Southern family.

The dad works hard, and the females are concerned about their image in the public eye

and pleasing others. Southern women aim to please all people, especially her husband

once she is married.

        Mama‟s advice was heavy on two particular points: You need to keep a fire

       going in both the bedroom and the kitchen. Southern Mamas across the board

       believe if a girl tends to these blazes, she won‟t have to worry about her Sweet

       Thang volunteering with anyone else‟s department. (Rushing-Tomlinson, 2008,

       p. 72)

It is a woman‟s job to ensure that her man stays fed and taken care of sexually. If a

woman does this well, she will not have to worry about competing with other women

over her husband. Just as a wife is expected to capture the heart and eye of her husband,

women are given the chance to capture the public eye by participating in beauty pageants,

which the South is well-known for.

Cotton Pickin’ What?

       The South is host to numerous beauty pageants which often have extremely

unique titles up for grabs. Since the media took hold and introduced pageants to the

public in the 1950s, the South has paraded a lineup of beautiful women.

       Four months after the Brown decision, at the beginning of the nation‟s school

       year, the mythology‟s iconography received a shot of adrenaline with the first

       telecast of the Miss America pageant. Throughout the decade and well into the

       1960s, Americans watched a succession of southern white women win the crown

       (five alone between 1957 and 1964); contestants from Mississippi, in fact, won

       consecutive titles in 1959 and 1960, and the University of Mississippi became

       famous as a “hothouse for nurturing beauty.” (Graham, 2001, p. 19)

The public fell in love with Southern women and earned a reputation of cultivating

beauties. This reputation has not changed much in more than one-hundred years. In

1897, Miss Jessie A. Fowler made the statement:

       “The Southern girl has generally soft, velvety cheeks that are radiant and bright

       with Southern sunshine, and her voice is mellow, light, and sweet. She has a

       pleasant smile, easy grace, and restful yet animated manners, which play havoc

       with the hearts of young men.” (Woman: The Girl up to Date, 1897)

These characteristics are still used to describe Southern women today. This is proof that

Southern tradition continuously produces females that are very similar to previous

generations. It was also noted that these Southern women played havoc on the hearts of

men. Once a certain type of woman catches men‟s eyes, that image will appear more

readily in the media.

       The broadcast of pageants allowed pageants to grow in popularity. Aside from

the large pageants, local pageants began to pop up around the South. According to

Pageant Center‟s calendar, New York has listed two upcoming pageants for the month of

April while Georgia has listed ten upcoming pageants. (Pageant Calendar, 2010)

Although this website does not list all pageants occurring in each state, it gives a nice

representation of how pageants in the South far outnumber those in the North. When

analyzing why this is so, it helps to take a look at the political views of each.

       Overall, Southerners tend to be more conservative than Northerners. They

preserve tradition and value family. Generally, Northerners embrace choice and look to

help all people. The Southern emphasis on tradition continuously produces females that

are similar to their previous generations. They are taught to pay close attention to their

physical appearance, and thus, beauty pageants are rampant in the South.

       Some pageants in Georgia that have recently been held are the Liberty County

Junior Miss, Miss Portal Turpentine, Little Miss Dazzling Darling, and the Cotton Pickin‟

Pageant. The names alone distinguish themselves as being Southern. Many local events

attach a beauty pageant to their agenda to draw more attention and participation. These

allow select local participants to have numerous titles under their belt.

       I have participated in every level of pageants. I‟ve done county, state, and

national pageants. The national pageants are very glitzy, a lot of fake, not yourself kind

of stuff. County is more natural, but you still have your touch of glitz. The statewide

pageants are very fast-paced and kind of glitzy, fake but in your interview, they look for a

more down-to-earth kind of person. I like the more natural in the interview but more

glitz on stage, thicker makeup, bigger hair-dos, that kind of thing.

       We pay someone to do our hair and makeup. Our whole face is airbrushed on.

That is for makeup, for if you get her to do your makeup for interview, which I don‟t, I do

my own makeup for interview, because it‟s a more natural kind of thing. But your

onstage for casual, and then a new hairdo for formal is one-hundred fifty dollars. So the

stress and the frustration of you not having to do it yourself is worth one-hundred fifty


       The Miss Georgia Sweet Onion Pageant in Glennville last April I think it was,

and that was a very natural pageant. There was twenty-two girls in it and I felt that I did

the very best in my interview that I have ever done in any interview. I felt like I did the

very best on stage that I had ever done. And I was told by many, many people who have

seen me perform and go on stage before that that was the best they have ever seen me

look on stage. They were like you definitely have top ten if not top five. Well it came

down to time for the top ten, and not to be conceited, but I saw girls that I knew, for one,

I was way older than some of the girls so I knew that I had a better chance. And I felt

when the pageant coordinator for Georgia Southern told me that I was outstanding and

gorgeous on stage, I thought well that says something that someone from a different level

said something. I didn‟t even place in the top ten. That‟s when I was like “Woah, what

happened?” They weren‟t giving out score sheets at the end. And it all came down

basically that I wasn‟t from Glennville and my mom and dad didn‟t have an onion field,

so that‟s what it all boiled down to. They take you for who you are and won‟t look

beyond that.

       Glennville is similar to Elizabeth‟s hometown in many ways. The families who

are well-established are given power over others. “Informally, or through the social

systems of the community, they can implement their policies” (Mitchell, & Moore, n.d.).

Their local connections allow them to use their power in a selfish way. The “you scratch

my back, I‟ll scratch yours” goes a long way in small towns. Personal agendas, both

professionally and personally, are able to be met. In both towns, there is not much room

for out-of-town competition. With deep roots grow deep benefits. After this, Elizabeth

realized that she had that same advantage in her hometown. "Something happens to

individuals when they realize they have power. Goals and aspirations become entangled

with motive, ambition, character, and ego, often flavored by greed and self

aggrandizement” (Henrichs, n.d.). The power that locals possess is used to reach their

goals. Whether these are small or large, instead of achieving them individually, their

local pull is used to get them where they want to be. Although Elizabeth was hurt by

losing a pageant in another small town, she continued to participate in pageants in her

hometown. It was here that she had ties and used them to her advantage to attain the

titles she wanted.

       Honestly here in Hinesville I think it happens a lot, because the same lady does

all of the pageants and she also owns a dress shop. I feel that if you buy one of her

dresses, or you support her business, you are more than likely going to win her pageant.

I think a lot of it is based on how you present yourself, but I also think that she has some

pull on it because she tabulates the scores, which I don‟t think is fair at all.

Southern Sets

       Most of the time beauty pageants are set to judge girls, although there are a few

where there are male participants. This is proof that society puts a lot of pressure on

women to look pretty, according to what is expected. Aside from attending local beauty

pageants, the media helps to promote the popularity to its viewers. Several television

shows, movies, actual pageants, and pageant reality shows portray the accepted female on

the big and small screens. However, Southern females are perceived differently than

other females. Movies such as Gone with the Wind, Steel Magnolias, and TV shows such

as Dukes of Hazzard set the stage for such perceptions.

       The movie Steel Magnolias speaks volumes about Southern females merely from

its title. The title suggests that while females should be soft and pretty as magnolias, they

also have to be made of steel to withstand the hardships they experience. This movie is

centered on the relationship between a mother and daughter and stories that evolve from

the local hair salon. It is of great importance that a large majority of the plot takes place

in a hair salon. Here, Southern females spent hours upon hours having their hair,

makeup, and fingernails done, while gossiping to stay abreast of the town‟s happenings.

This movie focused on a small group of women that experienced life-changing events

together. Shelby (the daughter) spent much of her time with her mother. The maternal

relationship was emphasized and developed as the father spent time away at work, as

found in other traditional Southern homes. Shelby and her mother spent several hours of

their day together, often focusing on Shelby‟s upcoming wedding.

       During Shelby‟s wedding, the owner of the hair salon and another friend were

gossiping about a lady on the dance floor. When referring to the way she looked in her

dress, which she was not wearing a girdle underneath, they said that “…it looks like two

pigs fighting under a blanket” (Ross, 1989). Not leaving the house without lycra on the

thighs meant that you were brought up right. These two Southern women were quick to

judge and gossip about another woman. Not following proper etiquette was not

acceptable according to the values they learned and honored. This same sort of judgment

is passed through the many pageants that the South hosts, highlighting those females that

possess this same type of traditional values.

       When Shelby returned from her honeymoon, she made it in time for her town‟s

Holiday Festival. A pageant, Miss Merry Christmas, was held at the festival, amidst

booths that served food and hosted other activities. It was here when Annelle, a worker

at the salon, revealed her new self. She went from getting divorced, to being a wild party

animal, to becoming a devout Christian woman. The word of God powered her every

move, and she could not have a conversation without turning it into a religious one. This

is a distinct characteristic of many Southern women. Their religion helps shape them into

the pure, gentle creatures they are expected to be.

       Not long after, Shelby announced that she was pregnant. Her mother was not

happy with the news because she knew that it could be dangerous to her health (she had

diabetes). Shelby always sought her mother‟s approval and needed that constant in her

life. As Shelby laid dying in the hospital, the men in her life could not stand to watch.

The mother, being a steel magnolia, watched as her daughter passed. She then lived her

life to find great joy in her grandson. When her daughter passed, she clung tightly to her

family. This is an example of how Southern people tend to value family, and the deep

bonds that are formed through relationships help ensure family traditions remain.

        This movie once again defines the differences between males and females. The

females spent numerous hours gossiping in a beauty salon where they were focused on

their looks. The men were occupied with work and pastimes such as hunting. Shelby

always wanted her mother‟s approval for everything that she did, and her mother worried

constantly, trying to control every part of Shelby‟s life that she could. Once Shelby had

the baby, the baby would make trips to the beauty salon. The roles were distinct as this

sad story unfolded in a small Louisiana town.

        Similarly, the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, portrays similar gender roles.

Two cousins, Bo and Luke Duke, spent their days full of racing and moon-shining. They

were always in trouble with the local officials in their small Georgia hometown, which

usually landed them in a chase with Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. Bo and Luke were

innocent of many of the crimes that they were charged with. The big wig in town, Boss

Hogg, was a greedy man who plotted and schemed to constantly get his hands on more

money. He was the wealthiest man in Hazzard County and because of this, he had great

pull. In cases where he should have been arrested, he used his money to his advantage

and got away with merely a slap on the wrist.

        Although Bo and Luke did not have money on their side, they did implement the

resources that they had. Their attractive cousin, Daisy Duke, used her Southern charm to

sweet talk the officials in order to flirt her cousins out of any trouble.

        There are two types of flirting-seductive and social. Any woman worth her

        weight in lip gloss knows how to flirt seductively, but the art of social flirting was

       born and perfected in the South. It comes as naturally to Southern women as the

       air we breathe, providing a pulsating heartbeat to our personal charisma. (Rich,

       1999, p. 91)

Southern women are raised to be kind, but they also know how to transform this into

flirting when the time is necessary. This social flirting allows Southern women to

captivate men and charm them. Not meaning anything sexual by this flirting, Southern

women can use social flirting on all males. The way in which Daisy Duke dressed added

to her appeal as she flirted. She dressed in revealing ways, leaving her mark on the

fashion world coining “Daisy Dukes” the term for short shorts. Her traits helped to paint

her as an ideal example of a Southern woman. When made into a movie in 2005, Jessica

Simpson was chosen to play Daisy Duke. With the looks, charm, and personality to

match, this Southern Belle from Texas fit the character perfectly.

       I think the media portrays a woman to be perfect. They think a woman should live

up to the standards that they set, when in reality every woman has their own standards.

Some people can‟t achieve the goals that others can. I feel that money is a problem, or

they just don‟t want to be like that kind of person. I think the media wants every normal

down-to- life woman to look like your movie stars. Yes, I do, I think that we, Southern

women, are more laid back than most. I know that I can get up out of my bed, brush my

hair and brush my teeth and throw on a t-shirt and go somewhere and not care at all

what someone thinks. But I have a friend who lives in LA and would not think at all of

walking out of her bedroom without makeup and dressed up. I feel that Southern women

do dress up, and when they dress up they are very presentable. And I think our style is a

whole lot more conservative than Northerners and people who live in a high city life and

that kind of thing.

        Southerners have strong characteristics that set them apart from others. Even

when they are not dressed to a “T”, they are still able to captivate the attention of others

through their charm. However, it is important to note that popular culture can purposely

hinder perceptions of the Southern population. Just as with other forms of media, certain

characteristics are often exaggerated for pleasure and enjoyment. Elizabeth also noticed

this point after watching several reality TV shows on pageants.

        I think that what they are showing is the whole wrong point of view. I think they

just do it to get people to watch it, and of course they are going to put the big drama-

filled families in there. I think that these shows are scripted and I think they do that just

to draw attention. That is not how any pageant I have ever participated in has been like.

I know the moment that my mom yells at me because I am not doing what she tells me to

do on stage is when I am going to give it up and quit. Or if me and my mom fight over

what happens. I mean my mom will give me her “You should have done this, you should

have done that” but it‟s never a fight, you are on restriction, you didn‟t win this pageant

kind of thing.

        Exaggerations are made with everything: pageants, homosexuals, Caucasians,

African-Americans, Southerners, and several others. Not all Southerners live in trailer

parks, speak with an accent, and eat fried chicken for dinner. Not all Southern females

are pure, kind, and beautiful. For those who were born and raised in the South, traits

from their families are soaked in from childhood. Besides the family, the school serves

as another breeding ground for these traits.

Learning to be a Good Girl

       When the word gender is used, the words male and female are used. These words

are often associated with common performances expected of each group. It is not a

female‟s job to tend to the house and children while a male‟s job is to provide for the

family. Instead of these stereotypical traits that seem to define us, the connection

between the two should be focused on. This is where television shows, and other forms

of popular culture, help to reproduce the stereotypical gender specific traits that exist.

       When looking at the roles of women portrayed through popular culture, it has to

be questioned who is responsible for the scripts. Often times, males still hold the higher

ranking jobs such as producer. The way that women are portrayed is hence determined

by males who are looking to make their show entertaining. “Television‟s view of women

is influenced partly by what its creators think the audience wants, partly by that they

think it needs, and partly by the stereotypes and assumptions they inadvertently project

onto their creations” (Lichter, Lichter & Rothman, 1994, p. 147). These three aspects are

put together to make a show that is entertaining without paying much attention to the

unfair representations within. All three areas stated above boil down to what men are

looking for in a show. The males once again dominate the way society will view

females. It is from their opinions that other people form their own beliefs about gender

roles. The ideal woman that is described above portrays the perfect woman that the

majority of men would prefer. What is seen on television is a reflection of the opinions

of its audience.

       It is widely known that there is a large gap in respect and status between men and

women. Society has strict rules in place for women and of these, physical appearance is

at the top. Popular culture plays a large role in reproducing this expectation through

plastering images of women that meet this standard on television, movie screens, music

videos, and magazine pages. These images are taken in and become a force that most

women choose to deal with. In addition to popular culture, the school is generally seen as

a safe haven for children, but quite the opposite is true for females.

       Behavior charts, stickers, and other rewards are desired by students. However,

these are often expected to be gained by females in the educational setting. Boys are

expected to behave more defiantly, choosing to break the rules. Their rambunctious

actions are excused by their gender. “Oh he‟s just being a boy” is a statement that is

often heard. Teachers expect them to break the rules, and they are willing to bend them

for males. Girls on the other hand are expected to behave appropriately and remain quiet.

I have been guilty of reminding girls to behave more lady-like. However, what exactly

does lady-like mean?

       In schools, the American Association of University Women found “the lessons of

       the hidden curriculum teach girls to value silence and compliance, to view those

       qualities as a virtue.” Journalist Peggy Orenstein found that girls value in each

       other a social characteristics of “sweet” and “cute,” a term she found

       interchangeable with “deferential,” polite,” or “passive.” The good girl, Orenstein

       concluded, “is nice before she is anything else-before she is vigorous, bright, or

       even honest.” (Simmons, 2002, p. 106)

As long as girls behave, nothing else matters quite as much. Other characteristics are put

on the backburner and not pushed because females sit passively as they are taught,

aiming to please others.

       “…Southern girls found that becoming a lady was a complicated and lengthy

       process. Becoming a lady meant giving up childish play for adult pursuits-and

       adopting new clothing that both symbolized and enforced the decorum expected

       of young ladies. It also meant adopting a gentle, agreeable manner-and, hopefully

       the morality that reinforced and made genuine the display of amiability required

       of southern ladies. Ultimately however, becoming a lady meant learning to please

       others.” (Jabour, 2007, p. 19)

Females‟ academics suffered as a result of this. Pleasing others was, and still is, a

requirement of Southern females. While at school, pleasing others meant remaining quiet

and not questioning what was taught. While males are pushed to continuously strive to

do better, females are left where they are because they are hushed and do not draw

attention to themselves.

       Teachers generally are more forgiving of boys. However, they are quick to notice

when girls are not doing as requested. “…stereotypes of garrulous and gossipy women

are so strong that when groups of administrators and teachers are shown films of

classroom discussion and asked who is talking more, the teachers overwhelmingly choose

the girls” (McLaren, 1998/2007, p. 212). Teachers expect girls to behave and remain

quiet throughout the day so whenever they do slightly break the rules, the teachers are

quick to realize it. The actions of boys are overlooked and the focus becomes on the girls

who are not doing what they should be doing.

       As educators, we often give into gender stereotypes whether we realize it or not.

We may comment to girls about the way they look or to boys on how well they play a

sport. All of this continues the assumptions about gender roles. In previous years spent

teaching kindergarten, first, and second grades, it is easy to see that kids quickly pick up

on the expected roles of their gender. The boys gravitate towards physical activities such

as sports and blocks during free time inside. The girls tend to stick together and play

house and school. They have already fallen into the stereotypical behavior that is seen on

television and conveyed through tradition, especially Southern tradition.

       Women‟s roles have often been associated with domestic and conjugal roles and

       these maternal roles have had profound effects on women‟s lives, on ideology

       about women, on the reproduction of masculinity and sexual inequality and the

       particular forms of labor power. (Onyejekwe, 2005, p. 279)

Because females are the gender who has the ability to birth children, they are expected to

be motherly. Males are often excused from duties such as these. Previously examining

the works of Madeleine Grumet, traditions perpetuate women‟s status in society because

males are taught that in order to be masculine, they must dismiss everything female. Acts

such as childbearing must be neglected in order to become properly masculine. These

views are taught through families, and the gender roles stick. These traditional views of

gender roles bleed into education, and educators should bring this issue to the table. By

raising the issue and allowing discussion, students may come to question traditions and

fight for their individual right to form their own identities. If not done so in the school

environment, it may never be a problem that is addressed in the home.

       Even after graduating school, the same stereotypes exist for jobs and careers.

Motherly jobs and careers, such as teaching and nursing, are dominated by females. The

more physical or high intellectual jobs, such as lawyers, construction workers, and

doctors, are dominated by males. The school environment creates these gender specific

jobs through the curriculum. Looking through a feminist lens, “[w]hen the activities and

experiences traditionally associated with women are excluded from the educational realm

and when that realm is defined in terms of male activities and experiences, then these

become the education norms for all human beings” (Martin, 1994, p. 116). Activities

performed by females, such as sewing, cooking, and home decorating, are not infused to

the educational realm, unless as a mere elective for one portion of the year. This

demonstrates that these lack importance and significance in society, while male-

dominated activities fill the educational day. Males are able to deepen their skills, and

the rigid educational norms continue. Children as young as those in preschool begin

preparing for these educational norms through free play activities. A stroll down any toy

isle will prove that gender roles are filtered down through children‟s toys.

       Many parents worry about rigid sex-typing when their daughters are small. They

       carefully dress their girls in blue and buy them tractors. That‟s okay, but the time

       to really worry is early adolescence. That‟s when the gender roles get set in

       cement, and that‟s when girls need tremendous support in resisting the cultural

       definitions of femininity. (Pipher, 1994, p. 347)

When children are young, the sex-typing is not as relevant as it is when adolescents are

able to understand and absorb the differences. It is here when parents and teachers

should encourage exploration of things such as girls playing sports, and more

importantly, an intense, meaningful introduction to male-dominated subjects such as

mathematics and science. It is also important that these young adults learn about the

problem and act on them.

Time to Wake Up

       Before any action can occur, it is necessary to recognize that there is a problem

that separates the mind from the body. Even in pageants that award scholarship money,

the message that is portrayed is that although females are worthy of scholarships, their

physical beauty remains a top priority. As long as this separation remains unexplored,

females, especially Southern females operating in a strong patriarchal society influenced

heavily by tradition, will continue to perform as expected. This will continue the cycle

that unknowingly reproduces a culture of oppressed women who focus on disciplining the

body and imprisoning the mind.

       Pageants make me feel good about myself. It was here in town and I was going

against two girls that were four years older than me. And I just downright knew that I

wasn‟t going to win. They were four years older than me and it was 75% interview. I

was like, you know it‟s a good learning opportunity. I went into it more so just to see the

state level judges, because I was getting ready to go to a state level pageant so I wanted

to see what they would say on my score sheet and everything. Like I said, I went into it

knowing that I wasn‟t going to win and in the end I won, and it just shocked me. They

said my interview level was above and beyond what was expected of a, at the time I was

eighteen years old. It made me feel like I accomplished something somewhere.

       There is where the problem begins. One must first realize that there is a problem.

Elizabeth is a bright young lady who made good grades in school and now attends

college. She has accomplished several things in her life other than winning tiaras, and

this one statement by a judge made her feel like she accomplished something significant

in her life. She measured her worth through pageants, not her other accomplishments.

The focus remained on her physical body, a separate entity from her mind. Elizabeth

dwelled on this praise without realizing what and who she is. Approval and acceptance

based on her body is how she measured her success.

       All too often we take things at face value without questioning them. We see the

images that are thrown in our faces but do many people question why this happens?

       Until the educational system from kindergarten to high school reevaluates the

       working-class culture of femininity, schools will continue to underwrite the

       restricted and inferior role of women and function as sorting and processing

       stations through which girls are prepared for a lifetime of labor or dependency on

       men…” (McLaren, 1998/2007, p. 234)

Schools are part of the factory connection in which creates girls ready for a man‟s

society. They serve as an educational setting not only for academics, but the real world

as well. Schools are especially influential in the lives of students and also become a basis

for their beliefs. They fall victim to tradition, and until educators realize the role

education plays in continuing gender roles, the unfortunate results will continue.

       Our culture by no means depicts an ideal one, especially for girls. Girls are not

given the same opportunities as boys because their physical appearance is emphasized

above all other characteristics. Even in schools, boys excel in the core academic subjects

such as science and math.

       While girls are enrolling in college and earning degrees in greater numbers than

       boys, boys still dominate the technical fields, such as computer science,

       engineering and math – fields the federal Department of Labor says are the fastest

       growing in America. It‟s the boys who have emerged as the best-prepared for jobs

       of the future, most of which will require high-level math, computer and technical

       skills. One person who is seeking to put girls on equal footing in math and

       science is Dr. Pamela S. Clute, a longtime math professor at UC Riverside. The

       majority of college students today are women, but fewer than 1/3 are majoring in

       math, science, engineering or another technical field, she notes with concern.

       Women tend to gravitate instead toward the humanities, she says. “The girls have

       the ability, but they don‟t have the interest. Our ladies are not being prepared for

       the future,” Clute says. (Bentley, 2008)

Females bear various strengths and gifts but these often go unexplored. It is not that they

cannot perform well in these technical jobs that are occupied by males; they simply do

not want to do them. Society does not allow females to further develop these types of

skills to initiate an interest. Instead, they focus on molding them into the cookie-cutter

role already created for them. In the book, The Southern Belle‟s Handbook: Sissy

LeBlanc‟s Rules to Live By, different rules are given in order to remain a true Southern

Belle. “Rule #48: It's okay for a woman to know her place, she just shouldn't stay there”

(Despres, 2003, p. 67). Place, as it refers to here, means rank in society. Males are seen

as superior to women and therefore hold more power. Women are taught not to question

this, but rather submit to the greater gender. Regardless of advances in society, Southern

women are taught that even if the roles are changed and the female holds the power, she

should still put males before herself. Building the male ego is a characteristic of true

Southern Belles. This type of statement is exactly what needs to be fought. Women

should know their place and be able to change that place as they desire. Girls need to be

encouraged to explore the areas of life that are appealing to them, not what is okayed by

men and society.

Cookie-Cutter Girls

        My school pageant, Miss Pinewood Christian Academy, was over a course of six

months. It started in the very beginning. You learned etiquette and that kind of stuff. So

I did other things with pageants. We learned etiquette, table manners, posture, walking,

standing, interviews, not only interviews for pageants, but interviews for your jobs and

that kind of thing. Every Wednesday night we had bible study with the girls who were all

in the pageant, and it was mandatory that you come. We learned dance, a dance for the

beginning, and although it‟s fun and a bonding time, it also counted towards your score

whether you were there and whether you participated and that kind of thing. But I also

was in dance for thirteen years. Like I said pageants are just a one day thing. I did take

my lessons out of Savannah for pageants, but I also looked at it as an extracurricular

activity, I mean it was something that I enjoyed doing.

        The mold for the cookie has been created by generations long before. In the

South, the mold makes females who value religion, family, and kindness. Elizabeth‟s

private Christian school helped to develop these even further. Private Christian schools

are very selective in nature and do not accept people of other religious backgrounds such

as Muslims, Jews, and Atheists. These people would become a threat to the traditions

that have been passed down to their Southern children, inclusive of both males and

females. The Southern mold for males creates physical, critical thinking, and hard-

working beings. Females have been held inferior to men, and this is hard to change. Just

as old habits are hard to kick, this tradition is as well.

       By preserving and cultivating memory, we might understand both our capacity

       and our incapacity for action. Too much memory can consume and kill us;

       without it, though, we risk being ignorant creatures of fate. As De Bois implores,

       one of our greatest tasks is to turn memory (experience, knowledge, and the

       stories from which we draw identity), whatever its burdens, into humane action.

       (Blight, 2000, p. 352)

We learn about history so we do not make the same mistakes again. Southern families

preserve memories and do not question them. It is from these that people find their

identity. Where families have failed to question tradition, schools can pick up the slack.

Schools can serve as the grounds to turn this memory into humane action.

       I do not believe that all pageants are a bad thing. However, women continue to

participate in pageants without thoroughly thinking through what they really are and what

they really stand for. Honestly, until taking graduate classes at Georgia Southern

University, it was something that I never questioned myself. I merely did not know any

better. Until other women become aware of the trap that we are in, the cycle will


       Yes, I would allow my children to participate in pageants if they wanted to, if they

told me that would be something they would be interested in. But I would not put them in

it without them saying it would be something they would like to do. I wouldn‟t force them

to do it. I would not, however, put my baby in a pageant. No, I would not hold my child

on stage.

       Elizabeth, highly influenced by the deep Southern traditions of her family,

remains unaware of the role she is fulfilling. Her family is very close where “…sexist

roles are upheld as stabilizing traditions” (hooks, 1994, p. 28) Elizabeth learns from her

family how she should act in society, and this sets the groundwork for the day in which

she will have her own family. The social controlling and disenfranchising of Southern

women does not allow them to be placed on the same level as their male counterparts.

Her voice and mind is not given the same power as males, thus, she resorts to perfecting

her image on stage. She sees no problem with children taking their place on the stage

once they are old enough to express their interest in participating in a pageant. However,

as I will explore in Chapter 4, there are many parents, mothers in particular, that think

just the opposite. And so the cycle continues…

                                       CHAPTER 4


       The best word to describe both Juliana and her mom Karen is busy. Karen is a

school nurse and a mother to five children. Her family, consisting of her children, her

husband, and her blind father-in-law, lives in a decent neighborhood, and they drive a van

that was borrowed from a friend while her husband was deployed to Iraq. Until recently,

Karen did not have a stable job, but luckily landed her new position when a former

school nurse began her final battle with cancer. She is not involved in activities for

herself, and noted that as a child she did not compete in beauty pageants, but rather she

stays busy juggling her daughter‟s events.

       Her daughter, Juliana, is physically small compared to others in her seventh grade

class. She excels in dance, always taking the lead role in her studio‟s competition dances.

The skills she has acquired through dance allowed her to place on her middle school‟s

cheerleading squad. Juliana also participates, and has done so throughout her life, in

beauty pageants. On a normal day, Juliana would blend in with her friends and

classmates. However, the Juliana that is seen on stage is a far different child. The

transformation that takes place is remarkable.

Life Lessons: A Look into Juliana’s Problem

       Child beauty pageants have popped up more regularly in the media since the Jon-

Benet Ramsey case. The world was saddened when a child beauty pageant contestant

was found dead, and since then, many have wondered why parents choose to put their

child in the spotlight in such a manner. Although this raised awareness on child beauty

pageants, “[r]arely did the media raise the larger issue of how young girls are being

educated to function within such a limited sphere of cultural life or how such a regressive

education for young girls is more often the norm rather than the exception” (Giroux,

2006, p. 135). Although pageants were being questioned, the larger and most important

issue as to how and why children were educated to think that their participation in these

events was normal remained untouched. Young girls are taught from their surroundings

that beauty should be a top priority, therefore okaying beauty pageants. Parents aid in the

commodification of the body as they take their childhood away and rush children into the

real world. Because of this, regular children are taken and transformed into other beings.

They no longer look like innocent children who should be running around on a

playground playing tag. Instead, they now appeal to the eye as a miniature woman

perfected in every way imaginable.

       Glitz pageants are those that showcase picture-perfect children who have

undergone many treatments to achieve a flawless look. The look is typically achieved

through the application of a spray tan, fake nails, fake teeth, fake eyelashes, fake hair,

tons of makeup, lots of hairspray, and a sparkly wardrobe. One cannot help but realize

the word fake is repetitive in those descriptions. The body becomes a commodity as

purchases are made to transform it into a flawless representation of beauty. Everything

that is a natural part of childhood is covered up to portray the perfect beauty desired by

society. The views of society are those that these children are trying to fulfill. “Frank

Rich wrote a courageous piece in the New York Times in which he argued that the

„strange world of kids‟ pageantry is not a „subculture‟ – it‟s our culture. But as long as

we call it a subculture, it can remain a problem for somebody else‟” (Giroux, 1998, p.

38). It is important to realize that child beauty pageant participants and their families are

not outside of the mainstream of culture. Images of perfected women are what our

culture emphasizes. These individuals are merely filling their roles as expected,

showcasing all of the features that society has emphasized. It is society‟s problem to fix

because it is one that society has created.

Living the Glamorous Life

        If we‟re doing more of a natural type pageant, most of the time you still have to

get a dress. It‟s made most of the time, but then that‟s pretty much it. Then you do what

you do to anyone: to get their nails done, to make sure their hair is cut nice, and stuff

like that. The more natural ones they don‟t want all the stuff on them. They don‟t want

them to look anymore than their age. They want your child, if they‟re eleven, they want

them to look like an eleven year old. If you put on makeup they want like powder and

gloss, and a little bit of something like mascara, because you are under lights. But they

don‟t want anything else. They would much rather see the child‟s personality. But if

you‟re gonna go and do a glitz pageant, which is the full out fake everything, I mean you

will buy the fake hair, the fake tan, the fake nails, the fake teeth. There really is no

resemblance of the child left really except for the child‟s personality. As much as you

can say, that‟s pretty much it. You‟ve covered the child up. You‟ve covered them in

makeup. They have more hair than they were born with, than any child‟s ever been born

with. They are tanned. They have teeth that are perfected because you snap them in.

The only thing that‟s really left is the child‟s personality.

        Karen has entered her daughter Juliana in both types of pageants. Even though

she realizes that in glitz pageants, the only thing that remains of a child is merely their

personality, she allows Juliana to participate in these as well. The kind of pageant that

they enter depends on how well Karen believes Juliana will do. However, she also takes

Juliana‟s feelings about the pageant into consideration before competing.

       That also kinda depends on mood. Right now, I kinda lean towards the glitz type

side for her because she is a paler child. I know it sounds kinda weird but, but she is light

skinned and light haired, and when we do natural pageants they don‟t want you to wear

makeup. When you‟re light-haired and light-skinned and everything else, you can‟t see

your features as well as you can see someone with dark hair and dark skin, so typically

you don‟t do as well. When we do the glitz pageants, she can put makeup on, she can

tan, we can accessorize her or make her just anything she wants to be, and that‟s pretty

much where we‟re leaning right now. I pretty much go with which ever she wants to do.

She has gone through phases. We did do glitz for a long time and then she wanted to do

less stuff so we went with the more natural pageants. Then we took a break. She hasn‟t

done a pageant in probably two years. Now she wants to go back, and she wants to do

the full out glitz. She doesn‟t want to do natural, and I think the reason she doesn‟t want

to is because natural pageants generally include interview once you hit ten to twelve-ish,

and she doesn‟t like interview. She is a quiet kid. You kind of have to pull answers from

her. If she‟s ever going to want to do anything for college or something like that, she‟s

going to have to have someone help her with interview. So that‟s why she is leaning the

other way, so that way she doesn‟t have to speak. She‟s just a lot happier if she doesn‟t

have to talk.

       Instead of the qualities and characteristics that make children unique, glitz

pageants only allow for perfection. Everything that is judged is superficial. The more

natural pageants allow for some resemblance of the child to remain. Only light makeup,

which is still not a necessity for a toddler, is applied. The dresses seem to be a little more

reserved, whereas in a glitz pageant, it is not unusual for dresses and other costumes to be

revealing. Interviews, which allow for interaction between the contestants and judges,

more frequently than not, occur at a natural pageant. Glitz pageants are interested with

the physical beauty that is seen instantly. Sadly, glitz pageants are the ones that are

spotlighted and showcased in the media.

Pageants Take the Large Screen

       The movie Little Miss Sunshine looks into the lives of a dysfunctional family who

share the dream for their daughter to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. The

daughter, Olive, is a normal looking child who wears glasses, has straight, long hair, and

freckles on her face. She is not the type of girl that would often be seen sashaying across

the stage at a beauty pageant. Her mom is a housewife, and her father is a failed

motivational speaker. Her brother vowed to remain silent until he fulfills his dream of

becoming a test pilot. Her uncle, who is a gay scholar, also lives with the family after a

failed suicide attempt. Lastly, Olive is extremely close to her grandfather, who also lives

with them after being kicked out of his retirement home for selling and using heroine.

       During an awkward family dinner, a message from Olive‟s aunt is heard playing

on the answering machine giving her the news that the winner of a pageant that Olive

recently competed in would not be able to compete in the upcoming Little Miss Sunshine

Pageant. Therefore Olive, winning second place, now had the opportunity to compete in

it. The family backs Olive‟s strong desire to compete in the pageant and make the road

trip and their Volkswagen van to California. According to society, each of these

characters is a loser. Although each family member is a little dysfunctional, they put

aside their own desires to help Olive live out her dream of winning a beauty pageant.

       The road trip was not a pleasant one as the family faced problem after problem.

Olive‟s father lost an important contract, her brother broke down after being told he is

colorblind, her grandfather died after a heroin overdose, and they encountered several

mechanical problems with their van. After having a breakdown, Olive‟s brother,

Dwayne, begins to talk again and he says, “„You know what? Fuck beauty contests. Life

is one fucking beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work. Fuck that”‟

(Dayton, 2006). He realizes that competition is alive and well in society, and there is no

escaping it. Individuals are always required to look and give their best in order to out due

one another. It is a disturbing realization, but fortunately he is one of the few that can see

that. Through all of their mishaps, this dysfunctional family learns to lean on and support

one another.

       After arriving at the pageant a couple of minutes late, Olive is ready to compete.

Her family notices that she is quite different from her competition. All of the other

contestants had nice hairdos, tans, fake nails, and other pageant essentials. Regardless,

Olive gave it her best. She performed the act that her grandfather helped choreograph as

a tribute to him. The performance was to the song Super Freak and contained vulgar

moves. The crowd began to shout things, stare in disbelief, and even leave at the sight of

Olive moving seductively across the stage. In order to comfort her from the crowd, one

by one her family joined in her routine on the stage. They were there to support Olive

when nobody else would. Although Olive lost the pageant, the family was able to

achieve the relationship and dependability on one another that was lacking before. Just

as this movie reveals how families, particularly those involved in pageantry, are far from

perfect, this phenomenon has also made its way to reality TV.

Pop Goes Perfection!

       During the week I really don‟t get an opportunity to watch a lot of TV. I‟m

generally really busy. But on the weekend if I get a couple of hours to just sit and do

nothing, yes, I absolutely am not going to move and I could care less what‟s on TV. It‟s

the fact that I am sitting. I don‟t have the opportunity to watch a lot of TV. Sometimes I

will watch Toddlers and Tiaras. I really like it. If I still have work to get done, it‟s going

to have to wait. If I do watch TV, it generally is TLC because I like all of their shows. I

like Cake Boss and Nineteen Kids and Counting. I don‟t know what it is about watching

other people, but that is pretty much the only channel we watch. Except for the kids, and

I‟m not watching any more cartoons.

       The media has taken “people watching” and ran with the concept through the

introduction of reality television shows. These shows publicize areas of life that would

normally remain private. When we watch other people, we pass judgment on them and

compare their lives to our own. For Karen, The Learning Channels‟ lineup of reality TV

shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras, allows her to see people who are similar to herself,

and dream of instant fame like them. Nearly a year ago, Karen put in to be on the show

Toddlers and Tiaras but did not get picked for the episode being filmed at a nearby

location. Instead of participating in this show, Karen watches from her couch as do many

others drawn into the child beauty pageant phenomenon.

       When walking across the stage, it appears that the pageant contestants are as close

to perfect as it gets. Typically, the pageant participants and their families are far from

perfect. Although I have not attended many child beauty pageants, thanks to the media, I

have seen several through TLC‟s Toddlers and Tiaras. This show spotlights a particular

pageant during each episode and follows participants as they prepare for their big debut.

Unlike regular pageants where you only see the performances, this show allows for a

back stage view of what really happens.

        Most of the families appear to be middle class, whose families are run by their

young daughters. More times than not, the daughters are huge brats who pitch fits when

they do not get their way. Perhaps I would be a brat as well if I had my mother spraying

my skin, waxing my eyebrows, teasing my hair, and applying more makeup than a circus

clown. The mothers are normally short-tempered, shouting at their daughters to perform

their best, or bribing them with toys and other materialistic items so they will put on a

great show. A glimpse of the dad may be seen, but they are not the driving force behind

the competition.

        Okay, I am only human, and society influences me as well. As stereotypical as

this may sound, most beauty pageant mothers are not attractive at all. Most of them are

overweight and appear as if they do not take care of themselves. It is almost as if they are

attempting to live through their children, trying hard to fulfill a void that existed in their

own childhood. Their dream for their child‟s success brings out the competiveness in

many mothers.

        Well it‟s just like everything else. There are some good ones. There are some

bad ones. There are some crazy ones, and I‟m sure I probably fall into one of those

categories, too. It‟s just what other people think of me. Some I think push it too hard. I

have seen kids that are really unhappy. And when they are unhappy, then I don‟t

understand what they are getting out of it. But you know what? That‟s them. I have seen

them do mean things. I have seen people drop pens into little girls‟ dress boxes. Crack

open ink pens and drop them in the box. I have unfortunately had the experience of

watching them tell this little girl, “You know that your momma isn‟t coming back”, and

her mom had stepped out to have a cigarette. I have seen some really crazy people. You

just stay away from them. We had one lady who set fire to another child‟s hair. It was

nuts. But then you stay away from those people. You know those people are crazy, and

you stay away from them. Those people generally don‟t last too long anyways. It‟s a

fancy for them. They go all in, whole hog, whatever you want to say, for a while, and

then they just disappear. The semi-normal ones are generally the ones that are left.

       The desire for their child to be crowned the queen brings out more than just

competition in mothers, it brings out downright ugliness. For an adult to do hurtful

things to a child in order to put the spotlight on their own child is a cruel act. There is

nothing normal or semi-normal about that. As a mother, I understand that you want the

best for your child. That to me is a normal feeling. However, I would never do anything

harmful to another child to ensure that mine would come out on top. The child is the one

who suffers and sadly learns from the adults surrounding them.

       Many parents involved in these pageants do not seem concerned about the

       possible negative consequences of dressing their children in provocative clothing,

       capping their teeth, putting fake eyelashes on them, and having them perform

       before audiences in a manner that suggests a sexuality well beyond their years.

       (Giroux, 2006, p. 137)

Without thoroughly thinking through the possible consequences, parents do whatever it

takes for their child to come out on top. The drive for this seems to be stronger from the

parents than the child. This is apparent when parents choose to put their child in a

pageant before the child has an opportunity to express a desire.

       To be sure, I do not defend all pageants. Some are entirely without merit. The

       Jon-Benet-style contests I entered as a child are decided almost exclusively on the

       basis of appearance. Winners earn little more than a gaudy tiara and a 5-foot

       trophy, and the pageant directors walk away with a ton of cash bilked from

       gullible parents who unfailingly believe – and try to prove – that their child is just

       the cutest kid in the whole world. (Angelotti, 2006)

The glitz pageants, such as those highlighted in TLC‟s Toddlers and Tiaras, require that

contestants completely transform from their everyday selves into picture-perfect beauties.

In addition to the contestants competing for the crown, the parents are also competing to

prove that their child is the best. The transformation that takes place for these

competitions is very pricey, and those who come out on top are the pageant directors and

those in the pageant industry.

The High Price of Beauty

       Many small towns in the South host several pageants which allow children to

compete for various titles. “Children‟s beauty contests also represent places where the

rituals of small-town American combine with the ideology of mass consumer culture”

(Giroux, 2006, p. 140). While these small towns may be holding small events, it is a

large money maker for related businesses. No price is too large for parents to prove that

their child has the total package. Their personal agendas come into play as they fulfill

their desires through their child, transforming them into little adults. “Adults will project

their own fantasies onto children, even if it means selling them on the beauty block”

(Giroux, 1998, p. 37). A lot of time and money go into the preparation for a child beauty

pageant. Because children have childlike features, such as crooked or small teeth, their

bodies become adorned in products to perfect them in every way.

       I can kind of give you somewhat of a break down. If you do the more natural

pageants, you are still looking at a fairly expensive dress. I mean the long and short of it

is you want something that looks good on your child, and the color looks good. So even a

natural dress is going to cost you several hundred dollars, probably five-ish, I would say

just to have it made. You can buy it premade, but you want to make sure your child

stands out in some way. As strange as it sounds, even though you do natural pageants,

you still generally have someone there that will help them get ready. Even a natural

hairstyle apparently takes more work to do, still will never understand that, but it still

happens. But I would say a natural pageant only varies by a couple of hundred dollars

less than the other one. You have to do interview suits, they generally encompass

projects, and community service type things, and they want you to make appearances.

Whereas with glitz pageants, you‟re there, you perform, you spend your money and you

go home, and they don‟t ever see you again. There is generally no commitment to it. So

although glitz pageants on top may seem more expensive, they can range. If I wanted to

get Sara completely ready for another glitz pageant, I‟d probably have to spend six or

seven thousand dollars but part of that is because I know how to do a lot of that by myself

already. And natural pageants would probably be a little bit less. But in the long run I‟d

spend just as much because you have to make all of these appearances. Most of them

have commitment clauses that you have to meet or else they won‟t let you keep your title.

        Karen is the only source of income for her family, besides her father-in-law‟s

disability check. They do not have money to even purchase their own car, but it is a

priority for Karen to ensure that Juliana has the appropriate attire and other necessities

when she participates in pageants. Parents make several financial and personal sacrifices

to ensure that their child is the winner of a title. A saying that I once saw in a parenting

magazine while waiting to be called back to a doctor‟s appointment while pregnant has

stuck with me over time: “There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother

has it.” Beauty pageants serve as the platform for every mother to prove that they have

the prettiest child.

        The number of people who choose to prove their worth through beauty pageants

is astounding. “It's estimated that 250,000 children compete in more than 5,000 pageants

in the United States each year” (Canning & Hoffman, 2009). When dresses are sold for

more than a thousand dollars a pop, this alone shows the potential profit for those

involved in the pageantry business. The other necessary preparations also add up to a

hefty bill. Even when scholarship money is won, it does not come close to paying back

the money that was needed to enter the competition. Parents could save more money for

college funds by depositing the money required to prep and participate in the pageant in

the bank instead of competing for the scholarship money.

In the Hot Seat

        Throughout this process, I have learned that child beauty pageants are no joking

matter. Parents take them seriously, dumping several hundred and even thousands of

dollars into the preparations. Many pageants come with a heavy entrance fee. This along

with the purchase of a dress, necessary preparations, and travel expenses create a large

profit for those in the pageant industry. Regardless of this, parents still willingly sign

their children up for these pricey competitions.

       I recently had the opportunity to be a judge at a national child beauty pageant.

My niece‟s friend participates in a wide variety of pageants, while her mom organizes

many pageants. When she asked if I would be interested in judging, I, with no hesitation,

accepted. My mom, sister, and I drove to Atlanta so that I could get a backstage glimpse

at what these pageants were all about. The only qualification that I had to judge this

pageant was the two prior pageants I competed in. It was far different than I had ever

expected. As I walked down the hallway of the hotel, parents would make sure to tell me

hello. I saw some parents nudge their children to ensure they spoke as well, not

forgetting to give their best smile. The actual pageant took place in a small room

downstairs in the hotel. The stage appeared to be very homemade, put up at the last

minute. Sparkly black material covered the stage. The competition was broken down by

age groups, and mostly girls living around Georgia competed. However, one child made

the trip from Texas to compete in this pageant.

       The first night of the competition showcased pageant participants in a costume of

their choice. This was an optional category that served the purpose of raising their

overall score. If the child scored higher in the costume competition than another

competition, the lower score would be thrown out and replaced with this higher score.

Some of the costumes that I saw were cats, princesses, and cheerleaders. This was the

most relaxed competition of the event.

       The next morning we were treated to breakfast downstairs. Once again, the room

was filled with friendly looks and mothers telling their daughters to say hello. The

morning began with casual wear. As the girls pranced down the catwalk, I rated them on

a scale from 1 to 10. Although the outfits were supposed to be casual, most of them were

specially made, overflowing with sequence, fringe, and lace. They walked with much

enthusiasm while nodding their heads and popping into various poses. Mothers would

stand behind the judges and motion to their daughter what actions to do. The young

contestants who were unable to walk had their mothers escort them on the stage. The

casual wear competition was followed by a question/answer session with the judges for

contestants aged seven and up.

       A row of four chairs was placed in front of the judges and the contestants came in

four at a time. We were given a list of questions to ask the contestants. Most of the

questions dealt with the activities they were interested in, their dreams for the future, and

their families. Those contestants that were more outgoing than the others dominated

most of the conversation. For the girls who were more reserved, the judges would ask

specific questions for them to answer. Another session was set aside for contestants

under the age of seven. This was a playtime where the judges had a chance to see how

well the contestants interacted with others. A few of the toddlers had meltdowns, and the

mothers were quick to downplay their behavior. Those same contestants acted out on the

stage during the pageant. It was clear to see that the desire to compete in the pageant was

that of the mothers and not the children.

       The next event was formal wear. The girls walked extremely slow making sure to

exaggerate each turn and maintained eye contact with each judge as long as possible.

The dresses were very large, lacey, and colorful. Most of the dresses were very short and

extended out at the bottom. One three year old girl that stood out as quite the pageant

natural would come to the end of the stage, put her hands beside her cheek, and say

“Precious, precious.” The last category was talent. Very few of the contestants had a

real talent. Many of the contestants either danced to a poorly choreographed song or sang

hitting no real notes. One contestant played the flute, and it may have truly been the

worst thing I had ever heard. I remember sitting there trying my hardest not to laugh.

         When all of the events were over, the pageant director tallied all of the scores.

There were numerous titles to be given, and only a handful of participants would go

without. Because of this, the pageant director created titles so that every contestant

would win something. Each age division crowned a grand supreme queen along with

first, second, and third runners up. New titles such as prettiest eyes were also handed out.

I did not witness any child getting upset over not winning. However, the facial

expressions on the parents‟ faces were easy to read if their child did not win the ultimate


         I would not say that being a judge for a child beauty pageant is fun. I had a hard

time rating children, comparing them to one another, and watching some win as others

did not. I acted as an enforcer of the patriarchal beliefs upheld in society. Because I was

aware of the standards pushed down on these children, I had a difficult time with this

process. I was judging these children based essentially on the views of males in society.

What they have deemed appropriate and acceptable is what these children aimed to

represent. However, I was excited to take advantage of this opportunity to help further

understand how pageants work. I did not participate in beauty pageants as a child, so this

was the perfect opportunity to get a back stage view of what these pageants were all


Juliana’s Story

         I have participated in a lot of pageants, probably fifty or so. I was eight weeks

old when I competed in my first pageant. Being in a pageant makes me feel pretty. I feel

good when I win the pageant. I get to put on makeup and stuff and do my hair. I like the

dresses I wear. If I don‟t win a pageant, I still feel okay. My mom likes me to compete in

pageants the most. My dad likes them so-so. I look up to my mom the most because she

takes of me and my brothers. I take dance, cheerleading, and I played softball for a little

bit. I watch a lot of TV and movies. My favorite is Sponge Bob. I like science the best in

school. I like when we do science experiments and stuff. If you don‟t go to school you

won‟t get a good job and have good things.

         Before interviewing Juliana I was very excited to hear what she had to say. As a

young girl who has participated in pageants her entire life, I knew that she would have

several stories to share. Quite the opposite happened. When I asked her questions, her

answers were very short. She did not elaborate on her responses. I found this to be very

ironic. I was expecting the typical pageant answers to be given since she is quite the

pageant queen. When asked if she thought school was important, Juliana noted that in

order to have nice things, you need an education to get a good job. Once again, the focus

is on materialistic items, thus proving that she is highly affected by consumer culture. It

was also clear through the interview the point that Karen had made previously: Juliana

does not like to participate in interviews during a pageant, therefore sticking mainly to

the glitz. Karen focuses on and fosters Juliana‟s awareness of her physical appearance

over her other talents.

        Well I will be honest about it, when I see her, whether she does natural or she

does glitz, I am just tickled to death. Number one, she is my only little girl. You like to

see a little girl dressed up. Not even if she is dressed up, it amazes me even when she is

just in jeans and a pony tail. I am so lucky. And when we see her all dressed up, she is

like a little doll, and I just treat her like that. I‟m just proud. Like I said either one.

When she gets up in the morning, she is cute.

        It is obvious that Juliana‟s physical beauty makes her mother very proud. I have

seen Juliana perform at dance competitions, and she is a very talented dancer. She does

tricks and moves that several of the older dancers cannot even come close to doing. Even

though her talents are astonishing, her mother focuses on her appearance. The emphasis

put on this by her mother will ultimately affect what Juliana chooses to pursue in life.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

        I think sometimes we get a pretty fair shake, and sometimes I think that we

haven‟t progressed far enough. One thing that irritates me the most is when women set

us back. We‟ve come way too far, and I really believe we are strong people. I don‟t

think we get a lot of credit sometimes. I was able to stay home with my kids for a long

time. And people go “What did you for that many years?” And when I say “A stay at

home mom”, they look at you like “So what did you add to this world other than kids?”

But I think my biggest pet peeve is that the media doesn‟t necessarily do it, other women

kind of set us up and set us back. What I mean more so is like when my husband

deployed. I knew he was going to deploy to Iraq. I knew where he was going. I was not

a happy person, but he had already deployed before. I knew that when we signed up for

the military, even when he signed up, we didn‟t think anything would ever happen. We

were just taking it as a job. But you know in the back of your mind that when you sign up

or when you marry someone in that line of work, that they may have to go somewhere.

And when I see a woman on TV that‟s crying, asking for help, because she can‟t pay her

bills or she doesn‟t know how to run her checking account. And I‟m going “Where have

you been? Why in the world are you in this situation? You have a spouse with a job that

pays you regularly. You have the support of the community. How have you been

living?” I take that very personally. I did not like it. I had three kids at home. They

were all little, my oldest was five, Sarah was four, and my youngest was eighteen months

old when my husband left. I wasn‟t on TV crying. You suck it up and you learn how to

deal. I think it is other women that make us look bad.

       Karen realizes that other women set other women back. Stepping away from a

situation makes it easier to look inside and think critically. Society influences all of its

members, whether it is realized or not. We cannot escape the ideas that are pushed down

through various forms of popular culture and tradition. Karen recognizes the weakness

that some military spouses possess when their husbands deploy, but she fails to recognize

the weakness that pushes women to compete in beauty pageants using their physical

appearance as a measurement for success.

       When we see images of young girls in pageants or consider the phenomenon

       itself, we tend to respond in one of two ways – to moralize or to laugh. If we

       judge and moralize, it is because we believe that the fantasies revealed in these

       images are in fact products of consumer culture, reflecting notions of beauty and

       feminity that are passé and degrading. Perhaps we also envision the mothers

       behind the scenes pushing their daughters into these events, desperately trying to

       relive their childhoods. If we laugh, it means that we see all this sparkle and

       frilliness as irony. These girls are unconsciously reflecting the grotesque side of

       popular culture and creating camp. In either of these reflexive responses we have

       the same assumptions – the fantasies they create do not come from within them,

       but are rather imposed from the outside. The girls are merely mirrors reflecting

       the reactionary, commercial side of our culture. (Anderson, 2009, p. 8)

Our culture is a powerful force that shapes our beliefs and actions. It was stated

previously that Henry Giroux believed that it was essential that people examine why

people participate in beauty pageants. Fault is not put on the women and children

competing for the titles or their desperate mothers pushing them on stage. Instead, these

people are trapped and warped by what is deemed acceptable and appropriate in society.

The role models that children look up to and idolize help develop this reflection of the

grotesque side of culture.

       The Disney Channel‟s Hannah Montana, is a show that appeals to young girls

through their teenage years. The main character played by Miley Cyrus, started out her

career by providing appropriate material for her young audience. As time went on and

she got older, the notion of “sex sells” took over. Her performances were risqué. She

even used a pole during a performance at the Teen Choice Awards. Miley Cyrus has

taken racy pictures and even kissed a girl during an exotic performance of a newly

released song. Following in the footsteps of the famous kiss between Madonna, Britney

Spears and Christina Aguilera, Miley has scored the public attention desired. Young girls

see who is in the spotlight, how they dress and behave, and attempt to recreate what they


       In the time span of one day, it is easy to see where and on whom society places


       There is social pressure everywhere, especially on women, to look and dress a

       certain way for a majority of our lives. So why would a parent take one of the few

       members of society lucky enough to still be blissfully ignorant of these pressures

       and throw them into the fire at such a young age? (Trincia, 2009)

Even before children realize the harsh reality of society, parents subject their daughters

and jump start the process at an early age. The truth is, these parents are just living up to

what is expected of them by society. They are trapped, as many of us are. The results,

however, can be very severe. “A 2007 study by the American Psychological Association

linked a premature emphasis on appearance with three of the most common mental health

problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression”

(Canning & Hoffman, 2009). The need for girls and women to keep up with what is

expected of them comes at a high price, sometimes affecting their mental health.

Females do whatever it takes to keep up with others, even if it means putting their body at

risk. Parents often, without knowledge of it, initiate this destructive behavior in an

attempt to prove that their daughter is superior to others.

       In defense of pageants, many parents claim that it boosts their child‟s self-esteem.

There is only one winner in a pageant, so what does that do to the self-esteem of others

who do not win the ultimate title?

       These pageants also put young children in a very vulnerable position of individual

       judgment. Losing a little league soccer game is completely different than losing

       an individually judged pageant. If tomorrow I competed and lost in a pageant, I

       would take it a little personally, and I'd like to think I have more emotional

       maturity than a kindergartner. (Trincia, 2009)

In a pageant, contestants compete solely as an individual. There is no teamwork

involved. When they fail, it is because they failed, not as a whole team. Additionally,

when they do succeed, they attribute it to the way they look in comparison to others.

Their self-esteem is affected based on their performance.

       “Performance based esteem -- I have worth because of what I can do or I have

       worth because of my beauty -- and what you want to teach your kid is you have

       worth because of who you are, period," Real said. "I think these kinds of contests

       are very confusing." (Canning & Hoffman, 2009)

Self worth is raised and lowered by looks and the performances taken place on the stage.

Psychologist Real believes that beauty pageants are confusing for kids. They should feel

confident in themselves because of who they are, not based on their performance or

physical beauty. Entering them in beauty contests sends them the message that the latter

is the most important. It is my hope that through studies such as this, the tradition of

society will begin to be questioned and changes may eventually occur. This will require

thorough investigating and examining issues at the core.

       You know, I have had several professors that were, I guess you could say, they

were Northerners. I was born in Kentucky, raised mostly down South in Texas, never

much North. It seems like people say we‟re nicer. We tend to have a little more, I don‟t

even know if it‟s patience, but we tend to be very tolerant of a lot of things. But then a lot

of my professors say you just put up with too much. “If that were me, I would never just

smile.” But my thing is, “You catch more flies with honey.” I think it is just how people

perceive it. They may think it‟s a bad thing. I personally think it‟s a good thing. I

believe in kind of stepping back. Some think it may be that we are just going slower. It‟s

not that, it‟s that we‟re thinking about it.

        The South is known to move at a slower pace than that of the North. Contrary to

Karen‟s belief, I do not think that Southerners are thinking about important issues.

Traditions in the South are very strong, and if people were thinking, many of these

traditions would cease. Southern tradition raises girls who are polite and well mannered.

They are also raised to cater to men and provide them happiness through tending to

household duties. It may be my strong personality, but I believe that every woman

should be able to support herself and not depend on a man. Just recently, a friend‟s

husband talked her into quitting work so that she could tend to the house. Approximately

one month later, he left her for another woman. Perhaps Southern women should think

about themselves and what would happen if they no longer could depend on their

husbands. Perhaps Southern women should analyze pageants and how they affect other

aspects of life.

        I think I have tried to keep a fairly balanced perception of this. We did it for a

long time. She started when she was eight weeks old, and asleep, and then she started

back again when she was eighteen months old. We did them almost every other weekend

or every weekend. It was pretty insane. I would never go back to that again because it

was so much. But there were times when you could look at things and know there were

deals being made that you had no control over. And I decided at that point in time that I

could either get angry, and be angry all the time at it, or we could go and take our

chances. Whatever is the outcome, is the outcome. Be happy if we win, and if not, maybe

that is not one we will go back and do again, maybe we will stay away, or maybe that

crowd just, we‟ll go somewhere else. It only takes one or two times of you kind of getting

that feeling and you know that you will not go back to that area. If this group of people

has anything to do with it I won‟t because I do not have time to be angry. Everyone has

at some point as gone “You have got to be kidding.” But if you can‟t talk it out on the

way home, if you are still talking about it after you get home, then you don‟t need to be

doing this. It should be a hobby. It should never encompass everything.

       Regardless of whether a pageant has child participants or all adult participants, the

same principle remains: individuals are being judged against others, with beauty

remaining as the top factor considered. At one point, Karen enrolled Juliana in pageants

every weekend, but eventually cut back on the number. If Juliana did not do well in a

pageant, Karen looked at the people who ran the pageant and determined that some were

not fair. She would have to talk about the outcome with Juliana on the way home to

make her understand her worth. Even though others did not always categorize her as the

winner, her mother made sure she understood the reasons behind it. Having to explain

the cruel world to a child is not an easy job. A more productive conversation that could

take place would be to question what exactly one gains from a pageant, and if they are

worth the work and pain. That would be an interesting question to be asked at the next

Miss America Pageant. As long as conversations such as those between Karen and

Juliana on the way home from a pageant take place, the reason behind pageants and their

power to draw female participants will remain unexplored. The bottom line is that

children are the future. Parents should not treat them as a commodity that can be

showcased and paraded across a stage. Parents should instill in their children the desire

to broaden their knowledge, not restrict it while focusing on disciplining the body. They

are very impressionable at a young age and events such as beauty pageants help to further

complicate the stereotypical roles that exist.

Time for a Change

       Child beauty pageants set children up for a world of competiveness too soon,

depriving them of a proper childhood. It does not help them gain self-esteem as they see

other children win. Instead, this sends the message that they need to try harder in order to

look as good as their competitors. As demonstrated through this study, young children

are very impressionable, and Giroux is one advocate for reexamining the role of youth in


       … In a society in which politicians and the marketplace limit the roles available

       for youth to those of consumer, object, or billboard to sell sexuality, beauty

       products, music, athletic gear, clothes, and a host of other products, it is not

       surprising that young people are so easily misrepresented. (Giroux, 2009, p. 14)

Youth are used as a means of income in consumer culture. The media uses them to sell

various products, thus making an impression on other youth. When images are displayed

on billboards and in the media, other youth will try to conform to the images that they

see. Instead of tapping into their talents during this highly influential time in their lives,

society is concerned with raising youth to become adequate consumers.

       As democracy is increasingly reduced to an empty shell and the carceral state

       looms heavy on the twenty-first century horizon, the commodity form penetrates

       all aspects of daily life, shaping the very nature of how young people think, act,

       and desire, and marking them as the epicenter of consumer culture. (Giroux,

       2009, p. 35)

Youth have taken on a new role in society. They are now able to keep up with the world

through the use of different technologies. Although they have always been influenced,

they are now able to stay abreast of new trends and politics instantly through devices

such as an iPod which shape their thoughts, acts, and desires. It is becoming increasingly

harder to protect them from the consumer economy. Popular culture and society

profoundly affect how youth think and act. It is through such means that they are

educated, and until schools allow for investigations of complicated issues, the severity of

the issue and commodification of their bodies will remain. The final chapter will explore

a curriculum proposal that works to end female suppression and competition, while

nurturing the emotions and needs of females during identity development.

                                       CHAPTER 5


       Using cultural theory and feminist theory as the theoretical framework, and

various forms of popular culture and face-to-face interviews, I explored the experiences

of a former pageant contestant, current contestant, child contestant, and pageant mom. In

this final chapter I will further analyze these reflections from the peripheral visions and

their connection to how society is reproductive in nature and perpetuates stereotypical

roles of females. Finally, I will advocate for a curriculum of unison based on my findings

in order to help people further escape from their own stuckness. Essentially, males are

considered superior to females, and their beliefs shape the way in which society

functions. The images seen in popular culture and events such as beauty pageants are

strong mechanisms for reproduction in a patriarchal society. Ironically, through these,

some females are able to resist. Examples from the interviews will be forthcoming in the

findings for the study.

       All four individuals are still in some sort of fashion tied to pageantry. Even

though one contestant no longer participates, she still helps organize and recruit

contestants for a local pageant. Although their experiences with pageants differ, the

findings from this study help prove that they are trapped victims in a patriarchal society.

The findings include: (1) Success in conforming to the stereotypical views in society

provides a boost in short-term self-esteem. This is a temporary feeling that alters with

different experiences. (2) In fear of rejection, females are forced to use their body as a

weapon to compete with other females in a male-dominated society. This fierce

competition causes aggression amongst most females as they further perpetuate their own

status. (3) Society is reproductive in nature and restrains women‟s status through the

media. (4) The participants are suppressed through deep tradition and family values,

reinforcing conceptions of their physical beauty and personal characteristics. (5) Women

are expected to discipline their body which creates an imprisoned mind, creating a

distinct separation of the two.

       These findings uncover how society is reproductive in nature and perpetuates

women‟s status through popular culture and beauty pageants. As women attempt to

survive and succeed in this male-dominated society, they resort to aggression as a way of

knocking others down to build themselves up. This proves that females contribute to

their own suppression, allowing for the cycle to continue. Before any change can occur,

individuals must first recognize and be willing to admit that there is a problem. While

many people recognize that there is a difference between males and females, that is not

were the problem lies.

       The study of “difference” is not the problem; of course people differ. The

       problem occurs when one group is considered the norm with others differing from

       it, thereby failing to “measure up” to the ideal, superior, dominant standard, and

       when the dominant group uses the language of difference to justify its social

       position. (Aronson & Kimmel, 2000, p. 21-22)

The problem exists because males are deemed normal and females are not, which leaves

them in a constant state of trying to achieve the status of normalcy. Males are set upon a

pedestal, focusing on how females are different and therefore not as good. The purpose

of this study was not to explore the differences between males and females, but instead to

investigate the ways in which females are suppressed and made to function and compete

in a patriarchal society.

        Before I could examine this critical topic, I had to first situate myself within the

realms of the study. The Final Judgment: Learning to Judge Myself through Pageants

developed through my own personal experiences in the pageant world before I was

awakened. It has been several years since I walked down the runway at a pageant. Even

though I may not wear a contestant number, I cannot help but realize that every day is a

beauty pageant. Judgments are made, looks are given, and words are said. I, too, judge

others instinctively as a repercussion of being raised in a patriarchal society. However, it

is a part of society that I have come to understand better through this study and aim to

contain it in my future.

        As I look at my two sons, I am reminded of the severity of the effects of popular

culture on society‟s beliefs and actions. When I observe my youngest son, who is

twenty-months old, he is still oblivious to the differences that exist in the world. He does

not know which kids are more or less fortunate than him, if another woman looks better

than his mom, or if other kids walked or talked before he did. However, parents do keep

track of these things and eventually push their beliefs onto their children. My four-year

old son is now a student at our local public pre-kindergarten center. He is already

beginning to notice that differences exist between kids in his class and himself. The main

thing that he discusses is the difference between boys and girls. As he learns his letters,

numbers, and sounds, he is also learning that boys do not play in the housekeeping center,

girls play dress up, and boys play with trains. The people that surround him on a daily

basis are deep-rooted in their Southern traditions, furthering my son‟s stereotypical

beliefs of females. Just as he is touched by tradition, the four interviewees are also

influenced and defined by Southern tradition.

       When reflecting on the stories told by the Southern women in this study, I could

not help but see them fulfilling their role as demanded by society. Through the lens of

Cultural Theorists, such as Stuart Hall, John Weaver and Henry Giroux, I was able to

further explore the risks to females in society by investigating popular culture, which

works to suppress females to their current stereotypical roles. Also taking a feminist

approach using works from Madeleine Grumet and bell hooks, I was able to investigate

how society works to socially control and disenfranchise Southern women while

disciplining the body and imprisoning the mind. Using these works as a guide, I was able

to take these findings deeper and analyze the similarities found between the participants.

These theoretical frameworks allowed me to explore the effects of popular culture on

society while keeping in mind that females live in a male-dominated world that is in

desperate need of a transformation in the treatment and status of women.

       Before I continue with the analysis, I think it is important to address that some

individuals may question if I completed this study out of spite because I have sour

feelings about my own experiences with beauty pageants. I openly speak of my

experiences, having no resentments or regrets. I do not feel that women who participate

in beauty pageants should feel ashamed or embarrassed after reading this study,

essentially they are just filling their roles as expected. Instead, I propose that men are

mostly to blame for the way in which females act, although there are other factors that

come into play. Males are the ringleaders in society, filling positions of power, leaving

women to use their bodies as the main weapon and means of climbing the success ladder.

However, it is notable to point out that no one male in particular is to blame. This has

been in the works for several decades, leaving women to fend for themselves in a world

of competition to gain approval. Pageants are a way for females to compete against

others, building self-esteem for those who measure up, and knocking down those who do

not. I explored this topic with the hope of awakening other women to the dangers of

continuing the expected performances deemed appropriate in a patriarchal society.

       A female‟s self-worth is directly linked to her success in conforming to the

stereotypical views in society, which she is being judged against (Finding 1). In order to

be deemed successful, women are given no other opportunity than to work in order to

achieve the status-quo set by males. If a female chooses to rebel, then she is deemed an

outcast receiving even more harsh judgments than before. Take for instance the character

Olive in Little Miss Sunshine. When she took her place on the stage and performed a not-

so-typical rendition of Super Freak, the audience was awestruck. Because she attempted

to break from the rote, pointless talents showcased at pageants, she was considered an

outcast. Audience members shouted cruel things and even left, disgusted at what Olive

performed. Because she did not look and perform as a usual pageant contestant, she was

not successful. Another example is Anne (Chapter 2) who recently got a divorce from

her husband. Going against the grain of being a good wife and mother who stays with

her husband through better or worse, Anne received harsh judgments from other females

and was shunned as a result of her decision to pursue her own happiness. However, when

females attain the desired image they feel important and worthy of recognition. For the

vast majority of women who will never reach that demand, they are left feeling worthless

and depressed about themselves. Hence, we measure self-worth not based on personal

feelings, but judgments passed by others.

       All of the pageant contestants claimed that participating in pageants made them

feel good and boosted their self-esteem. Anne (Chapter 2) never fit in with the in-crowd

during high school. She realized that she looked different from the others as she was not

interested in the frilly attire that the other girls wore. She knew that in order to find

acceptance, she had to transform from her tomboyish ways. To help her complete this

transformation, Anne turned to pageants. “It forced me to learn to look like a girl.”

Pageants serve as a strong mechanism of reproduction as they duplicate ideal girls

desired by a patriarchal society. The qualities that contestants are judged upon are those

deemed important by males. Anne saw the girls who got the attention that she desired,

and had to represent herself in the same manner to gain acceptance. She noted that her

weight was a constant problem and that pageants provided an uplifting experience for

her. They “gave me a huge boost of self-esteem and poise”. This was true as long as

Anne succeeded, which she did in her hometown pageants. Elizabeth (Chapter 3) had

similar experiences. She felt good after getting her score sheets from the judges. She

stated, “It boosts my self-esteem to see gorgeous smile, gorgeous eyes…” Although

Anne and Elizabeth claimed that pageants raised their self-esteem, I argue that this is true

for only those individuals who are successful in the competition. Both Anne and

Elizabeth experienced a time when they were extremely let down at themselves, based on

the judgments of others. For Anne, when she competed in a larger competition outside of

the safe haven of her hometown, she “realized that I can‟t hang. I mean I was at a totally

different level than them. I was kind of depressed about it for awhile.” It was also in

another county‟s pageant where Elizabeth felt let down as she gave her all and didn‟t

make the first cut. “That‟s when I was like „Woah, what happened?‟” Both of these girls

claimed that pageants boosted their self-esteem while they were successful. Their

statements about their unsuccessful experiences show that self-esteem is directly tied to

the score they received. Although Juliana (Chapter 4) was not very elaborate on her

answers, she did state that “I feel good when I win the pageant. If I don‟t win a pageant,

I still feel okay.” None of the three females claimed that their self-esteem was boosted

even when they did not place as expected. To use the development of self-esteem as a

way to defend pageants is ironic.

       There is a certain irony in appropriating the language of self-esteem to defend

       child beauty pageants, especially since the pageants provide young children with

       standards of beauty that 1 of 40,000 young women will actually meet. Must we

       ask what is wrong with young girls wanting to become fashion models who

       increasingly look as if they will never grow up, and for whom beauty is not only

       defined by the male gaze but appears to be one of the few requisites to enter “into

       the privileged male world.” (Giroux, 2006, p. 138)

Self-esteem is a fragile trait for females. Pageants only afford those who meet the preset

standard of beauty a boost in self-esteem. For the rest, it further instills the desire to look

like models found in magazines and on TV in order to please others and gain their

approval. I, too, was influenced by society and took my place on the stage to help form

my identity (Chapter 1). I felt as if I let myself down, being labeled as inferior to the

other contestants. Just as pageants judge the contestants, similar judgments are passed

down on students in schools.

       When students succeed in school, they are involved and motivated to learn.

However, just as with pageants, everyone is in competition together relying on the

judgments of others to categorize winners and losers. So what happens to those who are

not at the top? These students become disinterested and frustrated. The competition that

exists both on and off of the stage kills the innocence of childhood and demolishes the

joy of learning. Instead of focusing on critical thinking and the development of the mind,

emphasis remains on doing what it takes to become successful in structured environments

such as classrooms and beauty pageants. Judges are essentially reinforcers, police that

aim to keep society under the tight grip of males. The winners continue to get boosted

while the large majority is left feeling inferior. Because there is not room for all to be

successful, the competiveness amongst the contestants remains high.

       Some parents push children to compete, before the child can vocalize a desire to

do so, without thinking about the repercussions of their actions. Essentially, they are

judging their own children against others, wanting their child to be successful in society.

They are affecting more than just their child because this behavior allows for the cycle to

continue as it instills the tradition at an early age before their personal thoughts can be

taken into consideration. Traditions are filtered down generation after generation which

allow mechanisms for reproduction, such as pageants, to remain unquestioned. Girls

continuously aim to look good in order to be accepted into the male world. It is through

their looks that success is achieved, creating winners and losers.

       The strong emphasis to compete with others based on physical appearances

perpetuates the commodification of the body. In order to attain the set standards in

society, females resort to buying their way to the top. According to the American Society

for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2009 “women had over 9 million cosmetic procedures,

over 90 percent of the total. The top five surgical procedures for women were: breast

augmentation, liposuction, eyelid surgery, abdominoplasty and breast reduction”

(ASAPS,,n.d.). Why do women constitute over 90 percent of the total, which leaves men

making up less than 10 percent of surgical procedures? Women have become an object

of the eye. When their body does not measure up to the set standards in a patriarchal

society, females seek ways to enhance their bodies. In addition to surgical procedures,

women resort to cosmetics as another way to gain approval from males. Makeup, hair

products, jewelry, lotions, and polishes all help women cover their imperfections and

appear as close to perfect as possible. These perfected images advertise various cosmetic

products. “With the logic of advertising, women‟s bodies are constructed as instruments

of industry in which women are to be desired and consumed” (Durham & Baez, 2007, p.

144). Advertisements show attractive bodies that others desire. This consumption of the

female body has led to its commodification. Females realize that their body is what helps

them become successful in life, and therefore, they search for ways to make it noticed by

others through such means as beauty pageants.

       In beauty pageants, the commodification of the body is apparent. Bodies are

adorned with fake hair, teeth, and nails. Contacts also allow contestants to change their

eye color, while spray tans transform the skin color. Anne stated, “So much time and

effort goes into the stuff you see that‟s obvious: the outfits, choosing the earrings,

choosing the hair stuff.” The things that are obvious to the eye are those that enhance the

physical beauty of the contestant. This was also important to Elizabeth as she also altered

her body before a competition. “We pay someone to do our hair and makeup. Our whole

face is airbrushed on.” What is seen by the judges and audience in not genuine. The

natural self is covered up and constructed into bodies that are desired in a patriarchal

society. The commodification of the body is just as apparent in child beauty pageants

where children are transformed into miniature adults for the competition. Juliana

competes in glitz pageants which overly emphasize the characteristics that are expected

from women. Juliana‟s mom, Karen, spoke of how much goes into the actual

transformation of the child to compete on the stage of a glitz pageant. “I mean you will

buy the fake hair, the fake tan, the fake nails, the fake teeth. There really is no

resemblance of the child left really except for the child‟s personality. You‟ve covered the

child up. You‟ve covered them in makeup. They have more hair than they were born

with, than any child‟s ever been born with. They are tanned. They have teeth that are

perfected because you snap them in.” The commodification of the child‟s body is an

extreme measure to hide the flaws of childhood, such as crooked baby teeth and freckles,

in an attempt to construct them into the perfect female for competition. Through society,

females learn what is expected of them, and they alter their bodies in an attempt to be

victorious against the others in competition.

       Females compete for the ultimate approval of males. The fear of losing and

rejection is strong for Southern women as they strive to constantly please the males in

their lives. Always expected to be polite and charming, they cater to husbands and

fathers to gain their approval. The deep traditions in place do not allow women to take

authority over males. Take for example when Anne was criticized by a friend for calling

her husband into the room twice. The other female in the room was stunned that she had

the audacity to “boss” him in such a way. Anne‟s friend is clearly controlled by the

males in her life as her actions are confined by their expectations. The fear of rejection

from males creates Southern women who do not question authority figures, but instead

aim to please them. When seeking to gain approval from males, females will sometimes

take drastic measures to ensure their personal success.

       As highlighted in Chapter 2, the aggressiveness of females is a major concern. In

fear of rejection, females are forced to use their body as a weapon to compete with other

females in a male-dominated society. This fierce competition causes aggression amongst

females as they further perpetuate their own status. In order to become accepted, females

compete with one another to win the attention of males. This ignites jealousy and many

problems arise. Anne, Elizabeth, and Karen all noted instances where girls took

competition to the extreme in an attempt to ensure their own success (Finding 2). Anne

recollected that “at the Miss Georgia level they have back up dresses and all kinds of stuff

because people will put black soot in makeup.” For Elizabeth, it was hard to compete

against her friends. She stated that “even though you are going into it for the fun of

things, everybody still wants to win or else you wouldn‟t have signed up for it, regardless

of what anyone says.” She remembered a time when her sister lost three friends because

they were jealous of her winning the crown. This cruel behavior even takes place in child

beauty pageants. Karen has “seen people drop pens into little girls‟ dress boxes. Crack

open ink pens and drop them in the box.” Another instance that was even worse was

when “we had one lady who set fire to another child‟s hair.” Although these are

different levels of aggression that arose from competition, it is important to note the

extremes that individuals take in order to come out on top. The demands placed on

females by society are so significant that females resort to aggression. The fear of

rejection brings about different levels of aggression.

       I think there is an expectation that if you don‟t exert your power over somebody,

       then you are on the bottom of the pecking order… I think that we‟ve created a

       population of young women who just believe that they need to victimize someone

       else to get their own power back because what they‟ve been taught is you‟re

       either a victim or a victimizer. (Janovicek in Moretti, 2004, p. 94)

The fear of losing is too much for some to handle, so drastic measures are taken. As long

as an individual is not at the bottom of the social order, power still remains within him or

her. The way in which power is enforced is more apparent in males than females.

       In schools, male aggression is easier to pinpoint because it is often an obvious act

of violence. However, female aggression is not as blatant, but still extremely dangerous.

“Social aggression is behavior directed toward harming another‟s friendships, social

status, or self-esteem, and may take direct forms such as social rejection and negative

facial expressions or body movements, or indirect forms such as slanderous rumors,

friendship manipulation, or social exclusion” (Underwood, 2003, p. 5). Because these

are not events that are seen by the eye, the social aggression amongst girls continues to be

a problem in schools. Teachers reproduce the sexist good girl/bad boy stereotype, so

females resort to social aggression in an attempt to shelter their violence. “Sexism

teaches women woman-hating, and both consciously and unconsciously we act out this

hatred in our daily contact with one another” (hooks, 2000, p. 48). It has become such an

instinctive trait found in females that it happens unconsciously. This turns females

against each other, often unable to address their true feelings and concerns.

       bell hooks noted the need for women to overcome the competition against one

another and work together for a common cause. “Working together to expose, examine,

and eliminate sexist socialization within ourselves, women would strengthen and affirm

one another and build a solid foundation for developing political solidarity” (hooks, 2000,

p. 47-48). A true examination of the self must be done first in order to come to terms

with the sexist socialization that exist within. Before any advancements are made,

females must first recognize the problem before they can join together to develop

political solidarity. There should be no fear of loss in schools, where females break each

other down. Instead, females should partake in critical examination that comes to terms

with the wounds that have been formed. This involves a thorough examination of how

and why impossible standards are set for females and are reproduced by males and


       Society is reproductive in nature and restrains women‟s status through the media

(Finding 3). After completing this study, my eye is keen to all of the ways in which the

media degrades women and displays near impossible physical standards that we are

supposed to attain. This was also an apparent theme found throughout the interviews.

Anne does give credit to the advancements that women have made in both her town‟s

local government and national government. However, she still realizes that the media

carefully portrays women according to common sexist beliefs. “You have to act a certain

way and be cute and kind of stupid to be appropriately female. To be appropriately

feminine you have to be a little bit stupid, slow, and need help.” Elizabeth stated, “I think

the media portrays a woman to be perfect.” For Karen, it is not so about the physical

looks that the media portrays, but the actions of women. She spoke of a time when a

military spouse was crying on TV. She recollected that when her husband deployed, “I

wasn‟t on TV crying. You suck it up and you learn how to deal.” To Karen, this

portrayed the female as weak, unable to function without her husband. Both the images

portrayed and the actions that are seen are internalized by viewers and help to strengthen

the stereotypical beliefs that already exist. Although the media displays women in a very

stereotypical way, females can come to realize these and work to challenge them.

       Although the interviewees have participated or currently participate in beauty

pageants, they are aware of the negative ways in which women are portrayed in the media

and challenge this through their daily lives. They all perform in leadership positions

whether it is for a community organization, sports team, or home. Anne is involved in

the Rotary Club, is a board member for the YMCA, and is highly involved in politics

through her work. She also has the desire to one day run for a political office in her

hometown. This shows that Anne believes that women can and should take on leadership

positions in society. Elizabeth volunteers some of her time to work with the youth in her

community in between taking college classes to become a teacher. As a sports lover, she

has volunteered as a coach at her local recreation department, and she currently

volunteers as a teacher‟s aide in a preschool classroom. Elizabeth loves children and

finds time in her busy schedule to help them with both sports and education. Karen

works hard to support her family, providing the finances to meet their needs and wants.

She does not stay home and tend to her children, but instead has a hectic schedule both in

and out of the home. Although the interviewees are not fully aware of the effects of a

patriarchal society, their actions prove that some awareness is evident. It may seem

ironic that these pageant participants are able to see some injustices done to women

through popular culture. Perhaps this is an awakening to the realization of other strong

mechanisms in society that also perpetuate women‟s status.

       Television is just one area of pop culture that is readily available to numerous

viewers. People tune in for entertainment but gain much more than that. “It not only

entertains us but also instructs us when it is not trying to do so” (Berger, 2000, p. 16).

With or without us knowing, television instills certain beliefs within. The television is a

very powerful tool as it contributes to the way people view others and themselves. It

helps to define identities and their place in society. Sadly, these definitions that are given

are not always accurate. The image that is seen becomes more real and life-like than

ever. This in turn allows people to connect even more with the images that are seen,

deepening the stereotypical beliefs found within the media.

       The school is no longer the primary place where an education is learned. Popular

culture is allowing more people to get their own education, particularly about issues

pressing in the real world. The images that are seen will therefore have a profound

impact on the ideas and views generated by these individuals. As television is becoming

more accessible, its influence on those who consume themselves in it is great.

       Television, movies, the new technologies of enhanced video/computer games, and

       of course, the ubiquitous internet have transformed „culture especially popular

       culture, into the primary educational site in which youth learn about themselves,

       their relationships to others and the larger world‟. (Giroux in Reynolds, 2003, p.


It is from these technologies that people create their own identities and see where they fit

into the world. When these technologies help to disperse the stereotypical beliefs found

in society, they are internalized by consumers and become reproduced. These images

serve as the means for individuals to define what they are or are not.

       The television is indeed a powerful tool. The influence it has on its audience is

huge. It works to further perpetuate women‟s status as it brings images to us that we

otherwise would not see.

       As a filter, television not only brings distant objects to us so we can see the world

       from our living room, but it also decides what we can see of the world.

       Television shapes the world because it selects what parts of the world we will see.

       (Weaver, 2005, p. 57)

Serving as a filter, television has much control over what is focused on and what is

neglected. It tends to focus on the physical beauty of women and their proper lady-like

characteristics that they should possess. This bias is seen throughout various forms of

popular culture, and this is where the problem comes into play with its portrayal of


       When entertainment first began with theatre, men would often dress as females.

No females were allowed to take part in the acting. Although women are making their

way more and more into the popular culture areas, are they being portrayed fairly?

Images are often shown of women as sex figures with great bodies who use them to their

advantage in many instances. Other images are seen where males are the dominant sex

and females are there to tend to the household duties. An important question must be

asked: “Do the media, and in this instance television, reflect society or shape it?”

(Harper, 1998). Is this the way females actually are in the real world? Is the media

responsible for the consumption of the female body that leads to their oppression?

Although some portrayals of women may hold some truth, I would argue that popular

culture plays a powerful role in helping society buy into its stereotypical beliefs.

       The power behind popular culture is a very strong one. Its influence on the

audience is extreme and in turn helps shape opinions held by those who watch. Many of

the viewers of television are youth, who are very influenced by the images seen.

Through these images, they shape and form their own opinions of their personal identity.

“Young people today are using contemporary media to define themselves and to map

their daily lives in ways that often confound adults” (Dimitriadis, 2001, p. 35). This is

particularly true for Anne as she saw the possibilities for herself through contemporary

media. Raised in a very traditional home where her mother stayed with her father despite

major marital issues, the images from television, movies, and other media showed Anne

that following suit to her strong Southern upbringing was not the only option for her. She

divorced her husband and is now happy as she lives out her dreams, free of having to

conform to the role determined for her by her family. Her parents remain hesitant of her

decision and do not approve of Anne‟s new boyfriend, despite her happiness. The media

provided an outlet for Anne, allowing her to escape from the rigid role she was playing.

Unfortunately, positive outcomes are not always achieved as the images that are seen are

full of stereotypes. This is especially true for females as they are often portrayed as the

weaker, less competent sex. When numerous shows negatively portray women, females

begin to take what they see personally.

       Television allows people to see more things and so choose what they want to be –

       but unfortunately that choice for girls is often one full of impossible

       contradictions in what they are shown, meaning that television perhaps confuses

        further an issue which it could help to resolve with more equal and less

        stereotypical portrayals of women. (Harper, 1998)

This comment could not hold more truth. People often hear that women are equal to

men, but what is heard and what is seen through means of popular culture differs quite a

bit. It does not take more than turning on the television, going to a movie, or flipping

through a magazine to find a stereotypical portrayal of a woman. They are everywhere,

and this is what young people use to define their own role in the world. This is not only

true for females, but also for males. Popular culture allows them to watch and learn what

their role in society is.

        Students are consumed with technologies that bring popular culture to them

instantaneously. This is how they learn and what they learn from. Therefore, is it best to

make them power down when they walk into the school building? Teachers resort to the

same rote learning techniques implemented decades ago. Yes, popular culture can be

dangerous and many teachers are afraid of it. Instead of neglecting it, it could serve as a

valuable tool in the classroom setting. Since the youth are using it as a means of identity

development, and it is full of harmful stereotypes that suppress women, it should be

explored in the classroom. This helps students uncover the dangers that lie within the

media. I attempt to incorporate it into my lessons as much as I can because it is

something that they can relate to easily. However, it is important to make children aware

of the stereotypes that exist. One way to do this is through conversation. By opening

dialogue, students are able to listen to others and help further understand the issues at


       Understanding these processes, how young people navigate their way between the

       various and often highly disjunctive influences operating in their lives, is crucial

       if educators are to forge more locally relevant policies, institutions, and curricula

       for often intensely marginalized young people. (Dimitriadis, 2001, p. 65)

As educators, it is our responsibility to understand what appeals to students in order to

reach them. Popular culture is very influential in the lives of children, and therefore

teachers should make students aware of the dangers that it holds. By opening the gate to

communication, students would be able to see the injustices within popular culture and

critically think about how they fit into society.

       Going back to the question, does society shape popular culture or does popular

culture shape society?

       Television does, of course, reflect culture, but the important thing to keep in mind

       is that is also profoundly affects culture. It does this, in part, by focusing attention

       on certain aspects of culture and not paying attention to other, by creating certain

       kinds of heroes and heroines and neglecting other kinds. (Berger, 2000, p. 16)

It is important to remember that all forms of popular culture are created by people. These

people are usually males. The images that are seen are selected by a group of people and

this is seen by millions of viewers. “Because television shows certain persons, classes,

occupations, races, sexes, and situations consistently, it propounds a particular view of

the world to the world continually” (Lichter, Lichter, & Rothman, 1994, p. 12). It is from

these images that we form opinions about the world around us and where we belong in it.

The stereotypes that are embedded within television programs sometimes unconsciously

enter our minds and become part of our belief systems. Whether we are aware of it or

not, the power of television is overwhelming. Although minor steps have been taken in

order to portray women fairly, even more extensive steps need to be made. With the help

of popular culture, the views of many people may just change as a major means of

information communication helps pave the path for truth.

       The same way in which images are carefully selected in the media can also be

found in schools. Although schools have a set curriculum, that too, is touched by the

traditional and stereotypical beliefs of society. Take for example textbooks. History

books are filled with famous people, most of them being men. Because women do not

get the same coverage in textbooks, March is declared Women‟s History Month to help

women find their way back into history. Children see what males and females were

doing in history and learn from that as well. Boys see men who were great leaders,

presidents, scholars, and fighters. Girls also internalize that, which further develops and

fosters stereotypical gender roles. “The school site is a stage on which gender roles are

developed in our society, and thus schools contribute to the assignment of unequal status

and work opportunity in our rapidly changing economy. Schools serve as „gatekeepers,‟

providing opportunity to some but not to all” (Campbell, 2010). Inside the doors of a

school building, traditions are locked in tightly. As addressed in the opening of this

study, schools conform to the ways of society, creating students who are able to

memorize facts for the ultimate goal of a passing standardized test score. Passive and

uninvolved, students are not able to participate in meaningful conversations. Instead,

they are essentially waiting their turn in line to walk down the runway, competing with

those beside them.

        Looking at schools nowadays does not differ much from generations before. The

same gender differences exist, providing males with more opportunities for

advancements over females. Even outside of academics, males dominate sports while

females are on the sidelines cheering them on while wearing skimpy uniforms. Most

women‟s sports are not deemed important enough to have any support from males nor

females. Setting aside one month for women‟s studies is not enough to defeat this

problem. What about the other eleven months of the year? Once the school bell rings at

the end of the day, children also learn a great deal about life from the media.

       Although the media and schools portray all women in a certain false limelight and

fosters their oppression in a patriarchal society, this section narrows in on Southern

women. The quietness, politeness, daintiness, beauty and charm of Southern women

distinguish them from others. However, these traits are formed through the suppression

of Southern women through deep traditions and family values, reinforcing conceptions of

their physical beauty and personal characteristics (Finding 4). Males are the authority

figures, and females aim to please them. Family values also weigh heavily on females as

they fulfill roles approved for them by family members. Take for instance Anne who

married a local man whose parents own and run the local bank in town. He also recently

won the position of County Commissioner. These qualities were important to Anne‟s

parents, and they were very satisfied with their daughter‟s marriage to him. However,

after five years of marriage, Anne was no longer happy and got a divorce from her

husband. Her parents were shocked and advised Anne to seek marriage counseling.

Going against the grain, Anne did not take any measures to save her marriage. Instead,

she left to pursue her happiness, breaking free from the traditions that tied her down.

When she left, not only did she upset her parents but many of the people in her town,

particularly females. Women that once hung around Anne began to shun her. Her

divorce was a taboo issue as her actions were forbidden in her quaint hometown.

Through heavy traditions, Southern women are forced into roles that are unfulfilling to

them, while they fulfill the needs and desires of others.

       Anne, Elizabeth, and Karen recognized the fact that stereotypical appearances and

characteristics are placed on Southern women. Karen stated, “It seems like people say

we‟re nicer. We tend to have a little more, I don‟t even know if it‟s patience, but we tend

to be very tolerant of a lot of things.” In the South, families are dominated by males and

women are expected to tend to the childbearing and housekeeping, all on top of pleasing

their husbands. There is a certain politeness that is expected to exist from the deep

religious roots of Southern women. Elizabeth touched on the mannerisms of Southern

women through her statement, “I think that we, Southern women, are more laid back than

most.” She also recognized their physical appearance. “I feel that Southern women do

dress up, and when they dress up they are very presentable. And I think our style is a

whole lot more conservative than Northerners and people who live in a high city life and

that kind of thing.” Southern women find it hard to break free from the deep traditions

they are stuck in. bell hooks, who grew up in the South in a patriarchal home, realizes

the need for women to break free from the stereotypes that follow them. “Even though

women often assume nurturing, life-affirming roles in their relationship to others, they do

not necessarily value or respect that role as much as they revere the suppression of

emotion or the assertion of power through the use of force” (hooks, 2000, p 129).

Women in the South fulfill these roles whether they want to or not. They are not able to

deal with their emotions in the same manner as males, because it is vital they keep their

pureness. A dangerous setback can be found in women who work the system to their

advantage. Anne recognized that although she is aware of the Southern girl stereotype

that she fulfills, she is okay with playing them when they are to her advantage. She relies

on her husband to be the breadwinner of the family, pay the bills, and make command

decisions. She accepts these stereotypes because she does not wish to perform the duties

her husband is set aside to do. Accepting and knowingly reinforcing these stereotypes

only intensifies the situation.

        The education system falls victim to the same rigid gender stereotyping as

Southern women. As a previous kindergarten and first-grade teacher, it is easy to see that

kids quickly pick up on the expected roles of their gender. Although males and females

may be similar in some aspects, the effects of society cause the differences to grow

throughout time. “Boys and girls are far more similar to each other in the classroom,

from elementary school through college, although everything in the school-their

textbooks, their teachers, their experiences on the playground, the social expectations of

their aptitudes and abilities-pushed them to move further and further apart” (Aronson &

Kimmel, 2000, p. 6). When children are little, they are unaware of the pressures and

effects of society. Male and female babies are very similar to one another. As time

progresses, it is everything that surrounds them which allows those differences to become

more and more distinct.

        When observing during recess or free time, the activities that each participate in is

easy to predict. The boys tend to play in the more physical activities such as basketball

during recess and blocks during free time inside. The girls tend to stick together and play

house and school, rehearsing for what is to come in their near futures. They have already

fallen into the stereotypical behavior that is seen on television and evident through their

everyday lives.

       With most of the world stacked against women, there have been some glimpses of

hope that things may be changing. The defeat and failure of males is not the ultimate

goal. However, advancements for women in society are necessary.

       But school, not drugs, is the “new” problem for boys. While today‟s girl is more

       likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol than her mother was, today‟s boy

       is much more likely to be struggling in school than his father was. Boys today are

       increasingly alienated from school. Recent investigations have shown a dramatic

       drop over the past twenty years in boys‟ academic performance in American

       schools. According to the United States Department of Education, the average

       eleventh-grade American boy now writes at the same level as the average eighth-

       grade girl. (Sax, 2006, p. 8)

Overall, boys are now beginning to have a hard time in school. They are approximately

three years behind females in their writing abilities. However, boys still tend to exceed in

math and science. When pursued, these are the fields that land higher paying jobs.

Although making some gains in the classroom, females are still fulfilling positions set

aside for them through tradition. Of these, careers in education remain dominated by


       Employment for vocational education teachers, including home economics

       teachers, was projected to grow by nine percent between 2008 and 2018,

       according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, that growth was

       expected to vary by state, with those in the South and West experiencing the

       greatest increases due to increased student enrollment. (Home Economics, n.d.)

Home economics is a course that is dominated by females learning to cook and sew. The

South is expected to have one of the highest student enrollments. This proves that

tradition weighs heavy in the South where females still tend to the majority of the

housekeeping items. Even though women are making some gains in the educational

field, females continue to navigate towards those roles that are deemed appropriate by


       In addition to physical beauty, there are other characteristics that females are

expected to possess. These characteristics have little to do with critical thinking skills

that would allow for their advancement in society. Instead, women are expected to

discipline their body and imprison their mind, creating a distinct separation of the two

(Finding 5). The interviewees spoke of the impact pageants can have in teaching them

skills that are important to succeed in life. This is crucial as these young ladies have

realized that although it is important to have other skills, beauty remains the top priority.

You cannot be successful without first being beautiful. Anne stated that she “basically

walked on to my state team at my high school for FBLA and got second place in the state

for job interview. The only training I had was pageants.” Elizabeth also recognized the

role pageants played in helping to prepare for a job interview. “We learned etiquette,

table manners, posture, walking, standing, interviews, not only interviews for pageants,

but interviews for your jobs and that kind of thing.” In addition to physical appearance,

women are expected to vocalize perfectly, seeming both educated and polite. These

mannerisms are reinforced through the interview portion of beauty pageants. Karen

recognized that her daughter‟s skills fell short in interviews, so they resort to mainly glitz

pageants, which doesn‟t take this into consideration. “She is a quiet kid. You kind of

have to pull answers from her. If she‟s ever going to want to do anything for college or

something like that, she‟s going to have to have someone help her with interview.” In

each chapter, the contestant placed emphasis on the power of the interview section of

pageants to help with job interviews.

       Although the interviewees felt that pageants have contributed to their interview

skills, the jobs that they are interviewing for are still limited. Anne is involved with

public relations for a male politician, Elizabeth is currently taking classes to complete her

degree in early childhood education, and Karen is employed as a school nurse. Their

interview skills have landed them careers in positions that are set aside for females. In

essence, they have become experts on answering rehearsed questions, for predetermined

positions. In the two pageants that I competed in, I feel that I did well with my

interviews. Overall, I have confidence in my ability when speaking in a variety of

settings, not only rehearsed scenarios. It is something that I have developed over time,

not through being in two beauty pageants. One event that stands out to me in the

development of public speaking skills was in my undergraduate days when we were

given various topics to debate in class. This was a valuable learning event for me, and I

feel that experiences such as these can be taught in school. One does not have to resort to

a beauty pageant to learn speaking skills.

       Rehearsing for a beauty pageant interview requires contestants to practice routine

answers to questions that are repeated at most pageants. This acts as a means of

disciplining the body and imprisoning the mind. Right answers, those that are desired by

the judges, are rehearsed. This same scenario can be found in classrooms where students

fill desks while learning the correct answers to pass a standardized test. Females are

consumed with filling the notion that they must have the whole package in order to be

successful both on and off of the stage. Instead of engaging in such discipline, females

should have an outlet to broaden their conversations to deeper, more complicated


Are We Stuck?

       From the Southern women interviewed in this study, I gained much valuable

information about views on the perception of females, beauty pageants, and the status of

Southern women. When I reflect on them, I see that they, like many other females, are

mostly stuck in a world where they go about day to day fulfilling their roles as women in

a male-dominated society. However, I do have hope that these women will continue to

awaken and become more knowledgeable of the standards by which women are held

captive. Although still unaware of many injustices, these females touched on some

instances which have caught their attention. Through their interviews and the findings

from this study, it is apparent that they believe popular culture reproduces women's status

in the South through events such as beauty pageants. As previously examined in the

findings, Anne, Elizabeth, and Karen all noted ways in which they perceived the media to

negatively represent women. They shared stories of how women are portrayed in the

media as perfect, stupid and vulnerable. Through their recollections, I saw a spark that

they are aware of some injustices that exist. The fact that they understood and conversed

about women being portrayed a certain way in the media spoke loudly.

       Ironically, the interviewees remain stuck as they are firm believers in pageants

and are unable to translate this negative representation to beauty pageants. Besides

Karen, who already had put her daughter in beauty pageants before she could vocalize

her desire, both Anne and Elizabeth stated that they would not allow their daughters to

participate in a beauty pageant until it was something that they personally wanted to

pursue. That alone shows that they believe child beauty pageants are not beneficial at an

early age and can cause more harm than good. However, as time has passed, Anne has

reverted from the statements in her interview as she is now preparing her daughter for her

first pageant at four years old. This is proof that even though injustices are seen, it is

hard to resist the power of a patriarchal society. It is also ironic that they vocalized that

the media does not help the reputation of pageant participants, while they still participate

in them and recruit other contestants. Anne noted that many of the pageant contestants

on TV have elaborate educational careers and those are not emphasized. Elizabeth

pointed out that certain exaggerations are made, which draw in more of an audience.

       When exploring the aggressiveness of females, Anne, Elizabeth, and Karen noted

that the negative behavior is uncalled for in beauty pageants. As females prepare for the

competition, their claws come out. When Anne saw this side of pageants, she ended her

pageant career. The competition was not worth such drastic acts of violence. For

Elizabeth, she will not enter a pageant that her younger sister is competing in. She

realized that some females get upset if they do not win the crown, and she did not want to

put her and her sister in an awkward situation where they competed against one another.

Karen deals with numerous pageant mothers and noted that she learned which ones to

stay away from. She saw the way in which these acts hurt the children, and did not want

to be a part of a pageant where such events took place. Resisting the aggression of

females is one step that these interviewees have taken to defy the reproduction of

women‟s status. The resistance of females seems to fluctuate as they still strive to find

their way in a patriarchal society. Living in confinement, the power of males continues

to be portrayed making it difficult for women to completely break free.

       In curriculums taught in schools, women are not getting a fair shake. As explored

earlier, textbooks are filled with males and their accomplishments throughout history. As

long as schools emphasize the accomplishments of males and neglect those of females,

females will continue to fall behind. As Anne noted in her interview, more and more

women are beginning to make their way into politics. Although this is true, females do

not receive equal representation as males. They also do not hold positions of higher

power than that of males. Since our country was founded, males have been in charge.

The way that students learn, and what they learn, in school could help females to further

advance in society. Although gains have been made, they are not enough. Some women

can and do resist the reproduction mechanisms of society, but the vast majority are still

lost. Although some realizations about injustices may seem small, they may very well be

the start of a movement that could change the way in which women are perceived and

displayed in society.

       As I look around my small hometown, I cannot help but see females who are

stuck in the times of the past. This stuckedness has trapped them and made it very

difficult to get out. Many girls that I went to school with, and even college, are now

housewives. They rely solely on their husbands to financially support all members of the

family. They used college as a means to land a nice career, meet a man with an even

nicer career, and allow him to support her as she tends to the household duties. When

talking with a friend about my journey through Curriculum Studies and my professional

goals afterwards, she stated that she would never advance her education because then her

husband would not allow her to quit work and stay home because she would make too

much money. I was simply amazed. Although not furthering her education, this is not a

lack of thinking on her part. She is strategically thinking, manipulating her way into

being able to stay home. This way, her husband and others will not expect more from

her. If she advanced her education, it would be a waste of potential financial earnings if

she remained a housewife. To secure her position at home, she does not put herself in a

spot that would jeopardize her current role. Personally, I find that act of strategic laziness

bothersome as females continue to rely on males to support them. Although I love my

husband dearly, one never knows what the future holds. My personal desire to pursue my

academic and professional career would not allow me to stay home. My personal journey

while obtaining this degree has opened my eyes and made me aware of several issues in

the world, affording me the rare opportunity to understand and escape from the

stuckedness around me.

       This is a subject that will not be taught, discussed, or explored in the vast majority

of schools in society. This is where programs, such as Curriculum Studies, come into

play. Before entering this program, I was stuck in the same place as most other females.

I realized there was a difference in males and females, but never gave it much thought. I

saw the images through popular culture and knew that I was being compared to them.

What I did not realize was the reason behind the whole phenomenon. Long traditions and

stereotypes were constantly at play, and I fell victim to them. I cannot claim to be free of

all stereotypes myself. I am in the education field, I do tend to most of the household

duties, and I strive to make myself look physically attractive. However, I worked hard

for my education, can support myself, and do not mind that I do not look like the models

found in magazines. This program has also drastically changed my views of education.

Has this program taught me how to better teach math, science, history, language, or the

arts? Certainly, and in a way that I never dreamed. I have learned to question myself and

the things I see in everyday life. Constant conversations with myself and with others

were and are key to finding this deeper level of curriculum understanding.

       Understanding curriculum has filled the void that focusing on instruction

provided. Now serving as an instructional technology specialist, I am able to help

students explore popular culture, making learning meaningful for them. I am fortunate to

provide students with a means of learning that takes them out of the standardized

competition, if only for a brief moment. Being afforded the opportunity to understand

curriculum has not only changed me as an educator but as an individual as well. Looking

at the situation through a feminist lens, women first need to realize who has gotten us to

this point. Throughout history men have been the superior sex in society, therefore

creating “his” story. Women have become suppressed under their rule. Men desire

perfectly sculpted women who discipline their bodies to achieve their expectations.

Although some beauty pageants provide scholarships, they still send the message that

although one is worthy of a college scholarship, she must still be beautiful. Pageants

serve as a means to separate the mind and body, further perpetuating women‟s status.

Women continue to act as they should be parading on the pageant stage. I do not work to

abandon them all together. Instead, I completed this study to prompt others to criticize

why pageants are conducted according to males‟ terms. After investigating how popular

culture, pageants, and Southern tradition affect females in school, on the stage, and

around society, it has strengthened my desire to spread the word. The more I learn, the

more disturbed I become, and I hope to be the catalyst to help other women break free

from their own stuckedness.

Don’t Let it Go Too South: Further Research & Implications

       It is imperative to keep this conversation going to further explore how society is

reproductive in nature and perpetuates women‟s status through popular culture and

beauty pageants. This study focused on a former pageant contestant, a current contestant,

a child beauty pageant contestant, and a pageant mom. Although a wealth of information

was received, it would be beneficial to hone in from different angles to gain a more

thorough understanding. All of these contestants had been successful, winning at least

one crown and title. They discussed their experiences long after they occurred.

       Another beneficial study would be one that takes into consideration all contestants

from one particular pageant. This would allow for voices to be heard from those who

were and were not successful, providing different experiences under one event.

Following them through their preparations for the pageant, during the pageant, and

afterwards would allow individuals to discuss their emotions in-depth. Because only one

female would be declared the ultimate winner, this would provide all contestants with a

chance to reflect on important details. An analysis of their experiences would provoke

immediate thought on their part and provide insight to the pageant phenomena.

       As noted earlier, African American pageants are quite different from those

explored in this study. Beauty pageants are one area that still, for the most part, remains

segregated in the South. In some local Southern African American pageants, the way in

which the queen is crowned is far different from those based on physical beauty and

interview. Instead of crowning a winner based on these criterions, the winner is crowned

based on who raised the most amount of money for philanthropy. Contestants are also

recruited by adults who help them to raise money. A look into their pageant experiences

would provide the groundwork for a comparison between the two. It could also question

whether segregated beauty pageants are still needed today, if pageants are to remain a set

feature of society.

       Furthermore, a study that focuses on pageant judges would provide insight to

those whose job it is to score individuals and determine who is crowned the queen. A

biographical exploration would allow for a glimpse into their previous experiences in life

and any pageant experience they may have had. The question of what qualifies someone

as capable of judging others would be investigated. This would help to understand what

qualities and characteristics are looked for in a winner. The development of how these

became the norm would allow for further exploration of females living in a patriarchal


The Body and Emotions as Curriculum in Unison

       The interviews and research from this study could be used to address and propose

a new curriculum which focuses on joining the body and mind together. I call for a

curriculum of unison that allows females to truly learn about their bodies and emotions in

an educational environment. This would be done by reexamining the physical education

and language arts classes that currently exist. First and foremost, females‟ voices should

be at the center of the curriculum, not quieted by society. Oliver and Lalik explored

language arts as a critical piece “in any curriculum aimed toward social transformation”

(Oliver & Lalik, 2001, p. 305). Reading, writing, speaking, and listening would give

female students the chance to learn from one another and transform the social injustices

that exist. “We are appreciative now of storytelling as a mode of knowing… of the

connection between narrative and the growth of identity, of the importance of shaping our

own stories, and at the same time, opening ourselves to other stories in all their variety

and their different degrees of articulateness” (Greene in Oliver & Lalik, 2001, p. 305). It

is imperative that the change starts from within our bodies before change is demanded

from others. The females interviewed for this study are currently lacking that self

change. Anne is now seeking out possible plastic surgery, Elizabeth continues to

compete in pageants, and Karen continues to spend large amounts of money to ensure

Juliana‟s success in pageants. A curriculum of unison would allow females, such as

those interviewed for this study, the chance to investigate their own stories and open

themselves to others, making connections to narratives and their own personal identity.

Studying all forms of language arts helps broaden knowledge of various topics, giving

females the educational means to fight for equity. Learning experiences such as this

would provide females the proper investigation into their bodies to construct personal


        One strategy that could be used to raise awareness of this problem is to keep

journals or diaries. In the book Reviving Ophelia, Dr. Pipher remembers one girl that she

counseled who had bulimia who “… had a consciousness-raising notebook in which she

kept track of lookist, sexist remarks. She brought in ads featuring thin women. She

hated how women were portrayed as vacant-eyed sexual objects with no personality”

(Pipher, 1994, p. 203). The journal served as a communication tool for her to address the

inequalities she saw in society. If unaddressed, dangers such as eating disorders can set

in as females attempt to reach the standards of a patriarchal society. This strategy was

also explored in an article entitled The body as curriculum: learning with adolescent girls

in The Journal of Curriculum Studies (Oliver & Lalik, 2009). A mentor worked with a

group of four adolescent girls who kept journals about their bodies and their feelings

about them. In addition to this, they also completed magazine collages, autobiographies,

personal maps, and other tasks. “The journals became much more than a place for self-

reflection. As Kim responded in writing to the girls‟ journal entries, the journals became

private spaces for confidential conversations between each girl and Kim” (Oliver &

Lalik, 2001, p. 310). It is extremely difficult for females to voice their concerns about

their bodies and feelings, and implementing a journal that acted as a dialogue between

them and a mentor proved successful. It is easier for people to write their feelings than to

voice them aloud. Think of how many times a dreaded conversation was going to occur,

so an email was sent in its place. This could easily be implemented in a classroom or

home environment to make adolescents aware of the standards that women are held to.

Once the realization is there, actions and discussions can help young girls remain true to

themselves. If given the opportunity to engage in such an activity with a mentor, the

interviewees for this study could possibly move beyond their current way of thinking and

break from the unstuckedness that they are in. Although they are aware of some

injustices, they would be able to further examine their roles and how society has

influenced them as well. Society has constructed beauty pageants based on the beliefs

and standards of males, and these women continue to compete for approval.

       Secondly, the critical reading that is explored in the language arts curriculum

would be paired with the activities in physical education. This alone would send the

message that instead of separating the mind and the body, the two should be merged

together in unison. The mind should be encompassed within the body, thus taking the

emphasis off of the body exclusively. All too often, females learn that the point of

physical education classes is to get their bodies in tune. Working out guarantees a good

body and those who do not are fat. I remember PE being a pointless class. I was always

the last one to complete the required mile around the track. If we did not want to partake

in the sports activities, such as basketball, then we were required to walk around the gym

for our grade. This allowed the girls more time to gossip while the boys played games.

My experiences in PE were not beneficial in helping me form my identity during a fragile

time in life. Instead, I propose that the activities in physical education could and should

derive from the females‟ questions they have about their own bodies. If such a

curriculum existed, I believe that females, such as those interviewed in this study, would

not turn to pageants as a means to learn about themselves. Anne would have greatly

benefited from this curriculum as she always had a weight problem. She looked at her

weight problem in a negative manner and never did much to address her feelings about

the situation. She was unable to cope with the issue and turned to pageants to transform

her into the girl that she was supposed to be. Instead of conforming to the standards set

by society, females would be able to take their emotions into consideration and learn to

focus on their minds, not isolating it from their body. Teachers would be armed with the

proper knowledge to help create a healthy identity development, working to end the

competition with others.

         School today is defined as either a passing or failing institution based on its

standardized test scores. In order to keep off of the failing list, schools turn learning

experiences into rote, meaningless classes which serve one purpose: to develop students

who are able to meet at least the minimum standard on tests. As long as it looks good on

paper then it is good enough. Students and even schools compete with another to attain

the highest score. These scores are important to the opportunities available in the

educational realm. Just as this curriculum aids to end the competition among females by

opening dialogue, it also serves to end the competitive approach to education. I propose

that curriculum should end standardized testing and instead foster environments that

allow students to explore relevant topics in society to develop critical thinking skills.

       Standardized testing merely creates students who are able to memorize facts in

order to be successful on mandated tests. When examining the interviews for this study, I

found that all of the females are successful according to a standard set for them in a

patriarchal society. In school they passed standardized tests, allowing them to fulfill

careers deemed appropriate for women. They were taught the correct way to succeed in

set scenarios, but they were unable to foster any critical thinking skills. Because of the

lack of thinking skills, these females are unable to see how they are affected by society.

Personally, I learned how to become successful in a standardized environment. The first

time I dealt with real world issues was not until I reached the doctoral level of my

education. I had a hard time adjusting to not taking tests. Where were the study guides

that I had grown up with my whole life? The truth is, in life, there are no study guides.

When looking into the real world, what is needed now more than ever is individuals who

are able to think critically about pressing issues. In the real world, it does not matter

what score they received on their test, but the way in which they are able to solve

problems and strive to better society for all.

Becoming Unstuck: Where I Go From Here

        My goal in completing this study is to help other females become unstuck.

There is a dire need for women to stand up and take action against the standards that we

are held to. “We need a widespread rebellion of women who are tired of worrying about

their weight, who understand that weight is not a matter of health or discipline but a

weapon our culture uses against us to keep us in our place and feeling small” (Fraser in

Iazzetto, 1998, p. 39). Constant supervision of the body minimizes the development of

the mind. It is this obsession with the body that suppresses females and keeps them

underneath males in society. They continue to fulfill the stereotypical roles laid out for


        Girls, Inc. is a non-profit group that has different networks located throughout the

United States and Canada. It is an organization for girls that empowers them through

knowledge in areas often intended for males, and other areas that are often hushed by

society. “Major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse

prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and

sports participation” (Girls, Inc., 2010). These are pressing issues for girls, and it is

imperative that they have a means to address them in order to have a proper outlet to aid

in their identity development. Although this group serves as an advocacy for girls in the

national and local arenas, it teaches girls to advocate for themselves. This group is an

example of what is missing in schools. In Georgia, this group is currently active in

Albany, Atlanta, and Columbus. My goal is to establish a group in Southeastern Georgia,

affecting the young girls in my community.

       In our ever modernizing and increasingly diverse U.S. society, girls need to

       think critically in order to navigate the many social and environmental pressures

       that they are facing. In addition to exploring their identity in terms of

       body image, race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and family history,

       girls also need to place their experience in the context of U.S. society with many

       of its remaining oppressive institutions and norms. They need to feel that they can

       question and make choices that are healthy and empowering for them. And they

       need to feel that they can act and make change. (Whittington & Nixon-Mack,

       2010, p. 170-171)

By bringing a group such as Girls, Inc. to Southeastern Georgia, it would allow for young

girls to navigate away from the stereotypes found in the South. In order to break this

cycle, females need to challenge the traditions that are otherwise unnoticed and

unquestioned. They need to investigate who they are in this domineering society. Until

females begin to question why society functions as it does, males will continue to control

how it operates. Personally, it has become easier for me to see how one area of society

affects the other, but until others are afforded the same learning opportunity as me, the

cycle will continue.

       My voice, although small in the grand scheme of things, will work to challenge

several people influenced by deep tradition. My quaint Southern hometown is similar to

that of so many, filled with females striving to gain success through their beauty. For a

small town Southern girl, I realize that I have not done too badly. So here I go proudly

on yet another journey, with stretch marks, varicose veins, birth marks, and other body

imperfections, to help uncover the truth for the youth of today. May their experiences

with identity development provide them an insight into their true selves, free of the

pressures from our patriarchal society.


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