Mrs. America goes to Crimea: The pageant that once tried to be trailblazing is a disaster

As other pageants have tried to increase diversity and stay relevant, Mrs. America is the worst of them all


Prachi Gupta
September 5, 2014 11:00PM (UTC)

If there were any reason to pay attention to the antiquated Mrs. America beauty pageant, there no longer is, because even the pageant has stopped trying to feign relevance. During the ceremony crowning 2014 Mrs. America last weekend, "The Brady Bunch" star Florence Henderson announced that next year's 2015 competition will take place in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula -- or, as the hosts referred to it, "Russia."

Yes, that Crimea: The war-torn region that Vladimir Putin overtook from Ukraine by brute force, the region that President Obama and the international community has refused to recognize as a Russian territory. That region is, as Mashable reported, now "Russia" according to the diplomatic experts/hosts of Mrs. America.

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Mrs. America was originally borne out of an attempt to buck tradition, becoming the first televised event that put married women on a stage. It was an attempt to show the world that married women and mothers are not old hags (And dare I say, are sexual beings? No. No, I dare not...) as our historically sexist society once wrote them off. This is how Henderson put it:

Back when a married woman’s place was in the home and only in the home, when pageant people cared only about the young, single and unattached, Mrs. America put the married woman on stage, in a crown, and against all thoughts, in popular thought, made her the star in an entire pageant of her own, Mrs. America.

(I sort of doubt this concept of married-women-as-real-people was all that revolutionary in 1977, when the competition became a televised event, but whatevs). But, as Slate's Emily Yoffe discovered, there isn't much more to to this pageant than looking impossibly pretty, and the motherhood is celebrated so long as the physical marks of motherhood are tucked away and out of sight. (Also, there's that whole larger issue of tying a woman's worth to her relationship status and that she is a mother, which, oh god.)

Other pageants, despite their objectifying origins, have managed to stay relevant in 2014 for celebrating diversity. Mrs. America, however, would rather stick to tradition. Henderson continued her tone-deaf speech:

"A quarter of a century ago, Mrs. America was invited by the then-Soviet government to take all our state winners, and all the same number of married Russian women, to Moscow, for a joint Mrs. America-Mrs. Russia pageant that helped build a bridge between our two countries and our people. It was a great idea then, and you know what? It's a great idea now!"

Alexey Kuznetsov, the representative of Russia's Mrs. Russia pageant, then came on stage to invite Mrs. America to Russia to commemorate 25 years of friendship, I guess, then added this:

“History will repeat itself, only bigger and better, and more exciting than ever before. We will take the ladies from Moscow to the Black Sea coast, Mrs. America and Mrs. Russia together again."

This move is so outrageous and has made a few people pretty angry, but given Mrs. America's desperate attempts to hang on to 1989, despite existing in 2014, it's just...laughable, really. Even the pageant co-founder David Marmel (whose grandparents, interestingly enough, are from Ukraine) doesn't seem to be taking this seriously. Among the comments he made to Mashable, he insisted again on tradition: "Crimea was part of Russia for time and memorial," he said. I guess one way to make sure history repeats itself is by continuing to live in the past.

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Beauty Pageant Crimea Mrs. America Russia Sexism Ukraine Video

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