Reading with Margot Mifflin: Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood Online
Looking for Miss America is the first feminist history of the Miss America pageant. From its start in 1921 as an Atlantic City tourist draw to its current incarnation as a scholarship competition, the pageant has indexed women’s status during periods of social change–the post-suffrage 1920s, the Eisenhower 1950s, the #MeToo era. This ever-changing institution has been shaped by war, evangelism, the rise of television and reality TV, and, significantly, by contestants who confounded expectations.
Spotlighting individuals, from Yolande Betbeze, whose refusal to pose in swimsuits led an angry sponsor to launch the rival Miss USA contest, to the first black winner, Vanessa Williams, who received death threats and was protected by sharpshooters in her hometown parade, Mifflin shows how women made hard bargains even as they used the pageant for economic advancement. The pageant’s history includes, crucially, those it excluded; the notorious Rule Seven, which required contestants to be “of the white race,” was retired in the 1950s, but no women of color were crowned until the 1980s. Written in deeply researched, fast-paced chapters that unpack each decade of the competition, Looking for Miss America examines the heady blend of capitalism, patriotism, class anxiety, and cultural mythology that has fueled this American ritual.
- Wednesday, October 21, 2020
- 11:00am - 12:00pm
- Time Zone:
- Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
- This is an online event. Event URL will be sent via registration email.