Miss America Somehow Defies Southern Stereotype

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Pageant smiles are a Southern export. Before I learned to form full sentences, I have been learning to smile perfectly. Upper lip pulled up, squint the eyes slightly if you want it to look genuine, upper teeth situated softly on bottom lip. I can give you a pageant smile any day of the week.

This week at the Miss America pageant, Southerners swept the board. I’m not wholly surprised, as the Miranda Lambert song says, “We’re just like you, only prettier.” However the dresses and performances aren’t what impressed me.

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight summed up many of the problems with pageants in an episode aired last year, but this year the young women in the pageant answered hard questions with grace and without hesitation.

Miss Tennessee, Hannah Robison, was asked about Planned Parenthood and answered quickly and surely: “I don’t think Planned Parenthood funding should be cut off. The $500 million that gets every single year goes for female care…and if we don’t give that funding to Planned Parenthood those women will be out of healthcare for reproductive causes.”

Miss Mississippi, Hannah Roberts, was asked, “Does an order to issue same-sex marriage licenses violate religious freedom?” Without hesitation she answered: “It absolutely does not violate her religious freedom. That is her job that she was voted into doing and that law is a federal law throughout the rest of the country. So yes, she did violate the law there.”

News outlets have jumped on both these young women, accusing them of “drinking the Kool-Aid.” Todd Starnes of Fox News said, “Renowned theologian Miss Mississippi says Kim Davis violated federal law.”

Mississippi and Tennessee are known as deeply conservative states, yet the women they chose to represent them in Miss America offered level-headed answers to difficult questions, answers you could go so far to say are liberal. In an arena of beauty and grace, young women are proving themselves as intellectual dynamos who form opinions that many of their other state citizens would disagree with.
Personally, I’m thrilled. As a Mississippian who supports Planned Parenthood and LGBT rights, it’s refreshing to see people at the Miss America pageant who reflect my views. I wouldn’t say that they’re liberal or that the two young women are liberal beyond those opinions, but it’s a nice change of pace.

My Facebook feed has blown up accusing Miss Tennessee of being a betrayer of the unborn and saying Miss Mississippi hates religious freedom. Others have said that Miss America is liberal media and is propagandizing the youth (not that the accusation of liberal media brainwashing is new).

Despite being from the South of the South, these young women answered questions with grace and defied the Southern, conservative stereotype. You can be beautiful, smart, and have opinions that disagree with the majority of your state.

Photo Credit: Disney| ABC Television Group 

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