Missing American Beauty?
Asked on Quora:
"Why are beauty pageant interview questions so short?"
Answered by Tamra Coveau
You almost answered your own question…
"It seems all they want is for her to say something generic and bland that appeals to the lowest common denominator."
The whole point of running a pageant is to make money. The idea that it may also be confirming the patriarchy’s ideals and commodifying female sexuality is a social issue. The business of pageants requires contestants that are willing to pay to compete, an audience willing to view and sponsorship. The pageant is tailored to entertain the audience and to meet sponsorship goals.
It is not a true I.Q. test or even a scientifically accurate test of beauty or talent. It is subjective yes, but more than that it is commodity entertainment.
The lowest common denominator is the general audience attention span, which is not going to tolerate a lengthy, detailed or highly intellectualized discussion one would expect from a political debate.
This is not to say that the contestants are not capable of giving such a response, but it is not what the judges, audience and sponsors traditionally desire from the women. Thirty seconds does not seem long enough to give a thoughtful response. Perhaps there should be an essay? That would be absurd right? It is after all, a token response and not a serious inquiry into the female mind that the judges are after.
However, audience expectations may be changing as society continues to debate the value of pageants and whether they are empowering women, or just sexist remnants of the past that continue to objectify women. There is a shift in some modern pageants to do away with some of the more sexist aspects of pageantry, like swimwear, but this could be missing the point. The women are still judged on physical attractiveness…It is still a beauty contest.
The traditional generic tone of a pageant answer is one that will clearly appeal to the judges and audience without offending anyone. Some view pageants as an opportunity or platform to speak out on various issues, but there is strong opinion that pageants continue to do more harm than good for women in general. There are competitions that try to balance beauty and brains, but still crown a pageant winner. Is it better to be recognized for both or is it just re-branding of an old message?