I’m currently sitting on my couch with a glass of wine. Red, of course, a la Olivia Pope (#soulsister). I’m going over financial statements for the last quarter, giving the final approval on a marketing campaign and finishing up research for a complicated patient case. This is the first time I’ve sat down for more than 20 minutes in five days.
I’m also watching the Miss America pageant.
I have a number of friends and co-workers who like to joke that I could have probably competed in pageants. I’m told it’s how I hold myself, how I converse with people, how comfortable I am in front of a camera, how I (apparently) know how to walk in heels. Interesting how no-one mentions evening gowns or, ugh, a swimsuit. It’s funny – we automatically equate confidence, especially self-confidence, and a group of powerhouse like-minded women with the Miss America pageant, but then as soon as we’re asked about it publicly we automatically talk about how archaic having a swimsuit competition is, or how they leave the ‘intelligence’ section to the very end.
Just… stop it.
Do you know how hard it is to be a woman in business? Let alone a woman in a stem field? Let alone being a woman in the technology field? Do you know how hard it is to be a mum? What about being a single mum? How about how hard it is to juggle family and a business and girlfriends and partners? How about being in the public eye? Having people know your name because of something you wrote, something you posted, a video of you on youtube. Have you stood in a pair of heels for 12 hours and not been able to complain about it because someone out there will say “poor girl – maybe she should wear sensible shoes”.
Why do we feel like we constantly need to criticize someone else’s choices?
WHOMP, there it is. So,what is it about a pageant that makes it so easy to stand up and put another woman down? Maybe its because we think we’re better than that. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to buy into the beauty pageants because we know that someone’s heart is more important than how much hairspray their extensions can hold. Maybe it’s because we’re scared, that we don’t think we’re good enough. Maybe it’s something else. But whatever the reason, it’s never a good enough reason to put another woman down.
I like the Miss America pageant. I love seeing a woman confident enough to put herself out there on a national stage. I really love knowing that each of those women does it even though they know they probably won’t win. I’m constantly impressed at their ability to do the whole thing in heels. And yes, it’s practiced. But isn’t that life? Raise your hand if you’ve practiced in front of a mirror before a big presentation or meeting (y’all should raise both hands, multiple times) – how is this any different? Have you ever put yourself out there knowing you’re probably going to fail, but for some insane reason you do it anyway?
What does it mean to have confidence? And what does it mean to instil confidence in our young girls? What does it mean to teach them to stand up for themselves and their beliefs? What does it mean to give each other motivation to achieve their goals? 2017’s Miss America, Savvy Shields, has been advocating healthy living (especially in teenagers) during her entire reign. I believe it’s important that our young women are surrounded by positive motivation. So she’s got a crown on her head and a killer sense of style, but she’s also talking about good food, body acceptance and celebrating the parts of ourselves that we don’t always love. Because that’s okay. Because our “flaws” make us beautiful. Because we need to hear it from people other than just our mothers.
Point is, we need to stop being so hard on each other.
We need to show up. We need to say “I’m confident in myself”. We need to show that you can be strong in the boardroom, in front of investors and behind the scenes and that what we choose to wear doesn’t dictate how well we do our jobs.
But here’s the thing, Miss America Board of Directors – if you’re going to tout that you’re the biggest provider of scholarships for women put your money where your mouth is (lipstick and all). BE the largest provider of scholarships by investing all that money you claim you give out in your representatives, invest in women in STEM fields and recognize their work. This was the first year the live broadcast celebrated their state representatives by embracing their degrees, majors and careers. Keep. It. Up. Voice these women’s work (#mayaangelou) from every rooftop and show the world what your state representatives are doing. Broadcast the competitor’s platforms and post their achievements in academics on your site. Make the conversation first about their intelligence, not their beauty. Celebrate your STEM winners just as much as you celebrate your talent and swimsuit winners during the preliminaries. You have the capacity to make that happen.
So here’s the deal. I’m going to keep working my butt off in the business and health fields. I’m going to buy the bright pink dress and wear it to work with some powerhouse heels and I’m going to feel great about myself. I’m going to treat patients, to teach residents, to continue to work with female-run and supporting companies, and hopefully, be an inspiration to the women and girls who follow me in this field and beyond.
Because I’m just getting started, and you – you’ve got the world in front of you.