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Breaking America’s Glass Color Barrier

vanessaIn reflecting upon the historic nature of the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president, I’m reminded of another moment in our recent  history when the country’s color barrier was shattered.  In 1984, beautiful, talented, intelligent, and yes, articulate, Vanessa Williams tore down the walls of one of the strongest bastions of white entitlement at that time, the Miss America pageant.  Until that point, women of color were pretty much excluded from competition, even when token contestants were allowed entree to it’s rarefied atmosphere, there was scant expectation of them attaining victory.  However, Williams, standing head and shoulders above the field, simply could not be denied.  While we now take fully integrated competition in the fading glory of the event for granted, at the time, Williams’ victory seemed every bit as momentous as Obama’s.

As America’s Constitutional preclusion of blacks as citizens prevented African Americans from from holding elected office, for many years before the crowning of a black woman, the Miss America pageant was also institutionally racist.  Though the envelope had been steadily pushed, women who were not examples of pure, lily-white virtue faced an often insurmountable hurdle.  Even in the case of some white women, like Bess Meyerson, Miss America 1945, being Jewish almost cost her the crown.  From PBS:

The pageant’s long history of excluding women of color dates from its beginnings. At some point in the 1930s, it was formalized in the notorious rule number seven of the Miss America rule book. Instituted under the directorship of Lenora Slaughter, rule number seven stated that “contestants must be of good health and of the white race.” As late as 1940, all contestants were required to list, on their formal biological data sheet, how far back they could trace their ancestry. In the pageant’s continual crusade for respectability, ancestral connections to the Revolutionary War or perhaps the Mayflower would have been seen as a plus.

It is no surprise that the nation’s first black Miss America was fair-skinned, deemed not quite black enough by some blacks and far too black by some whites.  “Light, bright, and damn near white,” was the sentiment of some African Americans, displeased that the coronation of such a light skinned black woman did nothing to validate the acceptance of the natural beauty of darker complexioned women with thicker lips and wider, blunter noses.

Almost immediately, the public would become divided over this history-making event. On one hand, black people would celebrate it as a defining moment for their race, while radical whites would protest it and even go as far as to threaten Williams’ life. Still, there was another group of African-Americans who would criticize Williams because her skin was too light, her hair was too straight, her eyes were the wrong color and her upbringing was too privileged. In short, they felt that Williams was not black enough, and therefore not a true representation of their race.

“Nigger” was the expression most often used against her in the hate mail she received during her reign from those whites furious that the integrity of an American institution had been compromised.  From Wikipedia:

Williams began competing in beauty pageants in the early 1980s. Williams won Miss New York in 1983, and went to the Miss America national pageant in Atlantic City. She was crowned Miss America 1984 on September 17, 1983 making her the first-ever African American Miss America. Prior to the final night of competition, Williams won both the Preliminary Talent and Swimsuit Competitions from earlier in the week. Williams’ reign as Miss America was not without its challenges and controversies. For the first time in pageant history, a reigning Miss America was the target of death threats and angry racist hate mail.

While there are some obvious similarities in the stories of Williams and Obama, the most striking being that their middle class blackness was questioned and assailed for it’s “Huxtable-esque” in-authenticity

Vanessa grew up in a cozy community named Millwood (pop. 2,500), about 40 miles northeast of New York City. For years the Williamses were the only black family in town, but Vanessa never felt different. Her parents, Milton and Helen, taught music to high school students in neighboring exurbs and were cultivated, prosperous. “We had a real nice raised ranch house, great clothes, new bikes, good foreign cars, a pool in the yard—I missed a lot of the black urban experience.”

…there are also major differences between the two.  Unlike the empty suit clad Naked Emperor, there was never any question as to Williams’ qualifications.  She actually had to answer the questions, sing the song, and wear the swimsuit.  She also fulfilled her duties as Miss America admirably, always honoring the blacks and women who came before her for their sacrifice.   Until the “scandalously sexy” photos of her surfaced, causing those predisposed to object to her holding the crown to wax apoplectic about her “unworthiness,” giving them an excuse to hide their racism behind the fake outrage attendant to the convenient adaptation of outdated, Victorian mores, Williams served exemplarily.  The hypocrisy of a culture celebratory of the judgment of scantily-clad women on superficial criteria condemning a woman for exploiting those same qualities on her own terms ws never acknowledged.  Secondly, contrary to the Astroturf tools of David Axelrod in the media and blogosphere, fond of manufacturing false racial controversy on Obama’s behalf, hardly anyone objected to Obama’s candidacy simply on the basis of his race.  In fact, in the grand scheme of things, his exploitation of his bi-racial background afforded him a huge advantage.

There is no question that Vanessa Williams’ shoulders are among those upon whose Barack Obama stands, she who actually faced bigotry in all of it’s ugly forms before and after society’s misogyny joined hands with its racism, forcing her to resign in shame, only to emerge victorious, provided a template Obama could do worse than follow.  At the same time, struggling in a society whose standards of feminine comport are external and arbitrary, Williams also has as much, or more, kinship to other modern women as disparate as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

With the ongoing specter of BlagObama-gate hanging over his head, the possibility of career-ending scandal derailing the Obama presidency is worthy of contemplation.  If this blows up, or other skeletons in his closet were to emerge, enabling political opponents to exploit the country’s residual racism to their advantage, it is not at all clear that he possesses the character, dignity, grace and strength necessary to persevere and overcome.

Like Vanessa Williams.

Or Hillary.

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97 Responses

  1. Cinie see this link:

    http://www.tv.com/franks-place/frank-joins-a-club/episode/103095/summary.html?tag=ep_guide;ep_title;4

    There’s also a description of this on wiki.

    This was done in NOLA in the black social/Carnival organizations. When Carnival Season starts on 12th night, you would see the pics of the debs of the various Carnival or social organizations. When you’d see the debs’ pics of the black organizations those debs were very light-skinned.
    I asked an acquaintance about it one time and she said “Oh yes, it’s true. They might not literally use a brown paper bag, but you could tell it was done.”

  2. Fredster, unfortunately, the dirty little secret about racism and bigotry is that it is often a black-on-black or white-on-white crime. This whole latest “Magic Negro” controversy is just another example of the dangers of oversimplifying a complex issue as black or white.

  3. Cinie,

    I read an article in a nola magazine once about how when the movie “Imitation of Life” was shown at a theatre in the city in New Orleans, the mothers of light-skinned black girls would take their daughters to the movie to show them how trying to pass would end up causing nothing but grief.

    The author referenced the version of that movie with Lana Turner so I guess we were talking about sometime in the 50s or early 60s.

  4. Just me and you, eh, Fredster?
    The Lana Turner version was different from the book and the original film, changed to reflect the times. The Wikipedia entry on the film is interesting.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imitation_of_Life_(1959_film)
    I find the depiction of women’s issues, especially relative to single parenthood and ambition to be as interesting as the racial considerations.

  5. Skin colors often have affected other societies, too. In colonial Mexico, there were distinct class separations based on skin color (the elite “purists” being those descended directly from Spanish Caucasians, followed by “lower” rungs of other groups of mixed or native ancestries — creoles, mestizos, mulattoes, etc.).

    However, there are certain areas where white skin is a disadvantage and discriminated against, especially if they are the significant minority (but this is not always true, either).

    (As for women’s issues as often depicted in the movies of the 1940s and 1950s — I can hardly bare to look at most of those old movies. That’s why I feel such outrage when certain people try to force us back to those women-spanking times — why it makes me so sad to see the backtracking of this past year.)

  6. I have never seen the earlier version in its entirety, but caught bits of it here and there.

    Quite a few little subplots going on in there. 🙂

    I thought the ’59 version of the film is interesting when looked at as it came out just before the height of the Civil Rights era.

  7. Meant to add, guess I’m calling it a night. Think it’s time to hit the sack with the tv timer on.

    g’night Cinie.

  8. Alwaysthinking, Desi used to spank Lucy, too. Talk about issues and subplots!

    Pleasant dreams, Fredster.

  9. Right. The patronizing was very different from today, that is, there were attempts to be polite and chivalrous, but women typically were treated like children. How often we saw those attempts to tame a “headstrong” woman! Of course, we saw those efforts in their crudest forms against Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

  10. It boils down to “knowing one’s place,” doesn’t it? How strange that so many are confused about how society ranks males of any color above females. No wonder there’s so much outrage when the truth smacks you in the face as it has for many women regarding the election.

  11. It does indeed boil down to “knowing one’s place.” (I’ve actually been told that in so many words by an old boss — he who also kept piling responsibility on my plate while saying that certain other staff members (male or female) just couldn’t handle those kinds of assignments!)

    Obama, of course, is the epitome of a an unqualified male being chosen over a more qualified female, something most working women have experienced. His white and black backers, including some females, obviously knew that they could use race as their trump card. My opinion when I first saw the liberal bloggers support him was that it was “the same old same old” — the good ole boys supporting another good ole boy.

  12. Also, thanks for this thoughtful post and good night (or morning). I suspect that our both Vanessa Williams and B. Obama will be reflected in our future society in America — not necessarily just black and white but other mixed races, too. I hope the character issues Obama has will not be reflected, however.

  13. But that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? What will those backers do if, or more likely, when, some sort of scandal does manage to slip through their so far impenetrable defense of him? What will they do, the MSM, the blogger bullies? Attack? Abandon? Will he collapse under the resulting pressure? What happens to the country if he does? These are the questions that have always made me unable to support him.

  14. I’ve seen both versions of Imitation of Life. The black women were portrayed differently in the version from the ’30’s versus the version from the late ’50’s or early ’60’s.

    In the original version, the white woman marketed the black woman’s recipe for flapjacks and both became wealthy. They seemed more equal partners even though the black woman lived in the white woman’s house and took a less public role.

    In the Lana Turner version, filmed much later, the role of the black woman was reduced to housekeeper and babysitter. The white woman earned the money and the black woman ran her home.

    It may well be that Hollywood was responding to the civil rights movement by portraying the black woman as a helper rather than as a partner.

    That goes along with the theory that the ideal woman’s weight shrinks as women become more publicly powerful.

  15. Did anyone else notice the huge display of man-love as the boyz in the media went ape-shit over Obama’s pecs and packs?

    The male female dicotomy was never more clearly deliniated. Men [generally speaking] love the female body as just another possession: to own, dominate and conquer.

    But their truest love is for the male body, their own.

    This also indicates why the “preferred” or “prized” woman is a stick figure with breasts. As much like the male as possible.

  16. Excellent entry!
    I remember those “too light” controversies!
    And a karmic consequence to using race to gain power – from a CNN actual headline:
    http://edgeoforever.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/playing-a-game-of-racial-chicken/

  17. Did anyone else notice the huge display of man-love as the boyz in the media went ape-shit over Obama’s pecs and packs?

    The male female dicotomy was never more clearly deliniated. Men [generally speaking] love the female body as just another possession: to own, dominate and conquer.

    But their truest love is for the male body, their own.

    This also indicates why the “preferred” or “prized” woman is a stick figure with breasts. As much like the male as possible.

    The above is an example of misandry:

    Misandry is hatred (or contempt) of men or boys. It is parallel to misogyny—the hatred of women. Misandry is also comparable with misanthropy which is the hatred of humanity generally.

    All forms of bigotry are wrong.

  18. I disagree with this, though,

    about her “unworthiness,” giving them an excuse to hide their racism behind the fake outrage attendant to the convenient adaptation of outdated, Victorian mores

    Even a white Miss America would have lost her crown if lesbian porn photos of her had surfaced.
    Also, is it “out-dated victorian mores” to expect someone in that position to refrain from being in nude photos? They are being hired to represent the brand after all.

  19. Did anyone else notice the huge display of man-love as the boyz in the media went ape-shit over Obama’s pecs and packs?
    ****************************
    myiq2xu,

    It did happen. If not man-body love, why was it such a big deal?
    Also, I think that Obama works to stay so thin so that he’ll appear less threatening. Whether true or not, I think that a burly black man would be more threatening to some people than a thin, almost sickly-looking black guy.

  20. Wow – something I didn’t know….Suzette Charles, the runner-up who took over for Williams was also African-American on her mother’s side.

    How ironic.

  21. mawm, I agree that any woman would’ve lost her title if she’d been photographed in soft-porn positions.

  22. I remember when Vanessa won. I was only 13, it was a great moment. Little did I know that someday I would never vote for the first AA presidential candidate.

  23. Obama’s body is not that great. He looks like a scrawny guy with muscle implants. I actually think that those photos of him are un-presidential.

  24. Like roadkill, I avert my eyes when it comes to Obama. Not sworn in yet and I am already sick to death of looking at him.

  25. I agree with mawm and JeanLouise that the photos would have ended any beauty pageant queen’s reign. Personally, I think these pageant’s are silly and wish they’d just go away for good.

    But I do find the color/race issue very interesting. As a dark complected white person I was called a white n-word in high school. My mother had a much harder time growing up in the 30s and was constantly harassed even as a small child. Perhaps it’s because of this that I’ve always found it insulting that it seems to take a fair-skinned, or biracial, black person to “break” these barriers.

    I have to head out to a doctor’s appointment. Wish I had more time to discuss. But I wanted to point out that Vanessa Williams was/is a gorgeous woman. There’s really no way to argue that point. However, the big deal about Obama’s “good looks” is a whole lot of BS. Pec? The man is flabby with skinny legs. What a joke to claim he’s “hot.” I think guys make a big deal about it because he’s so not a threat.

    Gotta run. Have a good day all!

  26. Like roadkill, I avert my eyes when it comes to Obama. Not sworn in yet and I am already sick to death of looking at him.

    lol! I love starting my morning here…always good for enlightenment and laughs. I avert my eyes too whenever he is shoved in my direction–which is often. As Afrocity said, Barnes & Nobles has a practical shrine to him.

    His gym obsession and fondness for his own body reminds me of Bush. Adolescent vanity. Can we please have an adult for president??

  27. Classifications like degree of melanin, gender, money or whatever criteria human beings come up with to create hierarchical systems in order to dominate and gain power always reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ story “The Sneetches on the Beaches.” The non-star bellied Sneetches envied the snooty star-bellied sneetches until an enterprising entrepreneur came to town with his “star-making/star-removal” machine. They went back and forth between what was desirable, depending on who had what (stars or no stars on their bellies), until no one could remember who had what when and they were broke from going in and out of the machine. The businessman left with all their money, and they were left lying around confused.

    Seems to represent the ridiculous divisions people come up with to gain advantage and abuse others.

  28. I’ve always been a fan of Vanessa Williams. She’s gorgeous and seems to become more so with time, can sing wonderfully and is a fine actor …the total package. Years ago there was talk of her doing Carmen Jones on stage. What happened to that? I admire anyone who can keep slinging the hash and bringing home the bacon. lol! You go girl!

  29. I don’t think anything to do with the Miss America Pageant can be considered progressive. She won because she is beautiful per the definition of what it means to be a beautiful women. Her time had arrived the way Obama’s black man as President has arrived.

    I can’t think of any redeeming feature of the Miss America pageant.

  30. NH: I am no fan of the pageants either, but for some women, they are an avenue to attain scholarships, funds for school, and other opportunities. For Vanessa, it was obviously a high profile position from which to launch a successful entertainment career.

    Having said that, I’ve never liked the way it objectifies women and reduces them to a very narrow definition of beauty.

  31. Barry is already running for his 2nd term…it’s what he does. He has never been about ” the here and now ” at any point in his life . It’s all in the future. But obots seem future orientated as well… they dream about some perfect future . Reality like Warren smacks them and they blink, but in 48 hours, they are back to dreaming of the great Barry future deeds …or so it seems.

  32. OT-I found this funny page on a Canadian blog (h/t weblog awards). It seems that
    “Beginning Monday, January 5, CBC Radio 2 invites Canadians to help select the top “49 songs from north of the 49th parallel” that would best define our country to the incoming U.S. President Barack Obama.”

    We are not alone…
    http://tinyurl.com/7uxwqh

  33. While a white Miss America would have been scandalized in the same situation, there’s no guarantee things would have played out the same way. With a month left in her reign, she might have been allowed to ride it out. Or maybe Guccionne wouldn’t have published the photos like Hefner refused to. And if I remember correctly, which I admit I might not, the lesbian angle was salacious, but the hue and cry was about nudity. The hypocrisy of people giving points for semi-nudity drawing a line in the sand about how much skin is “American” is huge.

  34. So funny on TV Land they are showing an episode of the Jeffersons where Helen is chastising Tom for voting for a candidate just because he is black.

  35. mawminc,
    “Also, is it “out-dated victorian mores” to expect someone in that position to refrain from being in nude photos? They are being hired to represent the brand after all.”

    I’m not sure I understand “represent the brand.” At any rate, technically, “Miss America” didn’t appear in nude photos, though the photos surfaced during Williams’ reign, they were taken before she was Miss America. Were they any more scandalous for her day than Marlyn Monroe’s Playboy spread? She was an “All American girl,” too.

  36. Cinie, on January 2nd, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Excellent point. And really such photos have been in the early years of many, many celebrities…. if it’s unusual now , it’s because our actors and such are 2nd 3rd generation and don’t need to do that for money .

  37. I am in moderation

  38. I think both aspects can be the case. Some people probably hid racism behind moralizing, but the moralizing might well have been enough by itself to end her reign.

    Re: BO. I think that he has issues beyond his bi-racial identity. I think he has strong feelings of abandonment – by both his mother and father. I think he has perpetually gotten attention by being the cute, clever kid that everyone wants to mentor. His boyish features allow him to do it to this day. He seems to need such attention. The problem is that we need a mature person, a leader, not a person trying to act the part.

    His lack of appeal to many here is, I think, as simple as the fact that if a person does not have warmth or real interest in other people, they are not really appealing no matter what they look like.

    I think that BO has a right to go swimming. On the other hand, he does seem to be somewhat of an exhibitionist. It is certainly silly for him to whine if he wants to be the most important person in the whole wide world.

    I sometimes feel that some terrible scandal or breakdown will occur. Things with BO just seem to precarious, including his ego. I sometimes think his head will burst.

  39. The standards for Miss America and those for an actress are not the same.

    I was asked more than once to do ‘pin-up’ modeling when I was young. Even modeling CLOTHES

  40. (hit the button by mistake!) (clothes) was a stretch for me. And I certainly needed the money. But the money is not even that good because your career as such in nude modeling is very short – they always want new flesh.

  41. A Miss Italy was removed last year because of nude calendar pix made b4 she ran for the title. Over here it is ok to pose for calendars after the title year but not before.
    It was a big scandal, and she had to go.

  42. So…actresses are “that kind of girl,” while Miss America has…”outdated Victorian morals?”

  43. Actresses are not by definition ‘that kind of girl’. Even for them it is more difficult to get serious roles if they have done soft porn previously. Miss America has to have more than a good figure. She has to show some talent, intelligence and beauty. She is supposed to represent the ideal young woman. That does not include nude photos in her past. I assume she is supposed to at least SEEM like she could be virginal.

  44. Cinie – I do appreciate your article, your postings and comments. Don’t get me wrong.

    I remember when that happened with Vanessa Williams, but I don’t remember much because I was not that interested. I don’t have strong feelings about the pageant either way.

    I do think that doing nude photos for a publication is kind of a dumb thing to do. In Vanessa’s case, she obviously had a lot more going for her, so she triumphed in the end.

    Probably, the fact that she won was more significant than the scandal.

  45. Fran: interesting. Reminds me of my T-day discussion with my big sis as to why she supported BO rather than Hillary. Seems like she heard from a friend (and former Clinton insider) how “needy” Bill was, how he called advisors in the middle of the night, etc. This insider said that BO, in contrast, had the self-assurance and intelligence to ask the right questions and seek a variety of opinions.
    I replied that BO was the ultimate phony and that I fully expected Recko to expose him as such. Little did I know that it could be Blaggo. Or some other voices from BO’s past.
    BTW, this “insider” was later passed over in BO’s cabinet and WH selections. Tee hee.

  46. Vanessa Williams may be that very rare case where those type of photos actually helped her career! lol! Does anyone remember the Miss A of even 3 years ago?…. much less 25 ? Her amazing talent did the rest .

  47. Fran, I enjoy and appreciate the debate. I just wonder who parades around in a bikini and high heels besides a Miss America contestant and a ‘ho’? Seems to me both are just embodiments of the same male sexual fantasies, so why is one woman “virtuous” and the other “slutty?” Attainability?

  48. Another Princess Caroline poll-with a twist. It suggests having Bill Clinton as caretaker.

    http://tinyurl.com/7sdpg7

  49. The hypocrisy of people giving points for semi-nudity drawing a line in the sand about how much skin is “American” is huge.
    ****************************

    I agree that it’s terribly hypocritical, cinie. I remember the incident but I had forgotten that it occurred so late in her reign. I do remember that Charles’ race seem to give cover to Williams’ detractors as in “how can it be racist to advocate for taking Williams’s crown when the runner-up is black?”

    Truthfully, I was young and a bit bigoted myself. The nudity didn’t bother me but the lesbian angle made me uncomfortable, then.

    Vanessa Williams was the epitome of class and grace in her response to the situation. At some point, she made it clear that her parents had provided her with unconditional love and acceptance. I do think she’s had what Obama did not have and I agree with Fran that Obama does not seem to have that inner strength.

  50. betuscha, on January 2nd, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Barry is crafty enough to pass over his true believers for jobs …you can’t trust them, they expect one to live up to the kabuki. …and frankly they have served thier purpose.

  51. I guess it depends whether you are on a TV stage, or the ‘street.’

    Men’s magazines are, I guess, a step up from the street? The forum is, by definition, lascivious.

    On the other hand, fashion models sometimes do nude shots, but are not considered slutty.

  52. Fran, right on. I wonder why so few people notice that the one Miss America driven from her “office” in “disgrace” is perhaps the best known and most successful post-crown? I suspect some of the answer to that involved her immense talent, lots of hard work, and a willingness to face the crap head-on and show she was made of tougher stuff than a swimsuit and Aqua Net. I wish I had faith that the president-elect had the same kind of spine as she does.

  53. Yup, paper doll. I think that’s what happened. I suspect that this particular insider was one of his many ghost writers. Now, he’s in no-mans-land, esp. with Hillary as SOS. Seems like a good time to write a book.

  54. OT: those four animals who raped the lesbian in San Francisco have been arrested. It is being categorized as a hate crime.

  55. The nation is safe. Oprah is looking for a house in D.C.

  56. betuscha, on January 2nd, 2009 at 11:47 am

    He must be in shock…. Seemingly we only get it when it bites our own ass…. He has seen countless get tossed aside, but most likely it never crossed his mind he’d be one too.

  57. Oprah is psycho stalker.

  58. Jmac, on January 2nd, 2009 at 12:01 pm Said:
    The nation is safe. Oprah is looking for a house in D.C.

    lol! Let’s see, Oprah is coming to D.C. and the DNC went to Chciago. That makes sense ….. in a post democracy world .

  59. afrocity, on January 2nd, 2009 at 12:08 pm Said:
    Oprah is psycho stalker

    True. She’s having a mid-life crisis….for about a decade now .

  60. i love vanessa williams,she is a great actress.
    just watched her in a movie last night.(taped)

  61. I remember that event! Dang RD. You know, Axelrod did exploit that — he really did, but see the rest of us? Well, we grew up pretty much like Vanessa Williams out here in California. Our gen produced Madonna and Michael Jackson and also Boy George, and Ellen de Generes. Even O himself — so — “hate” and so forth weren’t part of how we grew up — we are the legacy of JFK and MLK’s dream!

    Vanessa was just like us. Oh well, I think I stop watching those pageants long ago — maybe 84 when the ol’ time at the University ended and work started in as a reality — (on the first educational round) —

    But, remember that great movie “Little Miss Sunshine” —

    At the rate the world seems to be devolving before my EYES — dunno — personally I think it is the obot gen — something is really bizarre about them — maybe they were the kids of the Timothy Leary set? Their parents were a pretty stoned bunch, no? They were.

  62. Thanks for the “link” “Laurie”.
    She was almost “OUT” until Obama & crew were “Trumped” by Blago in IL.
    I guess if Obama doesn’t get his way in his own state he’ll just “take something else form Hillary”.
    She & her supporters won’t care.
    I am SOooooooooooooo sick of “politics as usual”.
    Ugh………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  63. Cinie,

    I love this post! It’s brilliant and so true. I know I’m going to love reading your posts at The Confluence. Welcome to the ranks of our writers. I’m so happy that you decided to join us!

  64. Oh ps — one girl we went to high school with ended up posing for Playboy magazine — she got a Volkswagon bug and $5,000 or something like that for doing it. The feminist college bound set?
    We didn’t like it. Because to us? That was exploitation.

    Funny. You just can’t escape what is true about history can you?
    Caroline is this gen too, funny thing…

  65. Fredster,

    “Frank’s Place” is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. It was such a shame that it didn’t last long.

  66. BB, thank you. And I’m so honored to have been invited to post here that I can’t find the words to express it. In fact, feeling like I just won a beauty pageant or something is what inspired this post.

  67. Oprah is psycho stalker

    She stalks psychos?

    Cuz there ain’t no “normal” stalkers.

  68. Wow, I just woke up. No coffee yet, I guess I fell through a rabbit hole or something because the site I turn to for feminist discussion seems to be talking about racism which is no longer a problem in the USA since we have a “black” president and also beauty pageants and their positive role in the world and woman’s lives. OK I am off to get some coffee.

  69. Oh WOW! Just looked in the mirror. I don’t think I can count on winning any beauty based competitions today (or probably ever) I sure hope my life will have validity and purpose !

  70. ..except the cute ones. Andy Garcia can stalk me.

  71. Oh pssss!

    All you have to do to understand this gen is revisit Madonna doing that song “Like A Virgin” or? Cindy Lauper or The English Beat or? I could go on. We danced a lot! In clubs at the time — some of us identified more with punk rock and the arty set…. ahem.

    So, we watch them now in the tabloids as we see the pictures — see the ones who made the botox mistakes… and wonder, well?
    In the case of a few of them — what the hell happened?

    We do.

  72. Psss #3

    my first job as as a model, as my mother had been.

    my best friend’s first job was as a waitress — I recently learned that the manager of that place had taken her into his office and expected a favor for getting that job. She said — I’m going to tell my father — so, she ended up not having to perform whatever that was.

    I was outraged last year when she told me that. Outraged.
    Our gen? We’re feminists. That Sweetie remark? That finger? That lipstick on a pig?

    I don’t think they have any idea how that affected us, do you?

  73. This is an interesting post and exchange on a subject I personally find hard to digest.
    I had to look up the wiki to remind myself

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_America

    As I remembered, the ratings on the show had been dropping for years because of the sentiment arising out of the sixties and seventies, I think I remember one year when it was uncertain whether it would continue. I think there was some issue about sponsors. If the Williams incident had happened 10-15 years earlier, maybe it would have been handled differently, even though the Picts were against the rules.

    Also, Guccionne’s actions exemplified the the incoming wave of smarmy paparazzi behavior we see today. Most lefties like me went along with Hefner, and were pretty disgusted by their emergence, In the face of what could only be a game of Uproar.

    However, the pressure was on to save the pageant, especially after Bert Parks was dismissed and a developing history were winners were doing things like supporting abortion. The people with money, most interested in “saving” the crown held the most conservative viewpoints of the time, and saw the pageant as their symbol.

    And so it is.

    AfroCity – I agree with you re Obama’s Picts. The first one I saw during the Puerto Rico vacation, left me bewildered, until I realized how much, even to the pose of running on the beach it mimicked JFK’s when he was campaigning. We may get to see a lot of them, in order to remind us just how young and virile this one is supposed to be.

    Even though I think during the primaries that it was a deliberate attempt to equate Obama with JFK, it might have at least one beneficial effect- to reduce the fear of the big scary black man. It’s hard to be tired of something and scared at the same time.

  74. Half a cup of coffee down, So whats next girls an ode to Playboy and Hughie, Americas favorite pornographer, for “starting the sexual revolution and giving women sexual freedom”? I don’t want to puke so just let me remind you Playboy denies women an entire half of their sexuality. That is the half where women sit on their average sweatpanted bums completely happy in their own imperfect skin and check out hot men who are presenting for their approval. Playboy only approves female sexuality in the service of male fantasy and for male enjoyment. They assume that women’s sexual fantasies consist of how they can best fulfill male sexual fantasies.

    OK I am going to work now and I hope when I come home and check in I will magically have come back from rabbit hole world not descended deeper.

  75. I see I interjected a McCainism. When I said “this one” I meant this president, as opposed to that president, JFK.

  76. Constance, three comments and you still insist upon being deliberately obtuse. No one is defending or promoting the Miss America pageant or Playboy magazine. What’s in your coffee?

  77. BB:

    I loved that show!

    I think the restaurant was supposed to be modeled on Dooky Chase’s restaurant.

    And it’s good to know that Miss Leah is back cooking again!

    http://blog.nola.com/dining/2008/11/dooky_chase_restaurant_is_back.html

  78. I have to check the news now and write but, I wanted to put our gen into historical context so that people can get an idea of what we are like — this is why we cannot understand what we are seeing happen in the Axelrod aftermath. We saw what he did, and how they did it —

    These are true stories of the gen that grew up in the time it did — the tail end of the baby boom is called “the lost gen” sometimes — it’s not like the middle of the Bboom? — it is a very hip part close to gen X –but not gen X in toto.

    the untold stories of our gen?

    Whew.

    Just ask RD.

    hugs.

  79. I actually thought Constance was talking about some other site! lol

  80. OT, sorry, but I saw a bit of hope (sic) in that story linked in the thread down below: “A study released Tuesday found that a quarter of Obama voters said they would continue to work online to support the new administration.”

    The other 75%? Let me guess:
    15% got p-o’d after the 3 am text msg announcing Biden
    10% are getting sick of Kool-Aid
    15% are stewing about the Audacity of Diversity involved in the Pastor Rick invite.
    20% are p-o’d that he’s frolicking in Hawaii while they lose their jobs.
    10% have lost internet services, and are declaring bankruptcy due to foreclosure on their McMansions.

  81. I too have been unable to stand looking at he shirtless Obama pics. But I am reminded that there really are such things as pec implants! Ya just never know.

  82. I’ve heard the tail end of the baby boom called Generation Jones. My husband and I call it the Blank Generation (after the Richard Hell song). I’ve never considered myself a Baby Boomer.

  83. Cinie: I am tired of the first black miss America, First black lingerie model, first black Playboy centerfold genre of progress for women. I am also think it is time for women to declare that we are now in a ‘Post racist era” in America since we now have a half black President and give up on trying to link women’s issues with racism which always wins out. You can see from the last election that racism is not tolerated in America but sexism is considered sport.

  84. Cinie: I’m so glad to see you posting here. Your blog is one of my must reads!!! Welcome and great start!

  85. bb: I dated the lawyer that’s the character model for the lawyer on Frank’s place … i loved that show

  86. I’m not sure what Constance was talking about either. I think this post is fascinating–both an exploration women’s roles and the history of racial prejudice. Vanessa Williams absolutely broke through a barrier and paid a price. And Obama’s victory depends upon her achievement as well as the achievements of others in more “acceptable” fields of endeavor.

  87. Cinie: Miss America, and female singers and actresses in this society are nothing more than our societies geisha. If you watch MTV or any music videos you see the women in them move in a stylized and sexualized kubuki that looks ridiculous and unnatural. I see them, black , white, red or green as living outside the reality of woman. Miss America is just a geisha competition. Women practicing movements and skills refined to appeal to men. I don’t see the first black woman Miss America, playboy centerfold, SI swimsuit covergirl or Lingerie model to have contributed anything to women. I would be more interested in the first black woman dentist, physician, Lawyer, underground railroad organizer, labor organizer etc. But hey that is just me. On the positive side your article could probably be sold to Glamor, Cosmo, or Vogue. That is not a cut, I am a practical person and would not smirk at being marketable.

  88. Constance:

    Perhaps you would prefer a society where everyone is androgynous and sexless.

  89. RD & Co! LOOK ! It’s off topic in a way but look!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    http://www.wowowow.com/post/gaza-violence-adds-big-job-clintons-do-list-secretary-state-164896

    GO HILLARY, OH GO!

    the last paragraph gives me all the PUMAHOPE I need.

    finally, a feminist wrote a good thing about her!
    FINALLY! OHHHHHHHHHHHHH! yay!

    Oh RD, she is the best, the best…..

  90. gxm17 – Don’t forget that the tail end of the Baby Boom has also been called “The Me Generation”, especially if they graduated from high school after 1972. Nixon signed the peace treaty with North Vietnam in January 1973, and therefore, the guys didn’t worry about being drafted once the troops started withdrawing. That lead to a different preoccupation – with self (didn’t have to serve or protest), or so the theory goes.

    I could see the difference a year makes in evidence for some of that age cohort.

    Psychodemographics was one source on The Me Generation that I recall from the ’90’s.

  91. myiq2xu: How would you come up with the idea that I would prefer an androgynous society where everyone is sexless from what I said? I love sex and I am heterosexual not that it matters. But I like real natural women and I like women who enjoy their entire sexuality not just the half men have let them experience which is the half where they dress up in prescribed but uncomfortable restrictive clothes and pose. I also think Miss America is a ridiculous competition as do most people judging from their TV ratings. All the Miss America women are beautiful although in a totally contrived manner so why compete. I am sorry, maybe it is because I am white but I find the idea of Vanessa Williams as a bold breaker of barriers for women silly. And by this point I have had 3 coffees and as awake as I am going to get.

  92. By the way myiq2xu I hate people who declare “if you think that then you must think blah blah blah (always something completely unappealing”). My Ex husband did that, and no I do not think what you said, that is you apparently needing to have an argument with yourself and your own ridiculous ideas which you have some need to attribute to me.

  93. Constance_Your statement begged a really complicated response.

    I think your characterization of the women on MTV, is apt, even though I would say that the men are involved in this behavior as well.

    Men and women have been trying to appeal and present themselves to those they find attractive since before they were human.

    There is nothing wrong with praising beauty, whatever we think that is, when we find it, whether it’s art, a sunset, or women’s and men’s bodies.

    Sexuality is complicated, often involves role play, and uses all the senses. There is nothing wrong with being good at it.

    However, having said all that, there are many factors at work. Attainment of the conservative pageant crown by Williams was a span of 20 years, from the 1964 civil rights passage to 1984. Even while we denigrated the pageant system, it we knew it had significance.

    In this case it allowed a national outlet for women of color to think of themselves as accepted, beautiful and equal, even if in the confines of that system. In the meantime, the sexuality advances for women, of the 60’s and 70’s were being lost to the rapidly constricting 80’s that were part of the Reaganomics gloom.

    The Miss America Pageant was the closest thing we had to crowning a “princess”. So, the idea that a small child of color could one day have that sparkly crown, and maybe win a chance a future, like her sisters, was pretty appealing.

  94. Actually, we did protest the war out here in CA. It was the older high school and college types who came to Jr. High and got us involved. Also Roe v. Wade had just passed.

    This gen, maybe more so on the coasts like RD & I are were near big cities — that would have thrust us into what RD told us all about that movie Sex and the City. This gen had lots of relationships, it really did — it had one night stands, — all sorts of things — because the Leary set had paved the way. Women and Men in this gen have had their hearts broken many times over — many times and yet, we have intense idealism — just intense.

    Sometimes we were kind of on our own because a lot of the parents were off “doing their own thing” — so we were watching The Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family — maybe? The mom in the partridge family could have been our moms? There is also a movie called Running with Scissors out that I saw as a precise portrait of the times — in the 70’s if you were near NY or LA?

    We have Pluto in Virgo! —- many of us. That is service and the arts as crafts — writers? Many of us died of overdoses, some got aids as that came about in the 80’s — our gen has been through much, so very very much. It has — but RD & I — I’m just going to guess on this based on what I know of her and her drive and feminism — we were the girls who wanted educations and we had to do that ourselves — we did — nobody paved the road for us — nobody.

    If you look at Madonna? She did that herself, and you can see how she has just left for a new partner, as well.

    That’s our gen. We might have come out selfish in some cases — but others SERVE! no kidding…. it is a real mixed group, and we know each other very well — very very well.

    The women in this group? We are so strong. We had to prove ourselves like you cannot believe — so perhaps for Vanessa or even Sarah they started out the “beauty Pageant route” —–
    Some just wanted a house and kids and that’s it. Some KNEW we would go to school — we knew it, but we would decide when!

    I swear. And I went back at 38 for my Masters. Our group has worked at a zillion different things — and we are willing to change careers. Some of us have gone through layoffs, gee.

    Like RD said about that couch? Yeah. She is going to help Brook go to school I bet — before she will buy that couch.
    I just know it about her, because I feel I can see into her heart through her words….

    hugs RD.

    ps: this gen is pretty groovy looking — most of the time!
    I’m thinking of the moms in that film “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” —— those teen girls in that movie?

    That was us! — as teens! I swear…….

  95. ps: I was the one on the donkey who went to Greece. I think.

    My best friend was the blonde runner — she was —

    The latina? — we knew her!

    And the punky filmaker/artist — we knew her too!

  96. I was in the Miss America Pageant in 1975, I started in the pageant system in college to get scholarships and have a place to perform (with a live orchestra at that time.) When I heard about the pictures of Vanessa Williams I sent off a letter to Al Marks, the then president of the organization, and asked him not to have Vanessa step down. Obviously, he didn’t listen to me. The pageant was very puritan back then, but it was one of the few places women could get scholarships through mostly arts competition (singing, playing an instrument, dancing etc.) In this time of feminism and women in high positions through out the world, the pageant has become mostly outdated. I used the pageant to my advantage, and knew it was a means to get some things that I would have been unable to get otherwise. I got to travel my state, the country and the world thanks to the Miss America Pageant (I did a wonderful USO tour of Germany, Greece, Italy and Turkey the year after w/5 other contestants and Miss America that I count as one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.) I also made lifelong friends and got invaluable experience that served me well when I became a full time professional musician after my year serving my state. Say what you will about Miss America, but for many of us it served us well, helped pay for college and will always be an experience that I will look back on as a wonderful time in my young life.

  97. I won a beauty contest when I was 15. My big stepsister entered me and I remember hating every step I made around the pool. I always thought I won because I had a slightly padded swimmimg costume on.
    Anyway -thank god for feminism in 1965-they came out big against beauty contests and I agreed then as I do now.
    However I’m sure that griffinnc’s experience was much better than mine. 😉

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