HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired a program on the Miss America Pageant and posted it to YouTube on September 21, 2014. John’s question of the day: Is the Miss America Pageant really the largest provider of scholarships for women in the country? Here’s the video:
John Oliver makes some great points and raises several questions. The two I like best are:
Is the Miss America Pageant telling the truth about the scholarships?
Depends on what you mean by “provide.” And even that is stretching it. The Miss America Pageant claims that they provide $45,000,000 in scholarships to women EVERY year. Oliver was only able to come up with less than $4,000,000 after reviewing the national and 33 states’ Miss America Pageant’s federal non-profit Form 990 statements. That’s less than 10% of the total the Miss America Pageant claims they give out.
So what does “provide” mean? Apparently, it is a smoke and mirrors word. The Miss America Pageant works with college admissions and finance offices throughout the country to set up scholarships that are given directly to pageant winners. The winner of each contest will receive the scholarship if and only if she goes to one of the schools within her state (or anywhere in the country if she’s a national winner) that has an agreement with the Miss America Foundation for this scholarship award. And here’s the kicker. The Miss America Pageant adds up the value of EACH of these college’s scholarship and adds that amount of scholarship “money” to the “total” amount of scholarships provided (BUT not guaranteed to be distributed) each year. Regardless of whether or not the scholarship is used!
Here in my home state of Pennsylvania, Oliver reports that there are four colleges that provide this scholarship – Delaware Valley College, Carlow College, Cedar Crest College, and Arcadia University. They are all small, private colleges located in the Philadelphia, Allentown, and Pittsburgh areas.
My thoughts on this.
First…Women don’t usually become Miss America contestants until after starting college. I believe it is highly unlikely that a college Junior or Senior would transfer to a private four-year college in her last year or so just to get this scholarship. Particularly if it is only a partial scholarship, if her area of study is not offered by one of these schools, and if she knows that a transfer would require more time in school because of differing graduation course requirements set up by each school.
Second… No one can clone themselves — even twins (I know. I’m a twin). So if a woman should win a full scholarship and be willing to transfer to one of these schools, and be willing to extend her education to complete her education, how can the Pageant say that they “provide” four times the amount of funds to a winner that is never going to attend the other three schools (in the case of the Pennsylvania example).
Is this objectification of women appropriate?
Even if the Miss America Pageant was providing $45,000,000 in scholarships on an annual basis, is the objectification of these women appropriate? Why do they have a focus on never having been pregnant? Why do they have a focus on never having been married? Why are the women still being required to prance around in bikinis and high heels? Looks to me like the Pageant is looking for a sex object who is also a virgin to be placed on a pedestal.
What do you think?
If you are interested in a scholarship program for women, why not look for one that doesn’t objectify women and distributes the money to women without the use of smoke and mirrors?
Here are the links to the women’s scholarship funds that John mentioned on air:
Society of Women Engineers: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/
Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund: www.rankinfoundation.org
Patsy Mink Foundation: www.patsyminkfoundation.org