Beautiful Women Want Creationism

From the Old News Department: Miss USA finalists are friendly to creationism.

I just discovered two-year-old footage from the Miss USA 2011 competition.  As Tanya Somanader broke the news at the time, almost all of the 51 contestants supported the idea of teaching creationism in public schools.


“They’re teaching what?!?!?”

The video interviews still make for compelling viewing.  I’m no big fan of beauty pageants.  I don’t know anyone who is.  But as I found out a while back, there has been a strange correlation between conservative religion and Miss America over the years.

As Tanya Somanader noted, only two candidates affirmed that evolution should be taught in schools as science, unalloyed by creationism or intelligent design. The rest of the candidates offered either a two-model answer or flat-out rejection of evolution for America’s schools.

Miss New York, for example, agreed that evolution should be taught in public schools, but so should religion.  Miss North Dakota offered a more relaxed answer.  “Sure, why not?” she said, “Evolution should be taught . . . I think it’s good that people hear both sides of, I guess, ‘the story,’ so to speak.”  Miss Oregon agreed.  “I think every theory of how we came to be here should get a shout out in education,” she answered.

These fence-straddling answers tell us something about the conservative cultural politics common among high-level beauty pageant winners.  More telling, they show us what national finalists think will be a winning answer to the question of evolution education.  Almost all of the finalists advocated a temperate-sounding compromise, one that welcomed all theories into the public school classroom.

Even those like Miss North Carolina who stressed the fact that they personally did not believe in evolution made irenic noises about allowing evolution to have some space in public education.

To some extent, this proves that elite beauty-pageant contestants are savvy politicians.  Gallup polls demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor the teaching of both evolution and creationism in public schools.  By waffling on this important question, these Miss USA wannabes show their understanding of this diplomatic demilitarized zone in our continuing culture wars.  Of course, the two-model approach is horrifying to mainstream scientists and science educators.

Not all the Miss USA contestants took even this middle path, however.  Miss Kentucky, for example, concluded, “I just personally don’t think it’s a good topic for school subjects. At all.”  Even harsher, Miss Alabama declared, “I do not believe in evolution, I do not think it should be taught in schools, and I would not encourage it.”

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  1. This seems to tell us less about the cultural conservatism of beauty contestants (though there may be elements of that, too) and more about how compatible beauty is with actually taking a position. Having the passion and intelligence to actually take a position one way or the other seems less beautiful than the grace to placate both sides by refusing to take a divisive position.

    Given how central beauty is to women’s perceived worth in many quarters, this leaves me very sad. But I suspect it’s a big part of why beauty contestants are reluctant to take a firm position.

  2. Even those like Miss North Carolina who stressed the fact that they personally did not believe in education…

    I assume this is a typo, but it’s a beautiful one.

    What I find more bizarre is that Creationism is very strongly associated with a real emphasis on female modesty (they aren’t necessarily connected, of course, but they often appear together in conservative belief systems). I find it odd that you’d find so many Creationists in a pageant with a swimsuit component. In fact, even the dresses worn by the contestants would be considered immodest in fundamentalist circles.

    • Whoops! My typo, thanks for pointing that out. And great point about the strange-seeming standard of appropriate dress and public behavior. I imagine there are plenty of conservatives who would agree that such things are not appropriate for Christians.


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