We’ve looked at how Miss America winners’ body types have evolved from 1921 to now through one GIF.
The team that put together the GIF — educational website PsychGuides.com
— also made a chart that shows how disconnected the Miss America competition is with the real America.
PsychGuides.com found that the only decades when the average U.S. woman and the Miss America winners fell in the same range were in the 1940s and ’50s. The graph shows that over the years, Miss America has gotten thinner while the average American woman in her 20s has only gotten heavier.
“Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a real combination of beauty, grace, and intelligence, artistic and refined,” the official Miss America website states. “She is a type which the American girl might well emulate.”
But this strong focus on beauty and thinness can be damaging to women who don’t fit the ideal, according to PsychGuides.com, and even lead to eating disorders as young girls strive to become society’s “perfect woman.”
The team added that these images of women’s bodies “can perpetuate an unrealistic expectation for the average female’s body.”
It’s not the first criticism of the pageant, which was protested in the ’60s and draws numerous op-eds today questioning why the $50,000 scholarship competition still emphasises a bikini-focused swimsuit segment where only the contestants’ bodies are judged.
And the evolving standards for contestants’ body types as well as the PsychGuides.com graph also tell the story of how being thin has become the ideal in America while at the same time fewer and fewer women are able to meet that criteria.
Studies have found that wealth and success are associated with being thin. Not only do skinny women get paid more, but conventionally attractive people are also hired sooner and get promotions more quickly. And to be thought of as conventionally attractive as a woman, it’s paramount that you’re thin.
Thinness also has socioeconomic implications. Whether it’s true or not, being skinny conveys that you have the resources to be active and eat healthy food. Poverty is now associated with obesity thanks to the rise of affordable fast food, and one study even found that there is a link between obesity and being stuck in a “vicious cycle” of poverty.
Meanwhile, Miss America competitions are still held annually where winners like this year’s Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell have platforms like “Healthy Georgia, Strong America.”
And though the contest’s popularity may be waning — in 2014, viewership was down 25% compared to 2013, according to Deadline — you need only look online or at a newsstand to see that the perception of thin women as the ideal in the media isn’t going anywhere.