The crowning of biological males in the Miss America Organization’s Miss Greater Derry 2023 (New Hampshire) as well as the Miss Universe Organization’s Miss Portugal 2023, Miss Netherlands 2023, and Miss Spain 2018, have robbed deserving, biological women from the opportunity of a lifetime.
As a retired pageant queen, I can only imagine how terrible it must feel for any biological woman competing, especially the women in the position of first runner-up, to have the crown that is rightly her’s go to a transgender biological male who will never understand what it truly means to be a woman.
Truth be told: no amount of gender-affirming care, hormone therapy, sex change surgery, and parading onstage in an evening gown and swimsuit will ever make you a woman.
Consequently, pageantry needs to be considered a sport just like football, soccer, or baseball, and therefore, should not allow biological men to compete in this women’s sport.
The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023 passed by Congress earlier this year amended Title IX to prohibit recipients of federal financial assistance that operate, sponsor, or facilitate athletic programs or activities from allowing males to participate in any activities that are designed for females. This Act ought to be applied to pageantry as well.
The Miss America Organization (MAO), the 101-year-old pageant that is the largest provider of scholarships for women in the world, and the Miss Universe Organization (MUO), which touts itself as “The World’s Greatest Celebration of Women,” is now allowing biological men, who identify as female, to vie for the opportunity to win the crown and all of the perks that come with it: a $50,000 college scholarship that comes with winning Miss America and the modeling contract and luxury New York City apartment that comes with winning Miss USA and Miss Universe.
To win the job of a pageant titleholder, which ultimately becomes of a year of service to a local community, state, nation, or entire world, contestants must compete in the following phases of competition: a 10-minute off-stage interview, talent (only in MAO), evening gown, onstage question, and lifestyle and fitness.
For successful execution in each phase — just like in any other sport — each phase requires months of preparation.
For talent, women work tirelessly to perfect a dance, song, or musical piece.
For lifestyle & fitness, they undergo grueling exercise regimens and eat well to be at their best in mind, body, and spirit for “game day” and ultimately the job.
For evening gown, they find the dream gown, and then spend hours perfecting their walk.
For the interview, they do countless mock interviews to eventually show the judges on “game day” that they have what it takes to do the job of Miss “so-and-so.”
In addition, contestants must have a social impact initiative, which is an issue that the contestant is passionate about such as breast cancer awareness, advocating for individuals with disabilities, or bullying prevention. Whoever wins the crown, the promotion and advancement of the social impact initiative becomes a large part of the titleholder’s year of service.
What is so special about pageantry is how every phase of competition showcases and celebrates various aspects of who a woman is and her femininity. There is no other platform in the world that enables a woman to shine like pageants do in her talent, lifestyle & fitness, scholastic excellence, community and civic engagement, and style. Competing in pageants was the most empowering thing I have ever done — besides going to an all-women's college. Pageantry pushed me to be the best version of myself in every aspect of life, and many former pageant titleholders would agree that pageantry often is a steppingstone to bigger and better things like it was for Oprah Winfrey, who was Miss Black Tennessee 1972, as well as Vanessa Williams, Miss America 1984, Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012, and Gal Gadot (most famously known as Wonderwoman), Miss Israel 2004 – just to name a few.
Pageantry overall celebrates women’s unique gifts, talents, and the life that they bring into their communities through their social impact initiatives. If allowing transgender biological men to compete in this biological women-only arena continues, then the actual women competing need to walkout and walk away from pageantry for good just like how other women in sports are doing.
Women from past generations had to fight long and hard for women’s right to vote, receive an education, and play sports. Now, it is as if all those efforts have been undone.
We need to make pageants female again.
Amanda Fischer is a former Miss America Organization titleholder. She served as Miss Great Lakes 2019, Miss Stateline’s Outstanding Teen 2015, and Miss Pride of the Peninsulas’ Outstanding Teen 2014, and is now a PR professional in the D.C. area.