Going from Atlantic city to Berkeley

Posted: Jan 03, 2002 12:00 AM
The Miss America Organization might be saying adios to Atlantic City after this year's pageant. Its board of directors has been looking at other cities. I nominate Berkeley. The Berkeley City Council's unsought advice -- most notably last year's council resolution suggesting that Washington stop the bombing in Afghanistan "as soon as possible" -- no doubt would be welcome by a group of young ladies who, in answer to a final question by the judges, often profess to want nothing more than "world peace." Of course, limiting the pageant to young ladies is likely to violate Berkeley's refined sense of diversity. The City Council, of course, could pass a resolution inviting the organization to broaden its standards "as much as possible." Start by changing the title. Miss America is so retro, so Old World. It evokes an age when society wrongly distinguished between married and unmarried women. Make the pageant Ms. America. Or, to eliminate any hint of jingoism, Ms. Amerika. Resolution No. 2 might suggest that the board not limit the pageant to young women, not when transsexual persons might want to strut in a taffeta gown. Make that: The M. Amerika Pageant. What's more, the bathing suit contest -- renamed the 'lifestyle and fitness' competition for last year's show -- is likely to offend the calorically challenged. The City Council could pass a resolution warning the M. Amerika organization that any competition that rewards slender figures constitutes discrimination against fat people. (I say fat, because fat rights advocates object to euphemisms.) Think of the advantages Berkeley has to offer -- no need for pricey hotel rooms in glitzy casinos. Let the contestants sleep in People's Park. Of course, in Berkeley, there would be no runway. Instead, contestants could cross Berkeley streets, waving City of Berkeley bright orange pedestrian-crossing flags. Contestants win points if no cars or bicycles run them over. There would be no penalty, however, for contestants hit by an SUV with a Sierra Club bumper sticker. After all, the driver wants to help the environment. In that potholes and sidewalks filled with panhandlers make walking in high heels difficult, the City Council could suggest that the M. Amerika organization invite Birkenstock to become an event sponsor. The City Council also might be moved to pass a resolution changing the prize. The organization likes to call the pageant not a beauty contest but a competition for educational scholarships. Berkeley solons are aware that scholarships are a euphemism for vouchers. The City Council could suggest that instead of scholarships, the M. Amerika organization reward winners with day-care benefits. Thus the event could raise awareness about the plight of single mothers -- er, single parents. Of course, when judges ask a question of finalists, the question should be: Which entity would she boycott? The next M. Amerika might answer Burma, or investments in gun companies or any entity targeted by the city's Peace and Justice Commission. (Yes, Berkeley really has a Peace and Justice Commission.) That is, unless contestants support the boycott of Berkeley for its stop-the-bombing resolution. Boycotting Berkeley, city boosters will tell you, is synonymous with stifling free speech.