Learning from Miss Michigan: We must begin using our platforms for good


Kernel Opinion SIG

A beautiful thing continues to grow in our society: Women are indeed taking charge and using platforms in pioneering ways.

Women have always contributed to society in massive ways, but for so long they lacked the platform thanks to age-old misogyny. History, in many ways, has been unkind to women and their contributions to our society. Now, we see women sprouting up all over the world and bringing their own seat to the table, using even the most unconventional platforms for powerful revolution.

Over the weekend, many of us got goosebumps when Miss Michigan introduced herself at the Miss America pageant with the striking words: “From the state with 84 percent of the U.S. freshwater but none for its residents to drink, I am Miss Michigan Emily Sioma.”

She was, of course, mentioning the Flint, Michigan crisis, where residents have been without drinking water for four years.

A lot of Miss America introductions focus on personal accomplishments or generic clichés relating to the contestant’s state. In 2011, for example, some of the introductions were, “From the state with long summer days and even longer winters, I’m Abby Hancock, your Miss Alaska,” and “From the state where you can dig for diamonds. But that’s not the only gem you’ll find, I’m Alyse Eady, Miss Arkansas.”

In the midst of this type of introduction that has in many ways defined pageantry, Sioma stepped up the vision of Miss America contestants and women everywhere. She’s in keeping with the recent changes Miss America has made to recognize women as strong individuals with complex platforms and personalities versus previous objectification.

When Miss America dropped the swimsuit portion of the famous pageant competition in June, outrage spread. One Facebook user commented on the announcement from USA Today, “So now it’s the equivalent of watching a spelling bee? Got it.” Another wrote, “If it is not based on physical appearance anymore then there should be a Mr. America competition as well! We have personalities too you know.”

These protestors missed the significance and beauty of what the competition did: They made it about human beings as complex people with platforms who are trying to make a change instead of an opportunity for the world to ogle a stage full of models, feeding and perpetuating a depraved mentality that says women are for public, visual pleasure. Miss Michigan epitomized this change when instead of focusing on other things (cliché Michigan winters or great lakes), she focused on a crisis that deserves immediate attention in her home state.

Sioma made a powerful statement Sunday, and we all need to learn from her example and use very platform we have in our lives to make a difference in our corner of the world. Whether it’s tucked away in a required essay, an extra slide on a seemingly simple assignment or a letter to the editor, we all have platforms at our disposal and we must begin using them for greater good.