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Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power

Trailer Park Royalty


Elisabeth B. Thompson-Hardy

Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power: Trailer Park Royalty explores the phenomenon of child beauty pageants in rural communities throughout the American South. In a bricolage of post-structural feminism, critical ethnographies, critical hermeneutics, and cultural studies lenses, this book analyzes how the performance of participants—most from a lower socio-economic bracket—and the power exercised by beauty pageant culture work to formulate girls’ identities. Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power also examines how depictions in popular culture through film, videos, documentaries, and television shows add to the dialogue. Author Elisabeth B. Thompson-Hardy suggests rural pageant culture works to create girlhood identity and shapes the way participants view the world and themselves—through intricate cultural work in terms of gender and class. This book is intended for students and teachers who are interested in dissecting rural girlhood and development, Southern American beauty standards, and the effect of the media on girls’ identities.

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Chapter Five: Conclusions and Directions for Future Study


Chapter Five

Conclusions and Directions for Future Study

I have reflected on the videos, documentaries, and my personal experiences and observations as a part of the research that resulted in this work many times since I spent time reviewing them via videotape and personal recollection. Additionally, I have spent countless hours agonizing over the problems, patterns, and themes reflected in the experiences of the girls and the people involved in the rural Southern child beauty pageant culture. At times, I too have yielded to the feelings of being powerless and ineffectual in the task of sorting out the diverse complexities associated with the issues of pageant participation. During periods of confusion and consternation, the purpose and power (and powerlessness) demonstrated by those involved (girls, parents, and others involved in the rural Southern child beauty pageant culture) in this project encouraged me to complete the research. I found affirmation of my feelings in the writings of Frank (2004), when he states

I believe we have to discover a body in our writing and we have to aspire to telling the truth, at least a truth. But the cultural sense of truth does not require an explanation that counts as a solution; cultural truth sees too many perspectives to accept the closure of explanation. If this rejection of closure←161 | 162→ can leave us feeling ineffectual and powerless in the face of complexity, we can also feel we have gained power to look hard at this...

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