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Critical Studies of Southern Place

A Reader

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Edited By William M. Reynolds

Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader critically investigates and informs the construction of Southernness, Southern identity, and the South past and present. It promotes and expands the notion of a Southern epistemology. Authors from across the South write about such diverse topics as Southern working-class culture; LGBT issues in the South; Southern music; Southern reality television; race and ethnicity in the South; religion in the South; sports in the South; and Southernness. How do these multiple interpretations of popular culture within critical conceptualizations of place enhance our understandings of education? Critical Studies of Southern Place investigates the connections between the critical examination of place-specific culture and its multiple connections with education and pedagogy. This important book fills a significant gap in the scholarly work on the ramifications of place. Readers will be able to center the importance of place in their own scholarship and cultural work as well as be able to think deeply about how Southern place affects us all.
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Chapter Twenty-Seven: Pageant Culture, Media, Social Class, and Power

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TWENTY-SEVEN

Pageant Culture, Media, Social Class and Power

ELISABETH BLUMER HARDY

At 19, I entered a local Southern Sweetheart pageant preliminary in my hometown of Louisville, Georgia. As I was the only entrant in the Miss division, I “won” the title by default and was the delegate to the state contest. There, I learned that the media stereotypes of pageants I had seen were true. The other contestants had been groomed far beyond my wildest imagination. It was then that I acknowledged the reality of the industry and the culture surrounding pageantry, including the codes, signs and behaviors that dictated and determined success and mobility in the pageant world.

From there, I competed in two Miss Georgia America preliminaries and went on to work in various capacities in the Miss America and local pageant systems. As a coach and pageant coordinator, I have seen the positives and negatives of beauty pageant involvement and the ways that power operates within this culture, and I became interested in the phenomenon of identity development in the pageant subculture. For many girls and young women, who they are, how they view their bodies and their self-worth, and how they view the world is shaped largely by their participation in beauty pageants. And I noticed that in rural Georgia the pageant titles that a woman has won do not fall by the wayside as she ages; instead, they are continually used to define who she...

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