Beacon Press: Here She Is
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Here She Is

The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

Author: Hilary Levey Friedman   Narrated by: Sarah Naughton

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A fresh exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the beauty pageant world.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America’s most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe’s bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul’s Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America’s ableist and racist history, Trump’s ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBenét Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what’s been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.
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“Friedman reveals the symbiotic relationship between beauty pageants and feminism, showing, unexpectedly, how their trajectories intertwine over a century, with each reflecting and responding to the other. The result is totally original, utterly compelling, wholly entertaining social history that surprised and challenged me in the best of ways.”
—Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex and Boys & Sex

“Surprisingly, beauty pageants, the popularization of makeup, and the feminist movement intertwined from the beginning of women being accepted in public spaces. This book is like a mystery, revealing the complex relationship of the history of pageantry and the women’s movement. Well-written and engaging, Here She Is is a must-have for your feminist book collection. It’s one of those books that’s hard to put down when it’s time to go to bed.”
—Toni Van Pelt, president, National Organization for Women

“I thought I knew about pageants until I read Hilary Levey Friedman’s book Here She Is. The depth of her research is impressive and makes for a fascinating read. It also put me in mind of the way the pageant world dramatically impacted my own life.”
—Delta Burke, Emmy-nominated actress and Miss Florida 1974

“Levey Friedman’s book combines a sociologist’s sharp insight and a daughter’s love of her own Miss America mother to render a fascinating and important portrait of the complicated history of women in the United States. It’s easy to dismiss the parts of femininity that run counter to the narrative we want to tell ourselves about feminism, but Levey Friedman’s book doesn’t shy away from the truth. She grapples with all the realities of the history of womanhood in America and creates a nuanced portrait of beauty and liberation. Deeply researched and insightful, Here She Is examines the complex and ugly truths about history, patriarchy, and feminism. Levey Friedman has created an important necessary book that provides crucial insight into the enterprise of being a woman in America.”
—Lyz Lenz, author of Belabored and God Land


Here She Is

ISBN: 978-080709836-3
Publication Date: 9/22/2020
Size: x
Price:  $20.00
Format: Audio
Availability: In stock.
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