Beauty contest winners and the death of standards

By Don Feder

Sara Millikin from local newscast.

Sara Milliken, who has been described as “morbidly obese,” was crowned Miss Alabama 2024 in the National American Miss pageant. The virtue-signaling crowd was ecstatic. “Finally, we have a pageant winner who doesn’t look like Barbie,” they cheered, as if this marked a milestone of tolerance and understanding.

Ms. Milliken may have many fine qualities. Getting up from the table isn’t one of them.

Our culture is now dedicated to eradicating standards.

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On June 1, Bailey Anne Kennedy became the first transgender “woman” to win the Miss Maryland USA contest. Why should a contest for women be limited to real women?

Should academic competitions be open to those with low IQs? What’s wrong with a cooking show including contestants whose idea of fine cuisine is a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli?

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of “the hatred directed against the privileged in body and spirit: the revolt of the ugly and bungled souls against the beautiful, the proud and the cheerful. The weapons used: contempt of beauty, of pride, of happiness.”

Today, the primary weapon deployed against the competent and successful is equality. We started with equality before the law, which is a matter of simple fairness.

Then the left began pushing equality of outcomes, with the focus on eliminating what it calls income inequality. The drive includes an absurdly high minimum wage in California and a steeply progressive income tax that punishes society’s most productive.

You need more than a dream to become a brain surgeon. It takes basic abilities, including a certain level of intelligence and manual dexterity, and years of specialized training.

Perhaps 99% of the population will fail to meet these standards. Unfair? Ask yourself if you’d want to go under a scalpel wielded by one of the failures.

I’d like to compete for the Mr. Universe title. Why should the fact that I’m out of shape and uncoordinated and can barely lift a 10-pound weight disqualify me?

One reason there’s resentment against Jews and Asians is because they’re disproportionately successful, coming as they do from cultures that value education and hard work. But what about the products of cultures that value sloth and ignorance? Don’t they deserve recognition, too?

Part of President Biden’s appeal to the left is that he is truly undistinguished – a man who rose to the top through dogged persistence and dumb luck. His career is built on mediocrity.

They hate former President Donald Trump in part because he was successful before he entered politics – a billionaire builder who transformed the Manhattan skyline.

A society with a healthy survival instinct is built on standards. They teach us to strive and take pride in our achievements. They constantly prod us to do better.

Across the country, cities and states have lowered requirements for high school graduation. Students are encouraged to do just enough to get by. As a result, graduation rates go up while standardized test scores go down.

In the name of equity, New York state is eliminating its Regents exams and replacing them with testing on “knowledge and skill” in seven areas, including “cultural competence.” All cultures are equal: those that invented computers and those who couldn’t invent the wheel.

We have raised a generation that thinks expectations are unfair. Employers are finding the work ethic all but extinct. “Wait, you expect me to show up on time and focus on my work instead of texting and listening to music with earbuds? You slave driver!”

Why should some immigrants work hard to come to the United States, including waiting their turn in line, learning English and finding a sponsor, while others just stroll across the border? It’s surprising that there’s anyone left willing to play by the rules.

The war on standards is symptomatic of a culture in serious decline. We want everyone to be comfortable and feel validated. But greatness comes from striving, not by being affirmed.

Spartan mothers used to tell their sons, “Come back with your shield or on it,” victorious or dead. That’s how the Persian Empire was stopped. Today, they’d tell them: “That’s all right, darling. At least you tried.” And we’d all be speaking Persian.

Miss National American Alabama would be healthier if she dieted and exercised. But why should she? She’s already been told she’s perfect just the way she is and has a title to prove it.

This column was first published at the Washington Times.

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