There are some times in your life when you're justified in feeling like you're getting old — when you find your first gray hair, or realize you've been able to drink for a decade, or get your AARP card. But what about when you're only 24? Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre is officially over the hill, according to officials who stripped her of her crown, title, and $9,000 in scholarship money because she, at age 24, is too old to compete for Miss America.
Longacre, who supplied all necessary documentation about her age, was initially told that, since she would still be 24 at the time of the Miss America pageant in September, she would be fine to compete. But officials are now saying that the fine print makes her ineligible after all because she'll still be turning 25 in 2014.
I suppose dividing pageants into age groups make sense. There's Miss Teen USA, Miss America, and Ms. America, which conjures images of Mrs. Robinson-esque contestants. Women as young as 17 can compete in Miss America, but at the same time, the contest is not at its heart a fun thing for teenage girls; it's a competition that overtly or not, purports to decide who the most exemplary contestant is, the one we consider most beautiful, accomplished, and worthy of admiration. It's why having a girl of Indian descent crowned is a big deal — and why the fact trans women haven't yet been allowed to compete is so frustrating.
And while I also take issue with the message Miss America sends young girls and the ways it reinforces beauty culture, the fact is that telling a woman who is 24 that she's too old to be considered a beautiful and accomplished young woman is ridiculous.
Women, for the record, don't have an expiration date. Women can be beautiful — in all ways — just as easily at 80 as they can at 18. Telling a woman that she doesn't qualify for recognition of her amazing attributes because she is too old is already fairly outrageous; saying it to a woman who's 24 is down right jaw dropping.
Amanda Longacre, a graduate student who was planning to use the scholarship money towards a masters in social work, deserves her crown, and the chance to compete for Miss America. Because no woman is ever too old to be deemed exemplary, and especially not one who's only 24.