Apr 29, 2021

Pageant Demeans City, Heritage

Letter to the Editor

Oxford, Mississippi
image via Ken Lund on Flickr (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Dear Editor:

I feel compelled, driven, tormented, and inflamed to write this letter. Although I am loath to bring any more attention to the blight that has been visited upon our lovely city, I cannot remain quiet and acquiesce while a plague of dim-witted, shrill-voiced, and teased-hair harpies sully the good name of Oxford.

Of course, I am referring to the Yoknapatawpha County Literary Festival Beauty Pageant.

Many here in our town are opposed to this parade of women, much like the procession of cattle into the stockyard ring where they are turned and prodded and primped, for reasons of gender equality and sexual discrimination.

Although I share their opinions that "beauty pageants" are demeaning carnivals of skin and legs, I do not wish to cast my lot with the feminists from campus because, unlike them, I must accept the fact that the girls who compete in these pageants are not unwilling participants in their humiliation. Guns are not placed at their heads. Drugs are not slipped in their drinks. They willingly go forward into the spotlight with layers of make-up so much like our own southern red clay of their own free will.

So I will not debate whether this pageant degrades its contestants.

However, I will stand up and fight and scream and claw and punch and screech and bellow that this so-called beauty pageant demeans and degrades Oxford and its wonderful literary heritage!

To hell with the young girls who want to be Temple Drake and their desires for beauty queen status. Corncobs and bootleggers await them, and they will be indemnified for their poor choices in life. But spare the rest of us of this charade. Spare this wonderful postage stamp of soil from this silly tragic comedy.

William Faulkner wrote literature that stands up to the ages. He changed the world and the perception of so many in it. His legacy is the greatest novels ever written in the English language. Joyce and Melville critics may disagree with me on that point, but I am prepared to debate Faulkner's merits with anyone.

This base and cheap exhibition does not pay proper honor to Faulkner or any of his Oxford literary descendants. Instead of raising awareness and educating people around the world about the value of Oxford literature, we are drawing attention for a silly and trivial spectacle. In this sense, we are, to paraphrase Faulkner, working not of the heart but of the glands. Surely the tremendous artists of Oxford deserve better.

I am aware that my opinions will be viewed by many as cold-hearted and old-fashioned. I will be told that I am not hip, that I am not current, and that I am not in step with today's attitudes. I will not dispute those charges. Rather, I will freely accept them. On this subject, I will gladly be Rosa and hate with all the venom and bile she summoned forth.

We do not need to be fashionable to make a difference in this world.

Let me remind everyone that, although Mr. Faulkner was driven by dire financial need to work in the world of Hollywood, he never felt at home there, he never fit in there, he never succeeded there. It was here in Oxford, at his beloved Rowan Oak, where he wrote books that were not bestsellers, were not movies, and were not hip. Instead, they were simply timeless.

Let us all stand together and tell the organizers of this beauty pageant that we deserve more than just cheap commercialism and free skin shows. I, for one, will not stand for this embarrassment of our town!

Lucille Ruffin-Moore

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