Woodstock, Alabama Offers the World a Different Kind of Beauty Pageant

Having lived in Alabama for a good portion of my life, I experienced a mixture of befuddlement, amusement, and cringiness (yes, I made that word up) when I learned that such a thing as the Ms. Redneck Alabama Pageant existed.

That’s right. You read correctly. In the widely-unheard-of town of Woodstock, Alabama, a group of seven young women dressed up in Daisy Dukes, funneled sodas, and sang terrible country songs to a crowd of over 100 fellow riled-up rednecks (that’s 10% of the entire population of the town!) in a new kind of festival.

Although this year’s was the inaugural pageant, it could easily become a somewhat widely-celebrated local festival. Located in Bibb County near Tuscaloosa and West Blocton, Alabama, Woodstock occupies a whopping 350 square miles and has a population of less than 1000 people, as of the last census.  People in Alabama small towns often need a break from the heat and boredom of summer, and this pageant appears to be Woodstock’s answer. It is certainly a novel idea, if a bit silly.

The strangest thing about the pageant, however, is its inherent self-contradictions.  It is at once a celebration of redneckedness and yet, I have no doubt, will be the object of laughter and ridicule for outsiders who find out about it.  It embraces more full-figured contestants unlike traditional pageants but also objectifies women in the same way by having them dress in skimpy clothing.  It encourages a new take on “talent,” but the talents, aside from singing, include the  useless knowledge of bad music and diabetic-coma-inducing soda funneling.  There also appear to be no women of color, although that may not be as much of an intentional exclusion so much as a result of demographics.

But the presence of the pageant does beg the question of whether there is a different, more accessible, and more entertaining way of doing pageants. Surely there is a better way for the people of rural Alabama to embrace Southern culture without promoting the very aspects of it that are the source of derision and amusement among the rest of the country. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but everything about it seems a little off to me.  Either way, I look forward to seeing if and how they decide to continue this tradition.

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