While the Miss America Organization is attempting to move forward in the name of feminism, a Massachusetts contestant has publicly dumped her crown after her state’s competition appeared to mock the organization’s ending of the swimsuit competition, as well as the Me Too movement against sexual harassment and assault.
“Today, I officially resigned from the title of Miss Plymouth County 2018,” Maude Gorman announced in a July 5 Instagram post shared less than a week after the crowning of Miss Massachusetts 2018.
Gorman went on to write that while she was “grateful” the Miss America Organization’s opportunities for young women, she became “internally conflicted” after the statewide Miss Massachusetts competition featured an insensitive skit that touched on the announcement from Miss America chair Gretchen Carlson that the organization would be doing away with the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the competition, in a move to end judging contestants on their appearance. Carlson, a former Fox News personality, sued Fox News and the late then-chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016, more than a year before the Me Too movement’s international rise beginning with tens of women recalling sexual harassment and assault by producer Harvey Weinstein.
In a video of the skit published by the Observer, the emcee kneels in front of a chair with her elbows resting on the seat, and says, “We may have very well seen the last ever swimsuit competition on stage. It’s very upsetting. And I’m trying to understand, God, why it happened.”
“Me too, Amy,” another person on stage says, holding up two signs, one in each hand, that together spelled #MeToo. The audience then cheers as the emcee waits to continue.
“Thank you. I know I can count on you, I know I can count on you…” the emcee, who hasn’t been identified in reports of the incident, says in response.
Gorman is a survivor of sexual assault herself—she said she was gang raped by three men when she was 13 and struggled in silence for three years before her mother got her help at 16. As a result of her assault, Gorman is diagnosed with PTSD, and much of her advocacy work stems from her experience. In another Instagram post, she detailed her work for other survivors, including speaking at international conferences about the effects of trauma on youth, partnering with hospitals for emergency resources for children being treated for sexual abuse, and presenting her own sexual violence research.
“As both a survivor, and advocate for victims rights and sexual violence on a whole, I refuse to stand idly by and simply ‘let this go.’ Instead, I will stand up for every individual who has ever had the courage to speak out; and for every person who felt liberated by the #metoo movement,” Gorman continued in her Instagram post. “I will not allow ANYONE to take away that empowerment and liberation, or make it anything less than what it is: AMAZING.”
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Today, I officially resigned from the title of Miss Plymouth County 2018. While I’m grateful for the opportunities that @missamerica creates for young women, I am also internally conflicted; as the #metoo movement was mocked on stage during the final competition of Miss Massachusetts. As both a survivor, and advocate for victims rights and sexual violence on a whole, I refuse to stand idly by and simply “let this go”. Instead, I will stand up for every individual who has ever had the courage to speak out; and for every person who felt liberated by the #metoo movement. I will not allow ANYONE to take away that empowerment and liberation, or make it anything less than what it is: AMAZING. #metoo #missplymouthcounty #nomore #rainn #surviveandthrive
“Thank you! I admire your bravery and courage. What they did was cruel and cowardly and they should be ashamed of themselves,” one person commented.
“You are paving the path for young women and all women to have the violence bestowed upon them stopped,” another wrote. “Thank you for doing this for all the women who are too scared.”
Gorman told CNN that she was backstage while it happened, and while the contestants didn’t see the skit, they could hear all of it.
“I instantly knew I had to do something. It was going to eat away at me if I didn’t… we were all shocked. We said, ‘Oh my god. I cannot believe that just happened. Did that just really happen?'” Gorman said.
In the post detailing her resignation, Gorman also included her announcement and notice to the Miss America Organization. In her statement, Gorman also said she was bullied backstage about being a survivor, and that while she came back to the organization after her winning Miss Massachusetts World in 2015, she no longer wanted to hold her new title. She wrote that other titleholders had taken it “upon themselves to discuss that my ‘story was fake’ while backstage.”
“While I know these values do not reflect the Miss America Organization, it is enough to leave me wanting to respectfully resign from the title and walk away,” Gorman’s statement reads.
On Facebook, the Miss Massachusetts chapter wrote that the emcee’s skit was “not in the script and was not authorized” by the chapter board of directors. The page wrong it will review all emcee content moving forward.
The Miss Massachusetts Board of Directors offers our sincere and heartfelt apology for those offended by Saturday…Posted by Miss Massachusetts MAO on Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Gabriela Taveras, who was crowned Miss Massachusetts 2018, also published a statement on Facebook saying she was unaware the skit happened until after the competition ended, and that it “breaks [her] heart” to hear that people were hurt by the skit. Taveras, who is also a survivor of sexual assault, encouraged readers to remember that the organization’s purpose is to empower young women.
In response to recent news of the skit included in the Miss Massachusetts production, I want to make a statement as Miss…Posted by Gabriela Taveras on Tuesday, July 3, 2018
“The damage and hurt cannot be undone, but as I have always said and will continue to say—I never got a break because I can’t be broken,” Taveras wrote. “I hope that everyone shares in the strength of this message with me and that you don’t allow this or anything in your life to break you.”
Yet, despite the apologies, Gorman told CNN that she’s “done with pageants” and is happy leaving that world behind her.
“There is still so much more work to be done, there is still so much more progress to be made, and justice to be found,” Gorman wrote following the news of her title resignation. “I will continue to fearlessly defend survivors, and be the voice for those suffering in secrecy. You are not alone #metoo”