Letters to the editor of The Bristol Press about the Miss Mum pageant

(Six in all)
Sat., Oct. 3, 1998
To the editor:
Substance in the Miss Mum pageant includes all
of the following and so much more. Community
service, volunteering, respect for city
officials,  honesty, self-esteem, respect for
adults, teamwork, meeting new people,  public
speaking, and clean fun.

The authors' choices of words were pathetic to
write what they did about the Mum pageant, but
from youth we expect ignorance, until they learn
from adults that are supposed to teach them
right from wrong. I believe that's where Collins
and Majerus enter the scenario. What is more
infuriating to me than the article, is the
adults who edited it (or I mean lack of edited)
and allowed it to print. Shame on you.

When I called the number listed on the "Tattoo"
page to comment on the article, the answer I
received from the adult woman who admitted to
editing the article along with her husband was,
the kids have a right to voice their opinion. I
agree with you. Yes they did have a right to an
opinion. To print trash against the city, the
mayor, the emcee, a two-time Miss Bristol, the
former Miss Mum, and all of the contestants, was
despicable.

The writers obviously do not understand getting
on stage for the first time, teamwork,
creativity or the building of ones self-esteem.
To each and every one of those contestants, you
did a great job. The reporters need to get out
of the trash.

All are allowed to enter the pageant. Race is
never an issue. How
discriminatory it is to reference a certain
class of persons. "Large breasted", "Blonde,"
"Black contestants" inappropriate references to
a certain class of persons. Trash Trash Trash.
Shame on you all.

CARMEL WALDRON
Forestville

Oct. 3, 1998
To the editor:
I am the mother of Little Miss Soap Box Derby
1998, Katie Elise
Roberge. As I sit here and read the article by
the two reporters from "The Tatoo" regarding The
Miss Mum Pageant, my blood continues to boil. I
look over at my daughter and I am so proud of
what she has accomplished, being a
representative of The Soap Box Derby
Association.

We are proud to live in Bristol and to have so
many opportunities for our kids to grow, learn
and gain self-esteem; the local pageants being
just one of the many wonderful things that
Bristol has to offer.

Having said all that, where do these two
teenaged reporters get off disrespecting our
Mayor? Where did they learn to disrespect young
women by negatively referring to the color of
ones hair or size and shape of their bodies?
These kinds of negative comments only perpetuate
these stereotypes. Did they learn this at home?
From their peers?...from their teachers and
mentors? Giving an opinion is one thing,
trashing respected officials and people you
don't even know, is totally uncalled for and
downright rude.

Do these two reporters have any idea how much
courage and hard work it takes to get up on a
stage, in front of an auditorium full of people
and still remain calm and poised?...As they sit
behind their computers, I suppose they don't.

Making a generalization that most things in
Bristol have no substance? -- a statement
obviously made out of ignorance. These two teens
can only hope to achieve a quarter of what Amy
Vanderoff, and all the other young ladies who
most likely volunteer their time and talents to
many local events have
achieved so far.

I sit here and wonder who allowed this piece of
literary genius to be printed? 

Like my mom always said and as I tell my kids,
if you have nothing nice to say or nothing
positive to contribute, just keep quiet. Alas,
Freedom Of the Press strikes again.

STACIE ROBERGE
Bristol 

Tues., Oct. 6, 1998
To the editor:
I am writing in response to the article "Miss
Mum" Much ado about
nothing." this article written by Amanda Lehmert
and Joe Wilbur was uncalled for. 

Never once did they acknowledge the fact that
these girls worked hard and each took a step
forward in life. The confidence to get up there
in front of so many people counts a lot more
than what these two "journalists" claim. A girl
can gain so much by competing in pageants.
Confidence, self-esteem and friendship.

The Miss Mum pageant is about being yourself. So
as the old saying goes "don't knock it until you
try it." I'd like to wish Leslie good luck this
year, and remind all the contestants that they
did a wonderful job. I held the title of Miss
Chrysanthemum in 1996 and for the record, I'm
black and a brunette.

NAKIYA DAVIS
Bristol

Tues., Oct. 6, 1998
To the editor:
I have just finished reading, for lack of a
better term, a newspaper article written by
Amanda Lehmert and Joe Wilbur concerning the
Miss Mum Pageant, which I attended. After
reviewing this article I must wonder -- were the
writers at the same event as the rest of us?

An enthusiastic crowd watched 15 contestants and
one reigning Mum
Queen represent themselves and one segment of
Bristol's youth in fine fashion. 

Wouldn't it have been rewarding to all if these
writers could haverepresented the journalistic
youth of our town in as favorable a manner?
Instead, they took it upon themselves to bash,
degrade and denounce 16 teenagers and one adult,
Amy Vanderoef, because they were vivacious,
energetic and intelligent. Yes, intelligent. 

You see, I know many of these young women so I
am speaking of a topic of which I have some
knowledge. 

Too bad the writers did not do their research,
as responsible journalists would have done. They
would have found out that these girls, while
carrying good grades are also active in various
fields in their schools and in town. They may
someday use the Savings Bonds they won to help
further their education's. 

Too bad the writers tried to bring race into the
picture. Again, had they done their homework
they would have known that last year's first
runner-up and the previous years winner were
both of African American heritage.

Too bad the writers have no respect for their
elders and the position of mayor. While Mr.
Nicastro and I do not always agree on city
matters, I think I can safely say we agree on at
least some things. We care about the city we
live in. We admire the way in which these young
ladies represented our city, and we know it
takes more poise and courage to perform on stage
than it does to skulk around a dark balcony and
bash those who are different from us. 

Too bad the writers associate being blond with
straight teeth with being stupid. As a blond
with straight teeth, who has owned her own
business for the last 14 years, I could take
offense, but alas, I will consider the obvious
immaturity of the writers. 

Had the writers tried to present a responsible,
intelligent opposition to pageants in general,
that would have been fine as there are two sides
to every issue. Instead, they chose to take the
low road and litter it with their sarcasm and
anger.

Perhaps when they come out from under the cloud
of negativity and hatred they will some day
become responsible, talented writers. The tools
appear to be there, but the heart and soul are
not. 

Perhaps at that time they will realize that the
only thing "without substance" was their article
and they will grow to appreciate all the
positive aspects of their home town.

Congratulations to all the participants in the
pageant and thank you for supporting the town in
which you live.

DEBRA A. SCHUR
Bristol

Monday, Oct. 12
To the editor:
I'm writing today to say that what I find most
amusing about the article "Miss Mum: Much Ado
about Nothing," is that it told the sad truth
about our country's tendency to underestimate
its young women and that the angry letters to
the editor have only further justified the
article.

Young women are not trophies, "Bristol's
Finest," to be pranced about on a stage and
judged without regard for their talents, judged
for their "poise" and aesthetic value, taught to
be calm and ladylike. I needn't ask why we don't
subject our male children to this sort of
degradation -- I know that we'd never degrade a
male that way. I am very upset that there is no
talent competition, that the questions ranged
from "Would you let your boyfriend pay for your
movie ticket?" to "Why do you most like to be a
girl?" and that no one saw a problem with our
young women being paraded out in dresses and
makeup to be judged on these terms. 

I don't blame these girls at all. I blame
instead the grown women who present these
outdated principals to our youth. For years
women have fought against this sort of poison
thinking, and not just against males, but
against females who seem intent on advancing the
idea that women's talents needn't be considered,
that they would need a pageant of this nature to
gain "self esteem" into the next millennium. I
am insulted that most of the angry letters to
the editor have been from women that apparently
consider young females so shallow that they'd
need this empty contest as a measure of their
self-worth.

Furthermore, I think that the attacks in the
form of letters are unwarranted and
inappropriate. These are adults, adults  lashing
out against teenagers expressing themselves. The
First Amendment not only guarantees every
citizen the right to express their opinions but
also means that every citizen must, at times,
read a newspaper article that they disagree
with. Patriotism is one thing, but the fact that
an article (one clearly marked opinion) that
suggests that there may be a flaw in Bristol
tradition has caused do much controversy...it's
just ridiculous.

Those of us who actually read the article
realize that it wasn't vicious, but a commentary
on our country's nearsighted view of its youth
and their abilities. The comment about that
there were no black contestants was clearly not
an accusation of racism, but an ironic comment
on the pageant's choice of musical theme. The
fact a previous Ms. Mum was African American was
never challenged and didn't seem to be an issue
for the authors at all. It did, however, bring
out our country's insecurities as letters
screamed that it wasn't about racism. It wasn't.
No contest. Nowhere was there an assertion that
being blonde with straight teeth necessitates
stupidity. Some people, however, will hear what
they want to.

I might point out to all of you that The Tattoo,
a program of volunteer journalists teaching
intelligent young people to appreciate their
creative talents, publishes many positive
articles. In fact, next to the controversial
"Mum" story, there was a piece by Hila Yosafi
praising the event. No one wrote to praise that,
or any other article by the aspiring
journalists. I suppose nothing positive is
important enough to warrant the time, while one
negative opinion piece is viciously pounced upon
and insulted without cease. Well, that makes
sense.   
SUZANNE ARENAS
Bristol

Sat., Oct. 17, 1998
To the editor:
Let me just start this letter out by stating
exactly who I am. I'm a 14-year-old girl who is
currently attending Bristol Eastern high school.
I'm a member of the school paper. I'm a member
of the school magazine and yearbook. I get
decent grades. I'm a member of the Tattoo. I
have a good amount of friends. I'm basically a
good kid.

Which is why I resent being told that just
because I didn't win some pageant saying a panel
of judges who have no effect on my life think
I'm better than a few other girls, I haven't
accomplished anything. A certain letter to the
editor by Stacie Roberge made me want to stand
up and shout my head off.

Supposedly, I can only hope to achieve a quarter
of what some girl I've never heard of has
accomplished. That's ridiculous.

I would have written an article very similar to
Amanda and Joe's, had I attended the pageant.
Does that make me trash, too? And in order to
not be trash, does that mean I have to be able
to stand on a stage poised? Believe me, after
the amount of plays, concerts and other various
performances I have put on, I am no stranger to
a stage and all the frightening things it may
hold. But apparently that means nothing, and I'm
just a trashy reporter, right?

Let's see in a few years where Joe and Amanda
are... both very talented writers/reporters.
When they get into college and lead wonderful
lives, we'll see just how much they've achieved.
How about you get back to me in a few years and
tell me who accomplished nothing. 

Let me ask you this -- what do they teach us
children in school? The basic skills of reading
and writing, math and all the other classes
available ... the important things in life.
Since I am putting those things to use, why is
it I'm the bad one while the girls who stand on
a stage and look pretty are supposedly the ones
that we're suposed to look up to? I don't buy
that for a second. And do you know what else I
don't buy? The fact that the
pagaent isn't about looks at all. That's pure
baloney. I think Amanda and Joe were just poking
fun at that with the "large breast" comment that
got everyone so angry. Just remember, the big,
dark-inked word spelling out OPINION at the
beginning of the article is there for a reason.

I am now going to end this letter by making one
thing clear ... my mother is proud of me. I may
not have won some pageant by being beautiful,
and I might even be ugly, who knows? But she's
just as proud of me as anyone else's parent, if
not more. So don't you even try to tell me I
haven't  accomplished anything... I know I have,
and I didn't need some pageant to tell me so.

JEN RAJOTTE
Bristol




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