Notices The Tattoo

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

These are letters to the editor published about an opinion piece two students wrote the Miss Mum pageant — which, by the way, won a first place award in the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists’ annual contest. Another letter to the editor, from Jen Rajotte, is also available here.

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.


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 Tattoo” 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

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 teenage reporters get off disrespecting our Mayor? Where did they learn to disrespect young women by negatively referring to the color of one’s 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.


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.


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 have represented 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

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.


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.

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