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Inspiration Report

Kristina O'Sullivan, a junior, goes airborne to keep the ball in play as the Falcons met CSU Bakersfield at the U.S.Air Force Academy's Cadet Soccer Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Sept 20, 2015.  The Falcons dropped this non-conference match 2-1. Air Force returns to action Friday, Sept. 25 beginning Mountain West play at UNLV. (Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan) (released)

Kristina O’Sullivan, a junior, goes airborne to keep the ball in play as the Falcons met CSU Bakersfield at the U.S.Air Force Academy’s Cadet Soccer Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Sept 20, 2015. The Falcons dropped this non-conference match 2-1. Air Force returns to action Friday, Sept. 25 beginning Mountain West play at UNLV. (Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan) (released)

On June 23, 1972, a federal law was passed making it illegal to discriminate based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. The law reads in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The legislation was called Title IX.

Since the passage of Title IX, female participation in college sports has grown by nearly 29 percent. In high school sports, there has been even greater success with a 35 percent increase in female participation. Before Title IX was passed, less than four percent of girls played sports. Today, over 40 percent of girls play a sport of some kind, an increase of more than 900 percent.

Though Title IX is best known for its impact on athletics, the law actually applied to far more than sports. It applied to every aspect of publically supported education. Prior to the passage of Title IX, many universities either did not accept women or used quotas to limit female enrollment. After 1972, those tricks were no longer allowed. In a dramatic reversal of the pre-Title IX university landscape, women outnumber men on most of today’s college campuses.

Title IX has been the subject of recent controversy both by those who claim the law has been used too broadly and too zealously and by those who claim enforcement of the law has not gone far enough. Regardless of which side of the debate a person stands on, there is no doubt that Title IX had an extraordinary effect on academics and athletics. From highly publicized women’s sports teams to a massive increase in female enrollment, Title IX has certainly done the job it set out to do. One can argue if it has gone too far or not far enough, but there is no way to deny that this 1972 law has been a massive influence on today’s educational system.

Miss America 2014 contestants pose for a photo opportunity in front of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Café on the historic Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., Sept. 13, 2013.  (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brandon Jacobs/Released)

Miss America 2014 contestants pose for a photo opportunity in front of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Café on the historic Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., Sept. 13, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brandon Jacobs/Released)

The Miss America beauty pageant has suffered a number of black eyes in recent years. The most current of these was in the form of former SEO Sam Haskell’s leaked emails that insulted a number of former pageant winners. The oldest and most stubborn black eye, however, was the swimsuit portion of the competition.

The swimsuit portion of the Miss America has been a point of contention for more than 50 years. A poll in 1995, however, showed that two out of three viewers wanted the swimsuit competition to remain as part of the pageant. “We are not stupid,” said then-chief executive Leonard Horn. “We are very sensitive to the fact that the swimsuit competition has always been our Achilles’ heel. The swimsuit competition has been controversial since the early 1920s, but it’s been retained because the majority of the people like it.”

In 2018, however, Miss America finally bowed to vocal dissidents at the tail end of the #MeToo movement. The swimsuit competition has officially been scratched from the 2019 Miss America competition, and it is not the only thing that was scrapped. The evening gown portion is set to be replaced by a section in which participants “outwardly express their self-confidence in evening attire of their choosing.”

The title of the pageant itself is also undergoing an overhaul. In fact, Miss America is insisting it will no longer be a beauty pageant at all. “We are no longer a pageant,” said the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Gretchen Carlson. “We are a competition.” To that end, there will be more opportunities for competitors to discuss their social impact initiatives and a “live interactive session with the judges, where [each contestant] will highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America.”

The revamped competition has been dubbed Miss America 2.0 and claims that the competition will not “judge [contestants] on [their] outward appearance.” The move away from a traditional beauty pageant has been hailed by some as a long overdue step. Other people, however, are skeptical. Some wonder how well a competition that has always been known for beautiful women will weather the transition away from a focus on appearance. Other people feel that Miss America is still going to be based on beauty. The judgements of physical appearance will simply be hidden instead of out in the open.

The final form of Miss America 2.0 remains up in the air with viewers and journalists alike trying to predict what the now-former pageant will look like. “Miss America 2.0 [claims it] will help young women ‘learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul’,” wrote Megan Garber. “What, realistically, will that mean? Will Miss America become a speech contest? Will it become a talent show? An essay competition? A spelling bee? A platform for young women to share their visions for a better world—TED, but with better clothes?” So far, there is no answer to those questions, and it remains to be seen how many people will tune in to the 2019 competition to learn the answers.

4156535452_9f2ee39b7e_bThese days it seems that tragedy and horror have replaced sex when it comes to what sells. News stories are overwhelmingly filled with tales of school shootings, natural disasters, human catastrophes and disillusioning scandal. It is enough to turn anyone into a cynic. All that bad news, however, may be doing more damage than causing people to have pessimistic views about the world.  Constant bad news can actually do damage to a person’s health.

When a person experiences or hears about a disaster or other traumatic event, their body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. The body is temporarily overwhelmed with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Once the “threat” is resolved and the story is finished, the body should return to a homeostatic state. The constant inundation of bad news, however, means that a person is jumping from one “threat” to another with little time for the body to return to homeostasis. Instead, the stress hormones simply keep coming. This can lead to adrenal fatigue, anxiety, depression, migraines, stomach problems, insomnia and other complications that come with chronic stress.

On a more emotional level, repeated exposure to catastrophes can lead to what is called disaster fatigue. Essentially, a person becomes desensitized to others’ tragedies and horrors. This can lead to decreased empathy for victims of disasters and cut down on the number of volunteers and donors who help those most directly affected by the disaster.

In order to avoid both adrenal and disaster fatigue, people should try to limit their intake of bad news. People can set time limits on their Facebook accounts to avoid scrolling past posts of disasters for hours on end. Decide that the TV can only be playing the news for one hour, then switch it to a more lighthearted subject such as a comedy movie or upbeat romance. A person can also switch news outlets and choose sources that focus more on good news than lovingly laying out every detail of the latest disaster.

When a person begins to feel “off” after reading or watching too much bad news, they should use stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones and singing. A person’s nervous system is soothed when the face muscles or vocal cords are used, hence the reason singing and deep breathing have such calming effects.

The best defense against the apathy brought on by disaster fatigue, however, is human connection. When people feel connected to their community, they are more resilient in the face of disasters. They either bounce back faster themselves or are better equipped to help others on the road to recovery. It may sound cliché, but when it comes to dealing with bad news, sometimes the best thing a person can do is focus on someone else. Helping someone else helps themselves.

be happyEight years ago, Oprah Winfrey hosted a contest that was meant to find the next talk show host. Krista Rizzo entered the contest. If she won, she planned to call her show “Why Am I Yelling?” When she entered the contest, she decided to create a blog that would cover similar topics to the potential TV show. Rizzo was not the winner of the contest, but she decided to continue blogging anyway.

“I had one child at the time–he was four– and [blogging] was really just a hobby,” Rizzo said. “I enjoyed writing. I had a full time job in corporate America, but stuff about motherhood would pop up…and [blogging] turned into an outlet for me…Then I had another child and changed my life, [but blogging] just stuck with me through everything.”

Rizzo’s blog still has its original name, “Why Am I Yelling?” and continues to deal, in part, with topics pertaining to motherhood and childrearing. The blog, however, is not just a ‘mommy blog.’ In her blog, Rizzo often addresses the importance of communication and a positive mindset, both of which are topics she often address in her work as a life coach.

To Rizzo, a positive mindset is essential because “it dictates the person that you are….It says a lot about your attitude, about your feelings, about your views on how you want your life to look and how you want your situation to look. I feel like it’s a reflection of who you are.”

Rizzo admits that a positive mindset is not always easy to achieve. “It takes work,” she said. “But if you’re living in negativity, you are not going to reap the full reward of what’s out there in the universe.”

Unfortunately, negativity can be hard to avoid in today’s world. Children and teens are constantly surrounded by negativity, often competing with friends to see who could claim to have had the worst day. Social media has not helped either as it is so easy for people to get swept up in an online argument and form a digital mob.

“I think [social media] has brought people together and raised awareness of social issues when they’re using it the right way,” said Rizzo. “It’s a very slippery slope…There’s a lot of negative social media out there and people get sucked into it…It’s a double edged sword.”

As for dealing with the negativity Olympics among teens and children, Rizzo said that the biggest defense against such things is the example of parents. “There’s a lot of negativity [in the world]…and we need to be stepping up and showing them that the stuff they see on the news is not really a reflection of life as a whole,” Rizzo said. “We are all going to go through bad times–a bad situation, a bad friend, a bad word coming toward us–and I think that arming our children and parents, especially teenagers, with the right tools is so vitally important.”

Those tools enable people of all ages to develop a positive mindset. “There is always something to learn from negativity,” said Rizzo. “It takes work just like everything else, but [you can do it] when you have tools available to you.” Among Rizzo’s favorite tools are gratitude and meditation, though she recommends affirmations and journaling as well.

Rizzo knows as well as anyone that there are good days and bad days. Positivity is harder to come by on some days than others, but a positive mindset can help turn a miserable waste of a day into a tolerable day that teaches an important lesson. “All the days you have going forward, do you want to live under the cloud of rain or under the cloud of sunshine?” Rizzo said. “It really is a choice, and it’s all about choosing.”