Maude Gorman returned her crown after a skit performed at the Miss Massachusetts competition made fun of the #MeToo movement, refusing to sit idly and "let it go." Gorman, one of the contestants in the Miss Massachusetts pageant earlier this month, shared her reasoning for resigning from her title on Instagram. Internally conflicted as both a survivor of sexual violence and an advocate for victims' rights, she says she 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."
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
The hashtag #MeToo, which was started by community organizer Tarana Burke and made viral by actress and activist Alyssa Milano, has been used to inspire and encourage victims of sexual assault, harassment and violence of all kinds to show that they are not alone in experiencing it. To Gorman, who told CNN that she was gang raped when she was 13, the #MeToo movement was especially meaningful. She said that, for three years, she kept the rape a secret, suffering from PTSD, which affected her sleep and productivity in school. She told CNN that it was going to eat at her if she didn't do something the instant she heard the joke.
The Observer posted part of the controversial skit. In it, a woman on stage recited: "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," responded a person dressed to represent God, holding up a #MeToo sign. The crowd cheered loudly following the tone-deaf remark, so much so that the emcee had to wait until the applause died down to proceed. Meanwhile, many others, like Gorman who was backstage and heard the joke, were in disbelief.
"They had little girls in the audience; they had maybe 50 little princesses in the audience who might one day step on that stage," Kenneth Livingston, a Miss America volunteer who witnessed the skit, told the Observer. "And statistically speaking, one in four women are victims of sexual assault. And if you look at it like that, there were 28 girls on that stage, so there were about six girls who probably were a victim, and they had to walk out on stage after that whole skit. And I just think it’s highly inappropriate."
Gorman resigned from her Miss Plymouth County 2018 title shortly thereafter.
"I’ve been very public with my story,” Gorman told the Observer. "In 2015, I was Miss Massachusetts World and I shared my story for the first time with The Boston Herald, and I became a figure against sexual violence. And you know I’m in the middle of writing my resignation letter because I don’t even really want to have a local title anymore after seeing something like that. Personally, I can’t see myself being a part of the Miss America organization."
The Miss Massachusetts organization posted an apology on Facebook that reads the following: "The Miss Massachusetts Board of Directors offers our sincere and heartfelt apology for those offended by Saturday night's skit. The skit was not in the script and was not authorized by the board. Moving forward, we will review all content with future emcees and other participants prior to our show to be sure offensive or potentially offensive content is not allowed."
Regardless, Gorman says she does not see herself continuing pageants from this point forward.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.