Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beauty Pageants Show the Ugly Side of Humanity

The other day, while addressing the Polar Vortex-induced roof leak that had seeped through the bathroom ceiling, I took a break in front of the muted TV. It was silently airing the kind of lame infomercial I usually channel past. The remote was out of reach so I just kept watching. What I saw felt so revolting, it shook me to the core.
Although I couldn’t hear what was being said, it was a safe bet the sponsors were hawking beauty products since it showed a series of ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of women. At first I was struck by how all the women in the ‘before’ photos were already beautiful. The only difference in the ‘after’ images was that they wore more makeup. No big deal, initially.
Then the scene changed. Now the same women were clad in two-piece bathing suits and walking across a stage in front of an audience, apparently competing in a contest. Although the sound was down, I dismissed that this was some straight forward beauty pageant since their swimwear was rather modest, compared to racier swimsuits I’ve seen in my day.
...After. No wait! That's prince not princess.
Sitting in silence, I thought about what brand of pageant it might be. Some scholarship-based competition, I guessed. Perhaps of the sort where competitors demonstrate how well-rounded they are in order to win. It was then that I began regarding what I was watching as repulsive. And it wasn’t because of anything the women were doing.
Instead I was revolted by the implication that in order for a woman to compete and win a scholarship or whatever, they had to show off their body. Oh, I’m sure pageant organizers crafted some mumbo jumbo in the contest rules that explained the swimsuit category as a physical fitness segment or other fabrication. After all, there was also baton-twirling and the obligatory ‘world peace’ statement each contestant was also required to make.
Still, watching the beauty infomercial unfold, I gained a deeper awareness of the truth and it was like having a bucket of cold water thrown on me. That’s because reality has been right there in front of me all along to recognize – except for the meta brainwashing by the male-centered cultural conditioning (i.e., patriarchy) I’ve undergone since birth. And unfortunately continue to experience.
Watching in silence reminded me of the disturbing reality that accompanied the TV images and it wasn’t pretty: sex sells. Admission: it’s not as if in my younger days I didn’t know the real deal about why pageants like Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Universe conduct swimsuit segments; I just rarely went there in my mind. Back then it felt right to watch women be depicted in skimpy swimwear for my (and other males’) “benefit”. After all, it was just the natural order of things, right? Wrong.
Frankly, I almost give a pass to pageants like Miss Hawaiian Tropic, if it’s still even around. Almost. At least the sponsor made no bones that their exploitive contests was all about sexuality and bodies. Oh yeah, and suntan lotion. But compelling women to undress to win a college scholarship and then insist it’s merely about eating right and working out is disgustingly disingenuous.
Maybe I’m all bent out of shape about this because my oldest daughter turned 18 last month, she’s knee deep in popular culture (which encourages female exploitation), and is about to leave the nest. In any event, I got up from in front of the TV to go look at something that, if not as attractive as the images on the screen, was at least more honest: the water-stained sheetrock decomposing on my bathroom ceiling.

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