Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Here She Comes...

Being a reasonably sophisticated urban type, I know that beauty pagents are "bad". They're sexist, offensive throwbacks. We, as a society, have evolved past that sort of thing, and their continued existence is an embarrassment. As the LA Times wrote yesterday:
"Why does Miss America still exist? The Miss America contest is stupid and dated.... [it's] even sexist in a dated way."
Educated, sophisticated people know to grimace and drip icy irony when the subject of beauty contests comes up. It's an instinctual reaction, sort of like we'd have to minstrel shows or Charlie Chan movies.

But wait. Are we saying that judging people on their looks has become passé? That our culture has evolved to favor deeper attributes - ideas, generosity of spirit, etc.? That the sexes no longer objectify each other, and that women, specifically, have come to resist objectification?

Be serious! At this moment in our society, the highest compliment one can pay is to call someone "hot". Looks have never been more consequential to more people in more realms. And objectification isn't passé, it's institutionalized - entirely accepted and even embraced by both objectifier and, uh, objectivee. Object. Whatever.

The new wrinkle is that if the objectified party has
chosen to be objectified, it's deemed ok, because that equalizes the power dynamic. Madonna used raw sexuality to get where she wanted - and her message was entirely about using one's raw sexuality to get where one wants. Madonna is a poor singer. She's neither talented nor interesting. She's simply an ambitious, outrageous stuff-strutter. She's the Material Girl, she's Blonde Ambition, and she's just fabulous, an iconic inspiration to women everywhere. You go, girl! And what profession evokes greater status and sophistication than modeling, the ultimate objectification? Even pornstar Jenna Jameson is deemed chic. Porn chic!

So let me see if I understand. When Miss Oklahoma ambles around in a one-piece swimsuit for a chance to get a scholarship to go to college, for godsakes, that's a sad, disgusting display?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Actually, it's now a 2-piece bathing
suit. You can learn a lot about a culture by studying its pageants.

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