Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Quaint Custom of Beauty Pageants, Part 3

     In the first two parts of this series, I showed that beauty pageants are exercises in futility.  The system of judging all but determines that real beauty and talent will be eliminated from consideration, and that in all other respects, beauty pageants are a barbaric custom based on objectification of women.  
     The final round in the competition is judged on the basis of the contestants' personalities.  The women are judged by such standards as shallowness, glibness of speech, and hypocrisy.  Remember that some of these beauty pageants, to disguise their true intent, are called "scholarship" pageants, as though they are designed to choose scholars deserving of higher education. 
     This round has two parts.  In the first, the judges will converse with each contestant in private. A conversation lasting no more than a few minutes is expected to reveal to the judges everything they need to know about whether the contestant deserves a higher education.
     I couldn’t tell you the subject of the private conversation the contestant would have with a judge. Since the conversation is private, I think that the judges are not as interested in what she says as they are in what she can keep from saying. You can imagine what her chances would be if she told the judges that 9/11 was an inside job.  
     Once the contestants, in private, have assured the judges that they won't spill the beans about 9/11 or question global warming, the approved contestants move to the next step in this quasi-masonic process. I'm referring, of course, to the obligatory public display of insincerity. Each one of a certain number of finalists—probably five—will be asked a question which probably will have nothing to do with the scholarship candidate’s chosen field of study. Thoughtful answers will count against the contestant, for several reasons:
1. They might be controversial;
2. They probably would not be understood by the average person who watches that kind of event; and
3. The answers are supposed to be heartwarming rather than informative.
     Her answer must be as pleasing as possible to as many of the judges as possible without going over anyone’s heads. Her answer must appeal to the lowest common denominator, and she must be glib in her delivery.
     To demonstrate this, let’s revisit what is probably the most painful memory of a young girl’s life. I’m referring to the Miss Teen U.S.A. contest, in which Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina, was asked, “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?” Her embarrassing answer is recounted in a video clip from the corporate-owned media program the Today Show.
     Please notice two things in particular in this clip  below.  For one, Caitlin's face is not covered with more make-up than Bozo the clown, as it was in the Miss Teen USA Pageant.  Looking natural, she looks great.  For another, even though she had a day or so to come up with a different answer to the pageant interviewer's question, her answer is still shallow, vacuous, and obviously insincere.  That is, her revised answer is the sort of answer that would have pleased the pageant judges.
     If you do a Google video search for "dumb blonde," her gaffe comes up in third place.  Do an image search, and she's number one.  
     I really think that it was an unfair question and that she got a bum rap for not coming up with a heartwarming answer. Wouldn’t it be more productive if the judges bothered to do their homework and ask the contestants questions related to their areas of expertise? For that matter, if she had given an intelligent, informed answer, she would have been toast. Here’s what she could have said:
     “I personally believe that Americans are unable to do so because most geography teachers are so boring that their students could learn more in a cave. Most school administrators have so little respect for geography as a course that they think that anybody can teach it. Instead of assigning geography classes to teachers with a real passion for the subject, they assign them to teachers who can fit the classes into their schedules. Most Americans really love geography even if they don’t know it. They really love books and movies about travel and people in other lands, and they’re eager to learn about other cultures. Unfortunately, when they enter a geography class, the teacher has them memorize national capitals, population densities, where stuff is on a world map, and a lot of other meaningless trivia they can easily find on line if they wanted to know it. Students’ eyes glaze over and they don’t learn anything that they don’t quickly forget. If geography teachers taught students what they really wanted to know, students would eagerly learn about other people and their cultures. They might even realize that some of the practices of so-called third-world cultures make more sense than this dumb-old contest we’re having tonight. They’d develop a deep appreciation for the different peoples of the world and their concerns, and this increased understanding would help to promote (sigh) world peace.”
     You can imagine what a beauty contestant’s chances would be if she gave an answer like that one. Even the prattle about world peace wouldn’t sway them.
     In case you're wondering whatever became of the would-be scholar Caitlin Upton, her Chickipedia biography isn't much more informative than her Wikipedia bio or any other bio.  They all say that she "planned" or "plans" to attend Appalachian State University to study graphic design.  Apparently, her failure to win the scholarship has put her educational plans on hold while she struggles to make a living as a fashion model, either in North Hollywood or (yuk) for Donald Trump in New York.  Baseline said that she actually attended Appalachian State University, but I couldn't find any source saying that she had graduated.  Maybe ASU's courses in geography, logic, and elocution are overly difficult.
     One must wonder how many would-be Nobel Prize recipients missed out on educational opportunities due to their failure to give properly insincere answers in a "scholarship" pageant.  Probably none.  Somehow, I don't think she would have found a cure for cancer if she had won the "scholarship."
     Beauty contests are a dumb idea from the get-go. Truly beautiful women don’t stand a chance of winning the beauty portion of the contest. Truly talented women don’t stand a chance of winning the talent competition. The “personality” portion of the show tends to reward personality traits that no human being should possess.
     I wouldn’t favor abolishing beauty contests. Participating in them or watching them should be a private decision. My private decision is to change channels or turn off the television and spend my time doing something more productive. If the idea of having beauty contests were only recently introduced, wouldn’t you think it was bizarre?
(Back to Part 1)  (Back to Part 2)

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