Monday, 4 May 2009

Miss California - Here's What's Truly Offensive

In case you haven't been following this story, recently Miss California - AKA Carrie Prejean - caused a bit of a ruckus with a confused but ultimately disapproving answer on the question of Gay Marriage during the Miss America pageant.

Thence followed ongoing argumentation, in which gay blogger Perez Hilton (who asked the question in the first place) seemed to go to war with the anti-Marriage community (confusingly named the National Organization for Marriage - but... they want to stop people from getting married. Does not compute) - and there was much hullabaloo.

Prejean has now agreed to appear in an anti-gay marriage commercial for the NOM folks, despite the fact that, as best I can figure, the women doesn't actually have an opinion on gay marriage. I mean, she'd like people to have rights like hospital visitation and stuff, and she thinks it's great that we live in a country where people can have a choice and all between regular marriage and "opposite marriage"(umm... we do?) and she really couldn't say whether or not she supports civil unions because, "I don't have the answers to everything, you know, in the world out there."

This woman doesn't have offensive opinions about marriage - she doesn't HAVE an opinion. So there's not a great deal of point in discussing her lack of any informed view, really is there? I mean this sort of thing isn't really her area of expertise is it?

But why not spend just a little bit of time - maybe a fraction of the time spend obesesing over her non-opinion on the marriage issue - and talk for just a second about something that very muchIS this woman's field of endeavor: the pageant itself.

Here's the thing: I'm not offended by the idea of beauty contests - that would be silly. I mean, what's the point of pretending that we aren't being judged all the time on our looks. Young women get ahead all the time because they happen to be pretty or - worse - fail to get ahead because they happen not to be. So if they want to put that on my TV screen, fine; it's just another thing for me to not watch. In the age of The Batchelor, it's by no means the most sickening display of shamelessness on our screens.

But the thing that DOES offend me about beauty pageants is precisely the thing that everyone always points to as evidence for their social value - the scholarships. Winners of these pageants aren't given a hefty lump sum of cash that they can blow on fast cars and cosmetic surgery. They're given the money in the form of scholarships to attend university.

What on earth is the crying social need to make sure that by all means really pretty girls don't have to pay their own way through school? Don't you think maybe there's a stringy haired, glassy-eyed budding scientist out there who hasn't been spending her time perfecting The Look because she's been huddled over a bunsen burner that might deserve a scholarship slightly more on the merits? You want to reward young women for being pretty - fine. And I'm sure many if not all of the young women who win these competitions are lovely and hard working people who will succeed academically. But the ability to walk in a swimsuit and heels, while an impressive talent that I do not myself posess, is not per se evidence of academic merit.

But, you know - I'm glad I come from a country where you can chose to participate in degrading social rituals if you want to. But - no offense to anyone - I don't think you deserve an academic leg up because of them. That's just the way I was raised.


christine said...

Wow, never thought of it this way! Seems rather silly to win a scholarship for this doesn't it!

Obama London said...

Thanks, Christine - yes, I think we often fail to think through the implications of these things: scholarships = good. Well, yes, often - but when someone is explicitly awarded a scholarship because of their looks that says something about what we value in society - not achievement but appearance. Again, I'm NOT saying that these women aren't high achieving individuals. Many of them are. But that's not what the scholarships are given for.

And BTW, although I think it's a slightly different phenomonon, i tend to feel the same way about sport scholarships - colleges give them out because they are financially lucrative. They make millions on their sports franshises. But then they are forbidden from paying the athletes in cash and therefore offer them glitzy scholarships with perks attached. Why not reward the athletes for what you are hiring them for - sport - rather than pretend it's something to do with academics.

Sorry, a bit of a tangent from the Obama stuff, but just soemething that's been on my mind.

KathyF said...

That's an interesting point. I think it's sad that pretty girls are automatically assumed to be dumb. My daughter is pretty, and very very smart. (Won a scholarship for brains, she did!) I think for a long time girls felt they had to choose between being smart or being pretty. I wish pageants would show that pretty girls can be smart, and vice versa. (Many football players have the same issue, I hear.)

I hadn't been following this story, but I read an interesting comment on the people who mocked her here: (It's at the end, after a very good take down of Fox Business news.)

I agree with him, though I didn't see those instances. I hated how Miss South Carolina was mocked for her answers during a similar pageant. I kept imagining if it had been my daughter. How cruel.

Obama London said...

Hi Kathy,

I totally agree about the shameful pretty = dumb assumptions people make.

And I actually posted about it here way back in July 2008 in relation:

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