This post might seem a touch self-contradictory at best and outright hypocritical at worst… it’s probably a bit of both in reality. Yesterday I saluted a friend for an outstanding blog post on the ills (well, one specific ill, to be fair) of beauty pageants. Today I was called on the carpet by an old friend for doing so. Now, in front of you… I’m going to investigate that. I’m not sure where this is going to end up, because I haven’t really thought much about it… I just opened the “new post” dialog box and started typing…
Let me start by saying I still completely agree with Jeanne’s stance and actions and my subsequent words about them yesterday.
The link (to her piece): http://idahobusinessreview.com/2013/06/03/a-judgment-call/
My comment on her Facebook page:
My Comment on my share of her piece on my Facebook wall:
Needless to say I was supportive… and again, I remain so…
But then I got an email from an old college friend… an excerpt:
Have you really changed this much, or are you pandering? To be blunt, we spent hours talking about physical attraction in school and one of your main tenants was always that beauty should be equal in stature to other qualities you might evaluate about another person – SO LONG AS – it was given equal weight with all of the other qualities of the woman. This seems to be the model in these pageants, so what gives? What has changed? Why are “intelligence,” “sense of humor,” or “compassion” (etc.) valid qualities yet “how well someone takes care of themselves” is not?
I’ll start by pointing out what is missing from her email… context. Our discussions centered on dating. Specifically, selecting a single person out of the myriad of potential companions in whom one would invest their relationship equity (AKA time). Within that context, I probably hold the same beliefs that I held back then (again, I haven’t given it much thought… I just read her words and started typing). I have long held that 1. it is wrong to judge someone solely based on their looks, body, or other physical attributes and b. that is is also wrong to ignore physical attraction when selecting a potential mate or life partner. I do believe that violating either of these (lets call them) “principles” almost completely precludes success in long-term relationships.
I’m going to assume everyone understands why physical attraction is important to the coupling process, and move on to the meat of the subject (if you are unclear, or think others might be… there is a comments area below… ask and you shall receive).
While physical attributes in a one to one relationship go beyond “fair” and move more toward “critical” in making one’s choices, that does not mean that they should be a key component in a societal view of a particular gender (or any other group of people). What it does (among other things, some of which I intend to talk about some I do not) is detract from peoples ability to find the best match for them. When we, as a society, define the perfect waist, chest, arm, or thigh size; we deprecate the ability of individuals to make decisions on what they personally find attractive. It creates an artificially high weight on the attractiveness factor based on the knowledge of what public opinion is.
In other words, if you know 90% of people like cool-aide and you are selecting a drink, there is a decent chance you will select cool-aide even if you prefer water simply to avoid dealing with comments regarding your choice. If you don’t believe me… order a water the next time you and the guys (I assume it is the same for girls… but I can’t say for sure) go out for a drink and see what happens. There will be comments… I assure you. For many, this is enough pressure to lead them to have a beer or a glass of wine they don’t really want resulting in an evening that isn’t as rewarding as it could have been.
This pressure is over a drink… now imagine how much greater is to for selecting your life partner. Someone you will introduce to your parents, your friends, your co-workers etc. If you KNOW someone you might otherwise like does not measure up to the image society has given you for a successful “hunt” how is that going to effect your actions?
Ignored (but not forgotten) so far in my ramblings is the effect on the folks on the other side of the equation… the ones trying to fit into that norm so that they will be considered attractive. I’ll let a few numbers talk to this point:
- Of female students surveyed on a typical college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight
- Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys nationwide use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives
- The mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain or expand on those numbers and what they mean to both individuals and society on the whole. When society establishes a norm and exerts pressure on people to comply with that norm, the health of that society (and the individuals within it) suffers… the end.
Which brings me back to Jeanne’s piece. Pageants are not deciding, in a one-to-one-life-partner way, what is attractive for an individual. Rather, they are setting a standard for an entire society; and it is in this that they are wrong. One of the comments on her article reads:
As I read these I couldn’t help but think about a radio interview I had recently heard about a woman who spent time in jail (for civil disobedience in protest of something… can’t remember what right now). The shows host asked her why she didn’t just pay the fine and avoid jail time and she responded that’s what the big corporations that she was protesting did. They built the fines for their unethical actions into their business model and treated them as just another cost of doing business; “right and wrong” were replaced by “profit and loss” as their guiding principle or moral compass. In her view, if it was wrong for them, it was wrong for her as well and so she didn’t just write a check to excuse her behavior, she paid the full price of incarceration.
But enough about other people, what about me.
Have I changed my views? Am I pandering? … No, I don’t think so.
I still believe that when an individual is finding their life partner all things should be considered (including attractiveness). I have a proclivity toward brunettes (sorry blondes… it’s nothing personal)… for whatever reason they simply trip a trigger in me that blondes don’t. As such I tended to gravitate that way when I was dating. Since I (typically, this piece being a bit of an exception) do not advocate or even share that preference, I do not feel badly about it effecting my personal choices.
Pageants do something different, however. They pit one (toned, fit and usually slight) body against another, in a contest to see who’s body is the best. It’s this public judging of one against the other than helps to establish, enhance, and uphold a cultural “norm” that our society – as a whole – embraces… with some pretty awful results.
I think, as Jeanne points out in her piece, it is wonderful what the Miss X pageants do in the way of community service efforts. For me though, it’s just not enough to offset the damage that being a standard bearer for what is and is not “attractive” in society causes. As Jeanne adroitly points out, with a few tweaks, this could probably work for everyone. However, if I am to blunt – as my friend was with me – as long as there are women parading around in bikini’s and high heals in front of other people judging them on how they look… all of that charitable giving just smacks of “blood money” and the ends simply don’t justify the means…