Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Chelsea Beat Brittany!!!

What is it with all these place names as first names of women? This great competition was for the title of Miss USA, and Chelsey Cooley won over Brittany Hogan.

Beauty contests are not nice, I have read. The training sometimes starts when the girls are but little toddlers and includes everything from cosmetic surgery to being careful that one leaves no red rings on the thighs from sitting on the toilet bowl. The surface gloss of talking about world peace and how each contestant wants to go to college and knows how to play the bagpipe or dance the jitterbug is just that: surface gloss. Beauty contests are like cattle auctions and all about faces, boobs and legs.

"Hah!" you say, you being the proverbial nobody-in-particular. Echidne is just another ugly old-maidenish goddess who would begrudge all of us some fun. What is more fun than sitting in your living-room munching popcorn and guzzling beer while all the time pinpointing the slightest flaw in the bodies on screen? If the lights are turned low enough you don't have to even notice that you are like fifteen times heavier and have pimples and beer bellies and wouldn't catch a date even if the world was denuded by a nuclear war. - Which, of course, was my point. A cattle auction, as I said.

Still, beauty contests are not what they once were. There was a time when becoming Miss USA was one of the few avenues of advancement for American women; beauty was what was needed for success, and little girls were brought up to strive for it. Similar contests for men never had the same power to warp boys' lives. But today's beauty contests are much less powerful and the numbers of those watching the shows keep going down.

Ironically, this makes me less critical of beauty contests in general in the developed countries. Young girls now have more alternative role models, more ways of feeling good about themselves, and this makes them less vulnerable to the mad striving for some concept of perfect beauty, always assuming that their parents don't force them on that track. Someone who is a full person with many assets and skills (as well as handicaps) might be able to participate in one of these contests just for the awards and the laughs. This is very different from the case of someone who defines herself through her physical desirability alone or is so defined by the society. It is the latter case which is repulsive and damaging. I'm hoping that beauty contests no longer have this power, at least in the industrialized countries, that they are more like the silly hunk contests we have had in the blogosphere.

Of course, I may be wrong about this, and the situation could well be much more worrisome in other parts of the world.