Welcome to Part 2 of Playing With The Facts.  This time we’re looking at some facts about The Miss America Pageant which John Oliver recently commented upon.  If you received the draft outline of this blog last week by mistake, I apologize.  I Learned a valuable lesson, set to audience to private while drafting so that if you inadvertently hit the publish button life remains unchanged.  If you saw my draft you know what I mean.  If you didn’t ignore what you just read and continue on. images

If you missed Part 1 Playing With The Facts: Ads and What We Eat click here.

When I was younger I don’t really remember going through a princess phase.  I definitely went through a castle and knight phase (still am truth be told), but I don’t recall wanting to be dressed in flowing gowns or be the damsel in distress (not that I was above wanting to be rescued) but the victim thing never sat well with me.

I liked pretty things, but my favourite colour was never pink.  I liked to “look like a girl” but I was just as happy if not happier being in grubby pants and a t-shirt making mud pies or having some wonderful adventure in the pastures and woods.  My tastes, style and interests like my life in general are, shall we say, eclectic.

I watched beauty pageants and while I recognized the text book beauty and talents, I never dreamed of walking the runway – maybe because I knew that I’d probably end up tripping and falling off of it anyway.

I’m one of those quirky folks who actually believes we’re all beautiful in our own way.  I choose to allow the definition of beautiful to be broad and encompassing rather than narrow and small.  I believe in equality – I have no problem with breastfeeding in public, women being topless in public, skimpy clothes – that should all be a personal choice.  I could write tomes on that subject alone.  What bothers me is the objectification, the judging, the double standards by both men and women.  What bothers me is how a woman’s physical attributes and sexuality are so unapologetically tied so directly to her success, her perceived value and self worth.

Whether overtly or covertly the message girls receive from the start is that how they look matters.  They learn early on that how they look determines outcomes, provides opportunities.

I watched the John Oliver video on the Miss America Pageant and suddenly it struck me that in this case, we legitimize objectification by offering scholarships.  In other words, we’re proving that beauty and brains go together.   We can say that they are actually helping women who may be discriminated against because they are beautiful.  The assumption might that they aren’t smart enough to go to university and the pageant challenges that assumption.   Now, I have a hard time arguing that is a bad thing; these young women are so much more than pretty faces and beautiful bodies.  There is nothing wrong with text book beautiful people.  But I feel these events result in narrowing the definition of beauty further, refining rather than expanding; excluding rather than embracing.

I realized that I shouldn’t be surprised that young women so often bare all for even the smallest hope of advancement in modelling, acting, or really in any career path.  We all know of those who have used their female attributes to succeed.  From the first pageant a young girl watches, they see that they can use their looks and bodies and hopefully their minds to go fabulous places.  It’s not about feeling liberated, or free to do what you want, it’s pressure to do so because that’s what you need to do to get what you want.  There’s a big difference. Donald Trump, owner of the pageant is quoted as saying to a female reporter (it’s on the video),

“Well obviously it’s great outer beauty.  We could be politically correct and say that the look doesn’t matter but it obviously matters.  Like you wouldn’t have your job if you weren’t beautiful.”

Alrighty then.  To which John Oliver comments,

“Right, because you need to see them in bathing suits because as we all know the intelligence portion of the brain is located somewhere on the upper thigh.”

Ok, by now you’re probably wondering how this ties into “Playing with the Facts – Part 1”   I suggested we needed to be savvy, critical thinkers and discerning.  The same applies to the pageant and the claims it makes.

This brings us back to the topic of scholarships for secondary education.   The Miss USA pageant can’t say enough about how many scholarships they make available annually – a whopping $45 million.  I mean, ok, how can I argue with someone that while they’re beautiful, they shouldn’t use that attribute to win a very cool experience and get an education paid for that might otherwise take years to pay off.

Now math was never my best subject, but even I have to question the ethics of how the pageant calculates that $45 million, and how much really gets paid out.  However, why would I bother to say more when I’ve already said enough.   John Oliver says it much better and more humourously than I ever could.  Even bad news is better doled out with the ability to smile.  So for your viewing enjoyment, John Oliver’s take on The Miss America Pageant and what it stands for.

So there you have it, simply playing with the facts a little bit and what a different story it tells.  Just a little playing with the facts lulls us into a sense of not only trust, but gratitude.  However,  the bottom line is the Miss America Pageant really give out only a fraction of the $45 million, that no matter what, they could never actually give out the $45 million and maybe saddest of all, that even at their lowest figure given, they are still actually the biggest single provider of scholarships for women only.

Yep, thems the facts peeps at least for now.

Want to make a difference?  John Oliver provides a list of other women’s only scholarship funds you can donate to if you want to change the fact that currently the biggest scholarship provider for women only scholarships “requires you to be unmarried, have a mint condition uterus and also rewards working knowledge of buttock adhesive technology.”

If anyone else know of scholarships for women only that can be donated to anywhere in the world please let me know.  I’d love to update the list. As you go about your day remember that it just might not hurt to be:

  • savvy
  • discerning
  • a critical thinker

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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