Thursday, 2 March 2017

Beauty and Blunders

Epic Blunder

My own Oscar’s joke:

I see Price Waterhouse (PwC) messed up the Oscars. Anyone going to audit what went wrong?

USA today had this comment on what is being known as #Envelopegate:

For a company of accountants who prize themselves on their commitment to accuracy, an event that typically burnishes their credibility quickly devolved into a global crisis.

Accounting is a "credence good," which means "customers don't know to evaluate" it unless something goes wrong, University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon said.

"You trust in the name. If you understood accounting, you wouldn't need PwC or KPMG or any of them," University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon said. "This is the most public goof up an accounting firm could make. Accounting firms are in the background."

Time to Give it a Miss?

Towards the end of 2015 during the Miss Universe pageant, the event’s MC, comedian Steve Harvey misread the winner card, and announced the wrong winner of the pageant. Harvey stated that Miss Colombia had won the crown, which was then placed ontop of her head, only to have it removed moments later when Harvey clarified that it was really Miss Philippines who had triumphed in the pageant.

Sounds familiar?

But looking at beauty pageants brings me to my second story. An official notice has now gone out looking for someone to represent St Helier and St Brelade at the 2017 Battle of Flowers parades in August and act as ambassadors for their parish for the year ahead.

How many people enter these competitions? Only two entered Miss St Brelade in 2016, and most of the Parishes are rather shy at giving any numbers. Grouville has this:

“Earlier this month we held another very successful Miss Grouville competition at the Royal Jersey Golf Club and our thanks go to Lynne Salisbury and her team for organ-ising the event, as well as to the judges and our compère for giving up their time. Our worthy winner will be an excellent representative for Grouville and will be seen at many events over the upcoming year. Our thanks also go to the judges and our compère for their time”

St Helier had about 4 contestants, and listed them, but they are the largest Parish, and that’s what one might expect.

Nothing available on how many stood for Miss St Mary, Miss St Saviour or Miss St Peter.

I think you could count numbers on the fingers of one hand!

In 2015, the Daily Telegraph reported that:

Just one girl enters a regional heat to become Miss Great Britain, leading a former winner to warned that the halcyon days are coming to an end: "Hundreds of girls used to enter these competitions. I think the lack of entries is just a sign of the times. It's really sad."

In 2012, a Wiltshire community called time on the ancient custom due to a distinct lack of interest after receiving just one entry to become Devizes carnival queen for two consecutive years. And in 2013, the Dorset town of Verwood became the latest to ditch the annual "uncool" carnival queen procession, ending a tradition dating back more than 80 years.

The same decline has been seen in America, where the Illinois Daily Herald reports:

“The volunteer-run organization that hosts the Miss Illinois pageant, which feeds into the coveted Miss America pageant, has seen participation steadily decline in the past five years. And the same is true for pageants across the country.”

“For instance, in Texas, the pageant capital of the world, the state pageant saw a 33 percent decline in participation this year with 44 contestants, as opposed to 66 last year.”

“And locally, it gets worse. There was no Miss DuPage County pageant this year because there weren't enough contestants, among other things.”

The Chicago Tribune highlights the decline and collapse of the institution. For months in 1992, organizers promoted the Miss Grayslake contest with zeal. They hung posters at local businesses, published notices in the town newspaper and gave recruiting pep talks at Grayslake Community High. After all that, and a weeklong extension of the entry deadline, three women requested applications. But only two filled them out.

As the Tribune noted:

“Linda Wegge Slipke, an accountant who was the pageant`s co-director, said she couldn`t very well put on a pageant that could be decided by a coin toss. So it was canceled.”

Why is there such a decline? I think it is partly because the beauty pageant originally served a very different function in the cultural mores of society. In its beginnings, it was simply a contest which pitted women against one another and judging them primarily based on their looks, which is by today’s standards, very unsettling.

This is why attempts have been made to add other qualities to that seen in a successful winner. It’s origins lie back in the past, such as when the first Miss America contest was held on September 6, 1921 (though it didn’t come to be known by that name until 1941) with seven “bathing beauties.” It was created by a group of Atlantic City businessmen as a “bathing beauty revue".

The additions have been to judged competitors on their talent, their performances and interviews in addition to their physical appearance. Even the swimsuit has been dropped in an attempt to make the contest appear less a magnet for lecherous men.

But that’s a gloss to hide the fact that the foundation stone still lies in a patriarchal worldview which looked upon women as objects rather than people, and which presents them as if they were consumer goods, commodified female bodies.

As Holly Grout notes: “Contests... linked beauty and commerce, elevated appearance over substance, and promoted an idealized model of womanhood that was itself premised on the notion that identity was both performative and purchasable.”

Australian Historian Caroline Dale says that part of the reason for the decline is that people are not comfortable with the idea of women vying to be the prettiest, no matter how many world-peace questions are thrown in. Moreoever, other opportunities in the spotlight exist for celebrity, or for those just want to gain confidence, in which beauty does not play such a significant role.

And from India, where there is also a notable decline, as Santosh Desai comments:

"Beauty pageants are a relic of an earlier era when patriarchy had a firmer hold on society, when the concept of beauty was static and fixed. These norms are changing fast today. Young women too don't want to be fixed in that plastic image”

1 comment:

James said...

Actually, I reckon beauty pageants are about to stage a comeback, given that they're about the only thing simple enough for President Trump to understand!

Whether this is a good way of (for example) picking attorney-generals I will leave to the readers' discretion...