Monday, May 30, 2005

I'll miss thee, Miss Universe

I have a horrible, terrible confession: I watched the opening of the Miss Universe pageant. I believe some explaining is in order.

When my sister and I were little, the pageants were much anticipated tv-watching events. Miss America, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe -- we watched them all with bated breath. I honestly dreamed that I could compete in Miss Teen USA . The fact that I was extremely short (my adult height is 5'0") and everyone else in the competition would be statue-esque -- no matter! I would beat them all with my unbelievable wit in the Q&A round.

Fast forward 10 years, and I'm having my usual weekend call with my parents. My dad informs me that they are watching the Miss Universe pageant (not that I didn't have any hints -- my dad kept saying things in the background like "is that Miss Sweden???"). Truly, I fear for my parents' sanity now that my sister and I have left home -- they watch Miss Univese sans daughters.

So, they planted the seed in my mind, and come 9pm, I'm not busy...so I turn it on. The parade that ensues is quite impressive. But it wasn't the visions of growing up to compete in the pageant that held my attention this time -- it was the embedded political messages that I couldn't ignore.

First off is the presentation of the countries. Obviously most of the Western and Latin American countries we're familiar with were included, along with a few African and Asian countries. But the countries themselves are completely depoliticized -- we have Miss Korea, though North or South is unspecified, it's certainly South. There's Israel, but no Palestine. According to our dear President, Iraq and Afghanistan are free -- though their most beatiful women must not be. I also have a feeling that it's against Muslim codes to parade around in the Swimsuit Competition. Further, every woman says her country's English name, not its name in her native tongue. You can tell some of them are really struggling to say the English name. For some reaosn this makes me angry.

Next on my pissed-off checklist is the unbelievably obvious class stratification these women embody. I'm sorry, but Miss Dominican Reublic??? She looks whiter than me. I've been to the Domincan Republic (or should I say Republica Domicana?) I've handed out medications in the poor villages at the center of the island. Domicans do not look like this woman -- they are very dark. The women are also educated eough to answer the final question round in English -- not exactly rags to riches beauties.

And last, the token Western beauty standard complaint. I'm sorry, but these women all have the exact same body, just different hair/eye colors. And they all look like Barbie.

So, I bid the girl in me's pageant dreams goodbye. I'm on to bigger and better things (health policy in D.C.!) while our Miss USA has no college degree and has studied Fashion Design.

Guess we can't each have it all...

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