Wednesday, March 05, 2008

contesting beauty

I am never a fan of competition based on appearance but there's something poignant about Miss Landmine 2008. A mixed bag of honoring the beauty of women and yet you know, it's still a contest where women are ranked by how they look. And the Candidates page made me cry.

Discuss.

46 comments:

Joker The Lurcher said...

i suppose if a woman has been injured and feels ugly because of it maybe something like this helps? the main thing that strikes me is how it points up just how appalling landmines are and how they affect people's lives. thanks for pointing us to this - i wouldn't have come across it.

Loth said...

Wow. I can't quite figure out how I feel about this. Does get you thinking though, doesn't it?

Blog Antagonist said...

The bitter and the sweet, to be sure. How heartbreaking. But you have to admire those women for their courage. Most of us won't leave the house without make-up, much less a leg.

painted maypole said...

yikes. i think that although it is a "beauty contest" that the point of it is not to pick a person and single them out as beautiful. it's to draw attention to landmine victims, the toll it takes, and to help these women feel beautiful. And those pictures! they ARE beautiful. and the candidate page IS heartbreaking. "Dreamjob: Anything" shattering heart.

cce said...

I'm just, I'm just....Holy Frijoles. I can't figure out how to feel about this. All at once I want to cover my eyes, scold the contestants, applaud them, cry for them, cheer for them, I don't know...this one slays me.

Gina said...

If this draws attention to landmines, not to mention the other hardships these women face - soldier attacks, unemployment (I mean, selling tomatoes on the street when she gets hold of any - so sad), the fact that so many of them were teens when they had babies - I'm all for it.

Gwen said...

I think the project has a good heart; if you look at the goals of the contest, it's certainly not for any Miss America kind of prize. I know sometimes the criticism of programs like this is that they are still so colonial in essence (this was the critique leveled against Eggers' rendering of the Lost Boys' saga in What is the What); you know, like the white man has to step in with his white ideas about how to get publicity--highlighting physical beauty or even discussing it as a cultural norm. But sometimes I think all that high minded intellectualism misses the point. That something is better than nothing; that if it works, it's certainly better than something that everyone can agree is completely culturally appropriate but that is less effective (kinda lost that last sentence there, lol).

What makes me saddest about that link is that it doesn't even touch the surface of the suffering, you know? I mean, you look at those faces and realize there are too many more standing in line behind them.

thailandchani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kyla said...

I totally agree with Painted Maypole.

thailandchani said...

Okay.. so just a few things: I think it's sometimes easy to promote a certain idea while cloaking it in something else. The fact that this brings attention to landmines doesn't redeem the fact that it still treats women like cattle, like objects, like something to be judged.

It's absolutely disgusting and still continued to promote that cultural value. As they say, you can dress up a pig in diamonds and pearls.. but it's still a pig.

I'll leave it to others to find the redeeming value.

wheelsonthebus said...

Hmmm. I am not a big fan of pageants, but I think they allow women to feel lovely when there is something missing in their lives. THis goes triple.

Aliki2006 said...

Well, I do think there are redeeming qualities to this. As someone said, the project has a big heart, and if it fills the gaps in the lives of these women, who have suffred so much more than any typical, privileged pageant contestant, while at the same time educating the world at large, then there is some good to be found.

Andrea said...

I'm not a big fan of pageants--but it seems to me that they are using the trappings of pageantry to draw attention to the landmine issue. Most of those girls did not look conventionally beautiful to my eyes, I don't think they are truly trying to pick a hot legless girl, for lack of a more tactful phrase.

I mean, you would never see a pregnant girl in a N American pageant.

There is something, I think, about using the trappings of western beauty (makeup and glamourous dresses and shoes and poses) in conjunction with such a specifically non-western problem (though we share the blame in causing it) that makes the problem it draws attention to more ... poignant? pointed? both?

hele said...

I'm not sure without being there and judging the effects first hand.

But th photo makes me feel sad.

liv said...

it's been a long time since i've felt a little nauseous. like i just don't even want to talk about it.

blooming desertpea said...

No, I don't think this is the right way of making people aware of this issue ... because I feel that doing it this way it is more about money than the people!

thailandchani said...

I'm just left with the feeling that you'd have to dig *really* deep to find the good in this. It's a talent I seem to lack.

Defiantmuse said...

uuuummmphh....er. I don't know how to respond to this. Uh. Okay. So my initial reaction was, "Oh wow, this is a very powerful "joke" photo, you know, to get a point across".

But then I went to the website. And it's real.

Dude.
it's. Real.

So....I'm creeped out. Seriously. Like, disturbed on many levels.

I'll admit some of the objectives of the project *sound* righteous: Question established concepts of physical perfection, Celebrate true beauty and Replace the passive term 'Victim' with the active term 'Survivor'.

I can dig that. But they're still trying to achieve that by pitting women against one another to be "more" beautiful than the next. And it's back to the same old deal of "beauty" being the thing to make a woman feel good about herself.

Yikes, dude. Yikes.

jen said...

Thanks for your thoughts, all of you. I'm still completely unsure how I feel - I mean, promoting their beauty in the midst of tragedy - I honor that. Contests where folks vote for the "best" one, that makes me ill.

And how does any of it solve the endless poverty and horror? It doesn't. But can anything?

I'm utterly mixed.

Arwen said...

I am with Thailandchani. There are ways to make this issue known without bringing it down to a pageant. Remember this picture?
http://members.aol.com/RobFAM10/Warrior3.jpg
I remember seeing that in college and feeling strengthened and empowered by my body and the issue of breast cancer, which in the 80's was only starting to be recognized as one the leading killers of women. I do not feel empowered by the pageant. Images can empower.
I think something could have be done which wasn't as divisive.

thailandchani said...

Jen, I am not invested in opening my mind about this. I don't think there's some all-inclusive, accepting-of-all-things-without-judgment high road to take. There comes a point where we can become so open minded that our brains fall out.

My visceral reaction is to be utterly disgusted. The word "p@rn-ography" comes to mind. This feels no different. If there's anything lower to be created by capitalism, I haven't found it.

How can further commoditization and marketing of women (or anyone else, for that matter) ever serve the higher good?

If you figure that one out, please enlighten me.. because I just ain't seeing it.


~Chani

jen said...

i like that line - open your mind till your brains fall out - perfect.

Chani, I always appreciate your thoughts.

Mad Hatter said...

Jen,
This is sickening. I very much get what Gwen and Andrea are saying and so much of me wants to be able to see it through that lens BUT these women are competing for a leg prosthesis for cripes sake. That is just wrong. If the Norwegian behind this can rally the resources to create a web site and to promote the idea (in order to raise awareness on a whole host of important issues) then surely he (she?) can alleviate that very real circumstances of these women and others in more concrete ways.

I guess it makes me feel the way I feel when journalists take pictures of refugee camps. Raising awareness is one thing but is it enough. At what point are the people on the other side of the lens just being used.

And like Gwen said, we only see these 10 women not the thousands upon thousands who are not in the picture.

flutter said...

Things like this happen in life. They shouldn't. But they do. I am glad to see beautiful photos of beautiful women who are suriving the unimaginable.

deb said...

It's a rock and a hard place. Good that these women are able to feel beautiful again and sad that women need to be beautiful. I think it's mostly good though and I'm impressed with the women. Having a disability is not easy in this country, I think it's probably even more difficult in other countries.

Suz said...

Out of the week, I probably spend 3 waking hours complaining about some component of my job.

Dream Job: Anything

Dream Job: Boss
Skills: I can do anything but there is no job.

You don't empower women by taking pictures of them, you do it by giving them good jobs and the skills to find and keep those jobs.

cape buffalo said...

As i read these comments and think of the women on the pageant website, I can't stop this sing playing in my head:

What is my reaction, what should it be?/ Confronted by this latest atrocity.../Hide my face in my hands, shame wells in my throat/My comfortable existance is reduced to a shallow meaningless party/ Seems that when some innocent die/ All we can offer them is a page in a some magazine/ Too many cameras and not enough food/...this is what we've seen

Driven to tears

jen said...

CB, that sums it up perfectly, doesn't it. Thank you.

kgirl said...

I guess there's a fine line between exploitation and education.

Jennifer said...

I'm lost as to how this "empowers" these women? Education. Jobs. Even make-overs and beautful photo shoots. All can be empowering. But this?

Actually, as I search for more words, I find I'm basically incapable of discussing this...

:(

Bon said...

my reaction to the images is that they are powerful and unflinching, even with the silly trappings of pageant around them. if they were being used by the women to try to shock our lilywhite western asses into some kind of awareness or identification with the issue, i'd say it was a pretty fascinating effort. but as a REAL pageant|? with all of them vying for one leg? irony lost.
yep, i feel dirty.

Sober Briquette said...

I read through most of the link and couldn't find the part about them winning a prosthesis...

I did read that they are all getting paid to participate.

I'm inclined against it, but I think also that part of survivorship is gallows humor.

Rock the Cradle said...

This could be some ass kicking, wicked satire here.

Or it might just be really, really sad.

oh crap. defiant muse did my homework for me.

This is just really, really sad.

meno said...

Everyone has pretty much already said what there is to be said. The women are beautiful, the pageant is horrific.

meno said...

And it's not horrific because they are missing limbs, but because there is no beauty in a beauty pageant.

heather said...

I think what's wrong here is what is wrong with so many things - a quick superficial glance and it seems fine with a noble cause - drawing attention to the problem.

But scratch the surface and there are so many things wrong with it. I wonder if those women feel exploited to be part of it, or if they are so busy surviving that they have no time to reflect on the deeper meaning of beauty pageants and are just happy for whatever they get.

I suspect it's the latter which makes me feel worse.

Magpie said...

It's really really sad.

Amy Y said...

This isn't sitting well with me... I thought it was a joke at first. But a sick, twisted one.
I'm not big on pageants ~ I don't remember the last time I watched one.

Though I love the idea of making these ladies feel beautiful, despite the awful experience they've lived through, it seems there must be a better way that is less objectifying.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I don't think I like this. There's got to be another way.

Jenn said...

My mind kept bringing me back to a quote: "Trust in God, but lock your car".

...I'm sure I'll figure out why in a bit....

Mad Hatter said...

De,
The bit about the leg prosthesis was in one of the newspaper articles linked from the press page. I think I read it in the National Post article.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh. Oh wow.

I am all for awareness, and this certainly accomplishes that: awareness of lack of things victims need, and awareness of the problem.

But oh.

I think...maybe this path, the cost of this path, is too steep.

Janet said...

Competing for a leg prothesis sort of kills any redeeming value for me.

Christine said...

wow.
Running on empty

crazymumma said...

like you said in your prior post. And the world goes tick tock. It's starnge out there. I hope those women do feel beautiful because they are and they deserve it more than many. The feeling you know?

canwekickthebarhere said...

late to this party, but whatever is said about it, no one will easily forget a woman missing a leg, in a tiara, will they?