Tag Archives: multi-ethnic

Do We Need Another Beauty Queen?

Yesterday it was announced that there would be the first Miss Vancouver, multi-ethnic beauty pageant. Marina Hossain, is the CEO of Jam Expo Inc., which will be organizing the pageant for the Health and Beauty Expo. So first off, Canada hasn’t had a Miss Canada pageant since 1992. High production costs and declining interests were the reasons given. The other part was that people just weren’t interested in seeing women sashay along in a bathing suit and an evening gown, and giving their five minutes on how I hope to improve the world.

Yesterday’s CBC Radio One had a pageant coordinator also mention that Canadians just aren’t interested in being beauty queens, yet the ethnic beauty contests have continued. Obviously these contests do give exposure to the winner, as well as some prizes and cash. But the other reason they’re not popular is become they are still sexist and based on “beauty.”

So here comes Ms. Hossain with a new one that blends all ethnicities. Common ground is good but it’s still a beauty pageant. In fact, Hossain says, “Some can sing, some can dance, some have a nice face. Not everybody has that. But it’s the same as any other talent, like swimming. I see it in the same line. Beauty should be appreciated, too…. Beauty is something you have to work on. You have to furnish it. It’s a talent, knowing how to keep up with your body and health. Plus the natural talent you’re blessed with.”

A talent? Right. Being beautiful is a talent like having a well working heart, or two good eyes. You’re born with it or you’re not. Being born with something is not a talent. Some people have natural abilities in drawing or running but it still takes work to be good at and maintain a consistent level of talent. Beauty I guess can also be maintained: eat healthy, exercise, sleep properly. But then there is always botox, and  silicone and plastic surgery to make one beautiful. That’s a talent for those with money.

Hossain thinks beauty is a legitimate female talent. Wow! Why not have a beauty pageant for flowers then? Beauty, where the winner will be crowned with a tiara. Like a true Disney princess world in which Hossain wants to perpetuate the aspect of women being pretty trophies.

Contestants will be judged on the health of their skin, hair, fitness level, etc. They will get to parade along in white T-shirts and jeans, evening gowns and ethnic wear. Swimsuits may yet happen. So someone like me, born in Canada to Canadian parents, whose ethnic grandparents died early and didn’t pass on their cultural motifs for Italian and Danish ethnic/rural clothing would  wear something decidedly…Canadian. Like jeans, or Birkenstocks, or cowboy boots, or a shirt, or… Hmm, I wonder how the judges will like that ethnic dress. But I’m sure they’ll be fair…in judging who’s most beautiful in their ethnic wear.

It makes me wonder if someone, a woman who is sturdy, perhaps small hipped but barrel chested, thick through the shoulders but with amazing skin, lovely hair and who exercises four times a week could ever win, even if her attributes were better than her slimmer opponents. Especially if she had a bulbous nose and squinty eyes but was the nicest person you ever met, with intelligence and compassion for all. Would she win? I’m guessing, not.

While other pageants in recent years had to disguise the parading of female flesh with humanitarian works and community work, this is hardly mentioned up front. It’s all about the talent of beauty. Here is rule # 7 in the requirements:

7. Candidates will not be permitted to have any body art or body piercing that is visibly offensive.

Hmm, visibly offensive. I’m sorry, ma’am, your botox lips are visibly offensive. Excuse me sir, your balding head is visibly offensive. Why you, your height is visibly offensive. That leaves a lot to interpretation but then Ms Hossain and her judges get to be the judge of that. Just hope you figure it out before you send in your $138 nonrefundable registration fee. Oh and you have to be in good health and not have any medical problems. Is that fair under the human rights code? Well probably since they’re making it for young women 18-28 who can never have been married. I wonder if they want them to be virgins too.

But perhaps I’m being harsh about this vapid throwback to stereotypical pageants that promote the objectifying of women. I’d believe more that this was something new and great if it wasn’t a promotional gimmick for the expo. I’d believe it had altruism at its heart if there had been any mention about what the women are expected to bring to the world and community. Sure, that might help decide but it’s obviously not the thrust. I’d believe this was for a more balanced and less genderist idea if it included men and didn’t have the Disney princess tiara.

Unfortunately I find it hard to believe in or support this trophy girl award. There is a good reason that Canadians don’t want to enter such bigoted pageants.





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Racist Rage

I had to take the bus downtown today since I had laser eye surgery yesterday and had a checkup appointment. Rarely do I take the bus but I had no choice as my eyes aren’t clear enough yet to drive. Morning traffic, students, shoppers, people going to work. It’s a sunny day, the first warm one we’ve had in a while. The bus from my eastside place passes through Chinatown; not as big as San Francisco’s but  the second largest in North America. Many people hop on and off the bus to shop in Chinatown.

Vancouver is fairly multi-ethnic and there has always been a substantial Asian population (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, etc.). The bus was full of people. My eyes were a bit blurry so details were fuzzy but there was at least one black woman, quite a few Chinese, a bunch of whites and this guy who could have been First Nations, maybe Mexican.

He’d had some issue with his bag. Maybe it had spilled, maybe he dropped something. I could quite tell. He had been standing but at some point he gathered up his jacket and other bits and found a seat by moving against those trying to get off the bus, where he swore at the “chink” and “yellow bastard” saying don’t push me. I looked at him (in my giant super dark sunglasses) and several people heard this. After he sat down on a seat that faces the aisle, in front of a seat that faces the front, he proceeded to fiddle with stuff and had his shoe in his hand.

Then he started to swear again, in the same vein at the people sitting beside him. I missed some of it but the guy sitting near to where I was standing said, “You can’t talk to people like that,” very emphatically. Then the guy turned on him to a chorus of fuck offs back and forth where Mr. Belligerent then threatened to “take care” of this other guy at the next stop. At this point I kept an eye on him in case he pulled a knife.

In the meantime, this guy is working at tying a dreamcatcher together, one of the ones that looks fairly prefabricated, but large, about 8-10 inches across, dark brown suede with white feathers and an eagle on it. It was ironic that this guy is working on what is in essence a First Nations spiritual tool while he cursed and threatened. I also told him that he should try being polite to people. The bus driver yelled out that if he swore again he’d be kicked off.

I then found a seat behind the guy who had told off Mr. Belligerent. Mr. B was putting his shoe back on, then again said to the other guy, “Come on, off the bus here and we’ll settle this.” The other guy said, “I don’t want to fight you.” As Mr. B got up to get off the bus, he whacked the cap off the guy’s head in front of me and scuttled away. I gave the guy back his hat.

I used to think racism was only something that white people did to others but here was an example again of how it can hit any person. Mostly this guy seemed mad at the world, belligerent and maybe in need of medication. And spouting things like “yellow bastard” just made it sound like he was regurgitating something he’s heard and taken as the local vernacular in swears. If we all started saying “frak” as they do on Battlestar Galactica it would replace “fuck” but still carry the same weight and be the next banned word from polite society.

Still, the overt racism this guy exhibited was sad and shocking and, I’m happy to say, didn’t sit well with most of the people on the bus. He obviously had other issues, such as anger, but lashing out didn’t serve a lot. I always presumed that a group of people who have had racism perpetuated upon them might be less likely to perpetrate the model. And that’s probably true in most cases but there are always exceptions. Hopefully that guy can find some peace before he does himself and others damage.

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