The first was about a 22-year-old woman preparing for the Miss USA pageant. She talked about all of the preparation and hard work that goes into being a pageant contestant and attempted to dispel the conception that beauty queens are "...all world peace, and...all just fluffy and don't have a brain." She goes onto talk about the importance of butt glue and vaseline as essential tools of any serious candidate. While I'm sure she is intelligent and successful, and I know the people in charge have worked hard to minimize the cattleshow nature of these pageants, I'm not sure the general population has completely bought in to the notion that they are more than just a beauty contest.
The second article, written by a local columnist highlighted many of the risks and dangers young people, particularly young women, face while on spring break in places such as Florida, Texas and Mexico. Although she cites myriad research detailing the drinking and sexual habits of spring break revilers, her opening premise focuses on the ever popular "Girls Gone Wild" videos which often feature said spring breakers in various stages of undress.
I am fully aware of the risks created by the sort of binge drinking and risky sexual behaviors she is addressing, so that's not my issue. Rather, I was bothered by her quote of an anonymous friend describing the reaction she would have if her daughter was caught "going wild",
"Imagine all those years you spend driving them to soccer practice and working on their self esteem and all those junior-high body issues..." she said. "Then one of them whips off her shirt on a beach somewhere, and it ends up on the Internet, and all your hard work goes right down the drain."
Is it really that simple? Does it really make sense to say that an incident such as the one she is imagining would negate everything she had ever done as a parent? Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but if she is measuring her entire success as a parent against one incident doesn't it seem as though her self-esteem is the one at risk?
The other thing I was troubled by was this whole notion of self-esteem, particularly as it pertains what women do with their bodies. Keep in mind, this isn't about defending the predatory nature of the "Girls Gone Wild" films, arguing about whether society oppresses women or what I would want for my daughter. I just struggle with the insinuation that any woman who takes her shirt off, whether for a camera of not, suffers from low self-esteem. While that may or may not be the case It comes across as intellectually and therapeutically lazy. For starters the term has been so overused that it is essentially meaningless. It is akin to a doctor simply diagnosing a patient as sick regardless of the symptoms. Blaming low self-esteem also does a disservice to women by not truly addressing either the influential nature of popular culture or what might be very real mental health issues. Either way, it's a cop-out.
My final question is this, if it really is about self-esteem and seeking gratification through the approval of others than is it possible that the Miss USA pageant and "Girls Gone Wild" are different sides of the same coin?