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AL MARTINEZ

Beauty pageants always have been dumb and degrading for everyone involved . . . : Contest Deep-Sixes 36-24-36

January 22, 1987|Al Martinez

Good news. A fat lady with hair on her legs and a bad complexion who is able to master the tricky cadence of "Hiawatha" may be the next Ms. Santa Monica.

This is possible because contestants will no longer be judged for their physical attributes in the annual contest sponsored by the city's Jaycees.

In other words, you needn't have a behind like a sailor's dream to represent a city where the cute caboose was practically invented.

We're looking for beautiful minds.

It's all part of an effort to upgrade the contest to meet the values of the New Woman, who is tired of being a sex object.

She wants a little respect not only afterward, but before and, if necessary, during.

Contest officials asked feminist Gloria Allred to "contemporize" the contest and Gloria, rarely at a loss in such matters, said dump the swimsuit category.

And what, I hear you ask, is going to replace that portion of the program that once glorified dimensions having nothing to do with qualities of the mind or spirit?

Well, maybe the fat lady reading poetry. Or an old gal conducting a quick science experiment. Or a skinny, tap-dancing woman in a gorilla suit.

Contestants will be able to do anything they want during a two-minute "creativity spot"that also replaces the talent portion of the pageant--talent, presumably, also having little to do with the liberated woman.

Additionally, there will be a rousing Q & A session on leadership and current events. Good visual stuff.

Along with eliminating the beauty and talent aspects, the new Ms. Santa Monica contest will no longer require women to be single and childless.

No more I am not now, nor have I ever been, pregnant. Virginity, along with looks and talent, has been deep-sixed in Santa Monica.

In fact, you may not even have to be a woman. I say may not because it depends on your source of information.

Allred says the contest is open to either men or women and invited me to enter, if I were so inclined.

On the other hand, Jody Belsher, who is the contest's spokeswoman, says men are absolutely not invited, me included.

Allred also suggested that, because an upper-age limit was dropped, an 80-year-old granny might end up being Ms. Santa Monica.

But Belsher says that while age is not an official factor, they prefer contestants between 18 and 36, which are the parameters for Jaycee membership and a reflection of, I guess, the average age of today's New Woman.

At some point, the pageant chairperson, who is a man, is going to have to step in and clarify what Allred and Belsher cannot agree on.

He will be the contest equivalent of a waiter attempting to clear up the confusion at pay-up time over who had the tuna salad, who had the sushi delight and who had the soup and sandwich special.

"We're looking for a total package in a woman," Belsher said, "someone who really shines."

I asked what would happen if a contestant felt that part of the total package was her shiny posterior? Some women prefer a cute behind to a quick mind.

"They can wear a bikini in the creativity spot if they want to," Belsher said, somewhat tightly.

Allred, who has a little pixie in her soul, said it was all

right with her if someone wore a bikini during the entire contest, but they didn't have to.

"Free choice," she said, "is the key. Women are tired of being characterized as meat, selected and graded."

Well, all right.

Beauty pageants always have been dumb and degrading for everyone involved, and a feminist-flavored addition or two is not likely to make the whole thing any less dumb.

The contest is show-biz with or without bikinis, as false and boring as ocean sounds in a sea shell, and has very little to do with honoring anyone who thinks.

Grading adults on their knowledge of current events implies that they might not know Desmond Tutu isn't a ballerina, and I don't believe I could take that.

Ditto with judging community contributions. A woman who is involved in a cause she loves and believes in doesn't have to measure it against someone else's cause to justify its validity.

Allred, in the spirit of her feminist cant, should have suggested that the whole damned contest be dumped.

But if that seems excessive, how about a pageant expanded to include woman's most visible contemporary achievement, which would be as accurate a reflection of her emancipation as an ability to memorize the 6 o'clock news.

I'm talking about sexual freedom. If that isn't a crowning element of the feminist drive for equality, I don't know what is.

And any display of that would be a hell of a lot more interesting than listening to a fat lady read Longfellow.

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