There was a lot of controversy this week over the obviously racist and shameful comments that were directed toward newly crowned Miss America Nina Davuluri, and nothing I am about to say is meant to denigrate the young women that are involved in these pageants. Nor is this meant to excuse the behavior of the many “adults” that took to social media to express their obtuse, simpleton views about whether or not she looked “American” enough to be worthy of this title. Miss Davuluri is 24 years old and was born and raised in Syracuse, NY, which from what I can tell is about as American as it gets.
The ridicule she has been subjected to is the result of blatant ignorance, but what most may not know is that Miss Davuluri is also allegedly quite capable of dishing out ignorant ridicule herself. She landed in the midst of controversy recently over her alleged comments that a previous Miss America was “fat as fuck” — which just shows that this young lady has apparently projected her own image issues onto others as well. You see, before she became Miss America, she used to deal with her own weight problems. In the past she has struggled with bulimia, and in her search for help met personal trainer Tia Falcone. Apparently Falcone once told reporters, “Even when you stop being bulimic or anorexic, it’s always with you. Like I say to Nina, ‘Once a fatty, always a fatty.'” What an inspiring message, right?
To me, this is all a symptom of bigger problems within our society. The ugliness comes from inside of us and it has spread like a viral infection that we ultimately pass along to our children. They have grown up with social media as the norm when it comes to communication, where the sickness flows right to their computer screens and controls how they walk through everyday life and how they see those around them. The anonymity we are all afforded with the ability to hide behind a computer screen and say offensive things about someone’s appearance should be very concerning to us as parents.
It’s as if life is just a daily competition to look not just your best, but someone else’s opinion of your best. You can’t even escape it at home where television, radio and print media will find you no matter how hard you try to ignore it. Magazine covers airbrushed to no end so that the women on the cover aren’t even a representation of the women they are in real life. TV commercials that tell you how fat you are, that your teeth aren’t white or straight enough, your hair isn’t pretty, shiny or bouncy enough, your skin isn’t clear enough, etc. But have no fear — there are hundreds of products for that.
As a man I feel partly responsible for helping to drive this superficial self-image-focused world, and I do feel guilt for any time in my life I’ve ever gawked at a woman simply for her physical appearance because I have done it, even to this day. It’s through this behavior that women have to come to expect this behavior of men, and that is a problem.
Male or female we are all creatures of learned habit, though from generation to generation you’d think we would naturally progress. Maybe to some extent we have, but we still aren’t taught with enough conviction to appreciate what’s on the inside. We are taught in almost every facet of life that women are objects — and it’s from this perspective that the pressures women face, even at a very young age, almost always force them to feel like they need to look a certain way or dress a certain way to get attention or adoration. As men we have great influence over our sons and daughters, and it’s time we start taking responsibility for the way we raise our children.
Webster’s dictionary defines beauty as “the qualities of being physically attractive” or “the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.” As the father to a young daughter, I wish to instill in her through my life experiences (and having grown up a guilty party) that the first part of this definition is not the most important. As a man, I feel that the sentence for my guilty plea is that it is my duty as her father to show her true beauty lies on the inside. It is demonstrated in how you treat people. It is demonstrated in how you carry yourself, with grace and not pride, because rest assured there is a very real, very important difference. I hope to make sure she sees life itself as beautiful and that every day she gets to experience the miracle, that she works hard to impress upon others that very same virtue because that will give her character. A character that will carry her through the most important and trying times in life where physical appearance shouldn’t matter — and if it does, that she will be savvy enough and strong enough to endure it.
To sum this up, I am not attacking the girls who participate in such pageants because I feel like some positivity can come out of these competitions. I never want to attack a woman as personally as Miss Davuluri has been attacked online recently, but if you dig a little there are some very serious issues that are present and bubbling just below the surface. You can only watch so many episodes of Honey Boo Boo, Toddlers & Tiaras or these “Miss America” pageants to know that, while these are just shows meant to entertain, there are still very real, very impressionable young girls and women taking part in them and even more viewers emulating the behavior. As parents, we need to understand that it’s the public’s support of these shows that drive their marketability and ultimately the behavior of those that watch. We drive the pressure in these young girls involved to feel the need to win at all costs. We need to wake up and stop supporting this kind of crap, otherwise we are just continuing to impress upon our children the backwards agenda that physical presentability is of the utmost importance — when in reality we should know that couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to wake up and put an end to the shallow “Cosmo” image of beauty. We need to stop airbrushing every little wrinkle or blemish that makes the women of our world the truly beautiful and unique creatures that they ALL are.
I often think about the world I will one day (hopefully many decades from now) leave behind. The world my daughter will walk through without me — and it scares me for many important reasons. I truly hope that she never thinks she may not be “pretty” enough to succeed in whatever her chosen path in life may be.
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