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Subject: Beauty contests under critical spotlight at LU


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By Chen Chekki - The Chronicle-Journal
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Date Posted: 03/ 6/05 3:36:18pm


March 05, 2005

A conference being set up mostly by women at Lakehead University next week will question the ethics of beauty pageants, which many say treat women as objects.

The all-day gathering on March 11 is being held by graduate students and faculty from the departments of history, women’s studies, sociology and English, pursuant to a controversial event held on campus last November.

Most of the conference’s organizers are said to have opposed the Coors Light Maxim Girl Search, which was looking for candidates for a possible appearance in the magazine.

They, along with the university’s Gender Issues Centre, were upset with the beauty pageant’s objectification of women, said Alice den Otter, a spokeswoman for the upcoming conference.

“Let’s actually question what the implications are,” said den Otter, who also works in LU’s graduate studies department in English.

The “beauty pageant fiasco,” as den Otter called it, was what motivated the conference, entitled Activism Communities Transgression: Representation of Bodies on Campus, otherwise known as the ACT conference.

With a grant of $2,500 from the school’s International Studies Office, and support from the student union and the Gender Issues Centre, the conference will have multiple speakers throughout the day.

A focus group will discuss sexism and racism in the morning, followed by the film Women in Science and a related discussion.

A drama debate about beauty pageants, with voices arguing both sides, will occur as well as a slide show about the history of the bathing suit and sleepwear.

“Basically, any kind of sexualized clothing,” den Otter said.

It will all be topped off in the evening by the Wyrd Sisters, a Winnipeg-based band, at the Outpost, where the Maxim event occurred.

“Our motivation was to use the Outpost for something positive,” den Otter said.

Maxim Magazine, which claims to be “the best thing to happen to men since women,” was not the best thing for Lakehead University last November, said Becky Davis, a graduate student in LU’s English department.

She said pageants’ promotion of certain body types “doesn’t give a fair assessment of the population as a whole.”

And the pageants hurt men, too, she said, as men are led to believe that having hair on their heads and large calves is the only acceptable way to look.

Davis said she wants the public to know that it’s fine not to look like the ideals portrayed in the contests.

Davis believes some magazines are getting better at including people of different shapes and sizes, and so are some clothing designers. But there is still a long way to go, she said.

A Maxim spokesman said last year that some young women gave the Girl Search a strong response, and LU’s student union said it entered into the arrangement because it made financial sense.

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