Laurie and Debbie say:
Kay Olson at The Gimp Parade wrote towards the beginning of this year about a Dutch television show called Miss Ability, soon to be syndicated in a country near you. She points to that post in her Best of the Year wrap-up for Alas, A Blog, with a link to our post on the Miss Landmine Angola contest.
This is the most recent winner, Roos Prommenschenckel. She is lying down in part because she has spasmodic torticollis, or cervical dystonia. This painful condition is alleviated both by wearing a cervical collar, which you can see in other photographs, or lying down. Nonetheless, as Kay states very clearly, this picture doesn’t read as a disability picture, but as a picture of a beautiful woman, prone and available.
Miss Ability calls for women with visible disabilities only, and is certainly sorting for women who look like beauty queens. As Kay says,
Disability-wise, I have as much visually in common with Miss Ability as, femininity-wise, Rosanne Barr does with Cindy Crawford. I don’t know exactly who Miss Ability ends up representing , but unsurprisingly, it’s not me. And it’s no shock that a television viewing audience would choose a woman who can pass as not only “normal” but gorgeously “normal.” And it’s interesting that the winner not only meets the cultural standards of femininity and beauty, , but often does so while lying down in what is a fairly submissive position. Necessary for her, I have no doubt, but how that’s interpreted in a beauty pageant is a different thing altogether.
Is this groundbreaking or subversive to standards of femininity or ability? I don’t think so.
This pales next to this contest which takes place in a deeply repulsive context. The site recruits women to do sex work–although of course they don’t call it that. The work is:
* Sending personal messages
* Chatting online 1-on-1
* Sending custom photos
* Sending custom videos
* and more…
A woman who signs up agrees to do the above. To get her “free” boob job, she has to please enough men enough of the time for them to contribute enough to get her boobs done. Note that there’s no guarantee that she will get the money (although, hey, this is America! She can choose her own doctor). She can also refuse to wear certain costumes, and set her own boundaries … but money talks. Once you decide to go for something like this, the pressure to prove you’re good enough to earn your goal is huge.
A man who signs up gets, effectively, free female attention. He can decide it’s worth $5, or $10, for what a phone sex line might charge $200 for (money which the woman would get a percentage of). Or he can decide that “she’s not good enough” and get her time and attention for free. Apparently, he has to pony up occasionally to stay on their lists, but they don’t call it “payment”: it’s “donating,” and he’s a “benefactor,” so he gets to feel all proprietary and generous. (And remember… the best part is seeing the newly transformed ladies after the surgery when they return to the website to post pictures of the results. You can take pride in knowing that you helped her improve her self esteem and self image!)
The site is an unholy alliance between a standard donation-by-project site (choose which of these fine projects to donate your money to) and a brothel’s front parlor (pick a girl, crook your finger, and she’ll follow you to bed).
Oh, and of course they don’t tell you what percentage of these donations go toward the surgeries. It looks like some men are raking a nice amount off the top of all of this, not to mention that the site is in partnership with at least one cosmetic surgery clinic. (“While you’re here, dear, why not have a tummy tuck as well.”)
In this context, the boob job contest almost begins to seem like a consolation prize, for women who aren’t good enough to “earn” their silicone.
Beauty contests are, of course, nothing new. What’s (shamefully) new here is that these contests have stopped being about women, or even women’s bodies, and have become contests about body parts.
In Miss Ability, you can’t compete if all your parts are in good working order or appear to be so (and judging from the winner’s pictures, you then have to do your best to disguise whatever is visibly not working). The sob-story/exoticizing touch of this contest lets viewers feel good about their tolerance without actually pushing their boundaries, or get off on their fetishes, or both.
In Miss Landmine, where the lucky winner gets a prosthesis, we agree with Ms. Crip Chick, who said in our comments to the Miss Landmine post, “assistive tech [is] something people deserve and should have the right to.” This confuses beauty, or attractiveness, or something, with human rights. You can’t compete if you have all your parts, and you have no reason to compete if you have access to what you need to make up for what’s missing.
In My Free Implants, the women (although they do have names, and judged-to-satisfy-men personalities, and preferences) are somehow seen or treated as the vehicle which carries their breasts, either unhappy and unsatisfactory pre-implant breasts or perfect and satisfying post-implant breasts. The prize is a boob job, given out by people who a) exploit women; b) for pitiful money; c) to encourage them to hate their bodies; d) mitigated a little by reinforcement from men; so that e) they can “earn” serious surgery and then somehow mysteriously love their now-fixed bodies. The price of a boob job may be $5,000 or so, but the damage to all parties in these transactions is incalculable.
Very wry thanks to Jill L. for the pointer to the boob job site.