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The Mass Media

Questions that Need to be Asked Concerning Enactus’ “Mr and Mrs UMass Boston” pageant

Participants+and+organizers+of+the+event
Participants and organizers of the event

I’m writing anonymously in order to divert criticism away from myself and onto the group I critique in this article.

 

Please, someone explain to me like I’m a four-year-old: what does a beauty pageant has to do with Enactus UMass Boston, an organization that strives to promote social responsibility?

I’m all for fun, check-your-brain-at-the-door entertainment and I give major props to Gary Uter and Helen Ngo, who were crowned Mr. and Mrs. UMass Boston 2013. 

From Enactus’s point of view, the event must have been a great success: at the end of the night they probably raised roughly $400 with their $5 admission fee, advocated for their organization and its goals, and showcased some UMass Boston students in school wear, formal wear, and beachwear for a panel of seven judges, six of whom were male, and one of whom was the Dean of Students.

Why “Mrs”?  No mainstream pageants used the title “Mrs.” in their advertising or events. Why did Enactus decide against “Miss”? So, now Helen is married to Mr. Uter?  Also, considering Massachusetts is the first state to legalize gay marriage, it’s jarring to see Enactus default to the heterosexual model.

Why did the man who thought it was acceptable to showcase his inability to identify the gender of one of his professors, and name that professor, win the title?  Uter was one of the four competing male contestants. Uter admitted not only mistaking a female professor for a man, but he also laughingly implied that having a woman professor lowered his expectations of the class. By awarding Uter the crown, Enactus affirms that it’s normal (even funny) to expect less of a female professor.

Why was the admission fee not announced? Enactus did not put the $5 admission fee in either the flyer or the Facebook event page.  Five bucks is less than the cost of a sandwich in the cafeteria, but it’s still an unfair surprise cost sprung on students–people who are already strapped for cash.

Why is swimwear part of the judging to determine the winners? I get the need to follow the models set up by other pageants since this is Enactus’ first attempt at putting on such an event. But the pageant featured a schoolwear portion. Why didn’t Enactus just substitute that for the swimwear, and in the same swift move cut down on wardrobe changes?

Why did Enactus play the song “Mercy” by Kanye West, which includes lyrics like “Drop it to the floor/make that ass shake”? If Enactus was attempting to throw an event that was fun, classy, and conducted with integrity, it missed the mark.

I fail to see what this pageant has to do with either Enactus or UMass Boston. Maybe there is a way to have a pageant that is conducted in an ethically, socially-conscious, gender-egalitarian way. Enactus’s pageant deserved none of these descriptions.