Is it time for Miss Universe and the Olympics to get out of anti-gay Russia? If they really do embrace ‘humanitarian’ values, the answer is ‘yes.’
Peter Young loves his job. He works for his family owned business, INTA Gems & Diamonds, in the jewelry district of downtown Los Angeles, Calif. They’ve been in the business of selling gems for two generations, and in 2002, Young began designing custom jewelry for celebrities. As a labor of love, Peter also serves as the official crown designer for the Miss California USA and the Miss California Teen USA pageants. According to INTA’s website:
The Crown incorporates many elements of?state to symbolize the beauty of the California. Sparkling stars line the border of the crown to represent the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition, the curves of the crown bring out the natural beauty of strong glistening waves that flow back and forth, just like the beautiful California coastline. The wave design represents the different perspectives everybody has because of our diversity in California. The waves come together to form a heart because love unites and is at the center of it all.
This year, Young was delighted to see Cassidy Wolf from nearby Temecula, CA win his crown for Miss Teen California title, and then go on to claim Miss Teen USA title.
I know Young personally and have seen how strongly he believes in the pageants and the work they do. Despite the usual criticisms, he has always firmly advocated for beauty pageants and the organizations that produce them — including the Miss Universe Organization (MUO). Specifically, a recent Pageant Professors article mentioned how Young has worked with various pageant organizations to promote LGBT civil rights groups like NoH8 and It Gets Better. Unfortunately, MUO plans on holding its pageant in Russia this year, and my friend feels very unhappy about it. Given Russia’s reputation for treating its LGBT population harsgkt, and its recent anti-gay crackdowns, who can blame Young for feeling concerned?
Then, he came up up with an idea: instead of asking Miss Universe to move the event to a different location or disqualify the Russian competitor, Young’s idea is to ask participants who support gay rights to wear rainbow bikinis during that portion of the competition. He also thinks that it would be a nice gesture to ask Lady Gaga back to the Miss Universe Competition since her 2008 performance at the Vietnam Miss Universe was so well received. These are modest and reasonable requests to ask of an organization built and run mostly by women and gay men, and — to be fair — rescued by Donald Trump.
Less than one hour after posting his idea on his facebook page, Miss Universe 2012’s official makeup artist endorsed it and several young women involved in the pageant unofficially said they like the idea. But, of course, the final decision rests with the Miss Universe Organization.
Whether MUO adopts Young’s rainbow bikini solidarity idea or something more radical, they need to do something to show that their organization does not endorse Russia’s homophobic values. Especially after the accolades they received for changing their rules to allow transgender contestants to compete last year. Yes “Hitler’s Olympics” (Munich, Germany, 1936) put the African American track and field star Jesse Owens in the limelight, but it also gave the impression we viewed Nazi Germany as simply another sovereign nation and that we didn’t need to concern ourselves with the racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic horrors committed within their borders.
… And how did that turn out? By the time the U.S., Russia, and Europe got involved in World War II — after years of denial and appeasement — millions had died in Europe. The problem with trying to act normal in the face of barbarity is that you cannot, without tarnishing the ideals you claim to hold, while staining your reputation with complicity. The growing and open violence against gays (perhaps Jews will be next, or the Roma, or the disabled … but someone always comes next) — including last month’s arrests of four Dutch citizens for distributing “pro-gay propaganda” — requires immediate action.
The Miss Universe website claims lofty aspirations for their contestants:
?These women are savvy, goal-oriented and aware. The delegates who become part of the Miss Universe Organization display those characteristics in their everyday lives, both as individuals, who compete with hope of advancing their careers, personal and humanitarian goals, and as women who seek to improve the lives of others.
But how can any organization — whether it be Miss Universe or the Olympics — use words like “humanitarian” and “aware” while continuing to ignore Russia’s escalating hostility towards GLBT people? How can they continue plans to host their events in Russia and pretend it’s just “business as usual?” It’s time to stand up and say, “NO!”
As German theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niem?ller (1892-1984) famously said about his fellow citizens’ complacency during the rise of Hitler:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Featured (top) image with Peter Young’s custom designed Miss California U.S.A. pageant crown from Pageant Professor.
edited/published by eap