Monday, February 11, 2008

Good Teeth, Healthy Coat

It's hard to beat looking at beautiful women, but I would never watch a beauty pageant. This isn't just because they're sexist (although they are sexist), but also because they're dehumanizing, reducing women to body parts and shiny hair. And yet every year I spend two nights watching Westminster, which, let's be honest, is a beauty pageant full of body parts and shiny hair. I understand that which is not human can't be dehumanizing, but there's still something disturbing about the dog show, even if it's hard to beat looking at beautiful dogs.

I know that breeders and participants think of showing as a sport, and I'll admit that a certain amount of fitness is required of both dog and handler in order to look good running around the ring, but it's hard for me to see this as a sport. This isn't field trials or agility; the winner of the dog show isn't the fastest, the strongest, the one with the most stamina. The winner is the prettiest.

The dogs are judged based on their breed standards, and the dog that comes closest to achieving "perfection," meaning the dog that most closely meets the standard, becomes "best." The judging criteria go beyond breed standards, though; each breed also has a grooming standard for the show, and markings are taken into account, not only in that roaning may or may not be acceptable for the breed, but also in that the dog simply needs to have nice markings. Go to a dog show and watch the ring preparations, the amount of time spent on clipping and brushing and covering blemishes and creaming and powdering white coats to make them look their whitest.

Ten years ago, I had a friend who owned probably the worst show dog in the world. By that I mean the dog hated the ring, had acne, and clearly wasn't cut out for the life. Her purchase contract for the dog stated that he had to be shown for two years, though, so she showed him for two years. The average cost per year, in 1997 dollars, was $10,000. Why spend all that money? Well, if the dog becomes a champion you get it all back by breeding.

The dog show is then ultimately about the economics of sex. Winners breed with winners, their offspring sold off at a premium. Male champions spend their retirement having their sperm harvested and frozen, producing an income stream for their owners for years to come. The dog show is a study of eugenics in action.

How would we feel if this was the ultimate result of the Miss America pageant?

6 comments:

eastongirl said...

isn't it the result of Miss America pageants, in a way? those women are subsequently valued as some pretty great arm-candy, by lost of wealthy and powerful men, who have some pretty nice teeth and shiny hair themselves.

Elucidator said...

True. But those women tend to breed with the rich and powerful but not necessarily the gorgeous. I mean, the Donald Trumps of the world.These dogs will only be bred with other pretty dogs, leading to more pretty dogs. Eugenics in action.

eastongirl said...

donald trump wasn't a bad looking guy before he made the unfortunate decision to commit to his ridiculous, and unshiny, hairstyle.

Just Asking said...

Many would agree that looking at beautiful women is a wonderful pasttime...just ask my husband! As for shiny teeth and coat, well Brody's girlfriend takes best in show in that department. I was surprised that SC didn't mention anything about the many years of "ugly shoe abuse" as a regular part of dog shows. YIKES what an atrocity! Could those handlers wear more ugly shoes?? As for roaning, I once had a horse that was rudely stipped of his papers because of errant roaning. The horror of it all. My friend Lucy is thoughtfully regarding all the wonderfully pampered currs and probably asking herself, "Where did I go wrong?" I've asked this many times myself.

Elucidator said...

We here at SC have been so traumatized over the years by "ugly shoe abuse" by the handlers (the women handlers in particular) that we didn't even want to go there. But since you opened the can of worms, in what world do Easy Spirit loafers go with sparkly pseudo-evening clothes? It's dis-spiriting (I know, bad pun).

Oh, and go Beagle! Whup that poodle's weird-haricutted ass...

Just Asking said...

OMG did you see the shoes on the Golden's handler?? They were cobalt blue, did she KNOW she was on national television?? I'm Just Asking....