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The Current Transcript for November 3, 2017
Host: Piya Chattopadhyay
STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE
Listen to the full episode
I would have to quit my job if someone was asking me to do that. It just goes against the core of everything that I am as a Christian and as a physician.
PIYA CHATTOPADHYAY: Medical assistance in dying was a hugely controversial idea before it became the law of our land last year, and it remains controversial for health care workers who say they can't involve themselves with it on religious or ethical grounds. A provincial health minister has proposed legislation designed to help those with conscientious objections. But some say it doesn't do enough to solve the clash of rights between those who want a medically assisted death and those who say they can't help them. We'll delve into that debate in just a few moments. And then you've seen this kind of parent sharing multiple posts per day of their picture perfect family online. But what you might not have clearly noticed is some conspicuously placed products.
Today is a very special day. Today is Jaden’s birthday. She turns 10 today. We're just so excited to spend this day with her. We're so excited that you guys will spend this day with her. Let's go catch up with Jaden and let's get opening some presents.
PC: That dad, like plenty of other Instagram famous parents, is using his social media influence for sponsorship deal. We'll get into the ethics of using videos and pics of your family in hashtag ads. Then forget about Miss Congeniality.
I think that the wise [unintelligible] of the issue was a terrorist attack. I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact and making sure all Americans feel safe in the country. That is the number one issue right now.
[Applause and cheers]
PC: Beauty pageant contestants are becoming more and more revealing of their political views. Politics and pageants. That's coming up in an hour. Hi, I am Piya Chattopadhyay and this is the Friday edition of The Current.
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Critics call bill aimed to protect health workers unwilling to offer assisted death 'one-sided'
Guests: Ann McKenzie, Arthur Schafer,
VOICE 1: Bill 34 is being introduced by the Manitoba government to protect conscience rights for health care professionals, so that health care providers would not be required to participate in assisted suicide.
VOICE 2: While I cannot participate in assisted suicide for a couple of reasons. The first is I made a vow as a medical student 40 years ago that I wouldn’t kill patients, okay? And I'm not willing to cross that line.
PC: It has been less than 18 months now since medically assisted dying became legal in Canada. And health care workers are still adapting to that paradigm change. We just heard part of a video produced by the Coalition for Health Care and Conscience. It's a national umbrella organization of religious groups, and as you heard it is lobbying for Bill 34 a proposed piece of legislation in Manitoba that was drafted to help health care workers with conscientious objections to helping end patients’ lives. Here's Manitoba's health minister Kelvin Goertzen.
We want to ensure that those many professionals who don't want to participate have that protection, ensuring that their rights to an [unintelligible] paid most often not based on religious views. Often it's just they simply didn't become medical professionals to do this sort of procedure - are protected for the long run. The court said that these individuals don't have to participate or they didn't really put in protection from a employment perspective and so that's what's being put in.
PC: Bill 34 does have people talking right across our country because of the issues that it raises. Ann McKenzie is an emergency department physician who supports the proposed legislation and she is in our Winnipeg's studio. Hello.
ANN MCKENZIE: Hi Piya.
PC: Dr. Mackenzie the health minister in the clip we just heard talked about healthcare professionals needing protection. In your opinion what do you as an E.R. doctor need protection from?
ANN MCKENZIE: Well I think the concern that I have and that a lot of us have said is that I don't want to be put in the position of having anything to do with medical assistance in dying, and that's just as was said in the clip that you played before that, that crosses a line for me. I'm just I'm just not comfortable with that.
PC: Though there is already, under MAID, the Medically Assisted in Dying Act in Canada, there is protection for you. You don't have to do. So what difference would legislation make? Why do you need that?
ANN MCKENZIE: Well I guess part of part of the concern for me, and for a number of other physicians that have conscientious objections to this, is that we're seeing things happening in other parts of the country that are really worrying us. And in Ontario for example, our understanding is that their college has said that health care professionals will be required to provide referrals for medical assistance in dying. And this is pretty unusual. This actually hasn't happened in any other jurisdiction that I'm aware of. Not in the Netherlands not in Oregon. It just it just hasn't happened. And so we don't want to be in a situation where our college who supports us now, may in the future have different people elected and may make a different decision and follow the Ontario College. So we would really like to have that protection.
PC: And so your college, as you say, supports you right now.
ANN MCKENZIE: They do right now.
PC: What does that mean?
ANN MCKENZIE: That means that if I choose not to participate in medical assistance in dying that there's that there's going to be nothing negative that can happen with my job, and that there won't be any complaints against the college or anything like that about that type of decision.
PC: and that's an interesting word you use, the word participating, because I think that's where lots of people where the debate is really hinged, you have been an emergency ward physician for almost 40 years and you are a conscientious objector. What would you, or have you, told a patient who asked you about medically assisted death?
ANN MCKENZIE: Well that's an interesting question, Piya, because at this point I haven't actually been asked you know working in emergency we look after a lot of very sick patients and we have a lot of discussions about end of life issues. You know every time I'd meet a patient to the hospital, I have to ask them: “If you suddenly got very sick would you want resuscitation?” But there's a big big difference between helping a person make that decision that they want comfort care, or that they don't want resuscitation if it came to that point, and actually helping them to plan an active end to their life planning their death. It's a big big difference in my mind.
PC: I want I know we're speaking a little theoretically in your case but I want to get specific with you. So for example, if someone comes in and sees you, and I don't know, has already been diagnosed with a terminal illness and says: “Hey I want some information about a medically assisted death,” well what would you say to that patient?
ANN MCKENZIE: Well you know I've thought about this a lot and I think, first of all, I want to make sure that the person is comfortable enough and able to have this discussion. And then I would want to ask them what are some of their fears and concerns that have brought them to this point. What can we do to alleviate those fears and to help with those concerns and their pain. I would want to show my compassion to them but I think I also would want to make it really clear - and very gently - that I am not able, because of my own ethical concerns, to actually make a formal referral for that. However, my health authority is completely able to offer them all the information that they need. And there are a lot of avenues for that.
PC: And would you give them a phone number or the address to a website? Would you say like: “The health authority can provide you with options here here's their phone number”?
ANN MCKENZIE: You know it's very simple for them to find all that information and they also would be able to ask their health provider in the community, or the doctor who admits them to the hospital. So that's very widely available.
PC: So you wouldn't.
ANN MCKENZIE: I wouldn't be comfortable doing that. No.
PC: Okay. I want to play a clip for you. This is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba which itself has a few concerns with Bill 34. Here's registrar doctor Anna Ziomak.
We see it is redundant because already our minimum requirement of physicians allows physicians not to provide MAID if they have a conscience based objection. Our concern is in the wording that says that a college, a regulatory body, such as ours, cannot require a member of that profession to provide or to aid in the provision of medical assistance in dying. The narrow interpretation of aid in the provision could be interpreted as now the physician doesn't even have to provide a telephone number, not the website where you can get information, nor are they mandated to provide the chart to the team who would be requiring the chart in order to go ahead with the medical aid in dying process.
PC: Dr. Mackenzie how do you respond to the college's concerns about MAID, that is medically assistance in death, that someone like you - a conscientious objector - might not even pass on a medical chart to another health care worker who would give information to a specific patient.
ANN MCKENZIE: You know it's not actually up to me to sort of go through the mechanics of passing on a chart if somebody wants to access that service that's going to be done by the hospital. You know people have a right to medical aid in dying if that's what they want to. Supreme Court has made that decision. So if that's what they choose. I'm not going to stand in their way but I'm not comfortable participating.
PC: And what do you say to the critics of this bill in Manitoba’s proposed legislation who say that it is one sided because essentially patients’ rights to assisted death are not part of this bill, that health care workers’ rights would be if it becomes law, but not patients’ rights.
ANN MCKENZIE: Patients have a right to assisted death. We can't change that. That was already decided by the Supreme Court. I think that for those of us who are practicing medicine and the other health care professionals, it's very important to us that we are that we're able to practice in a way that we consider to be ethical. And I think everybody should have that right in any job. And I really appreciate that the government is willing to give us these ongoing protection, just in case in the future something changes with the college and they have a different point of view. I really appreciate that the government wants to bring this in.
PC: And as we've discussed there are protections, what you want is to see it put into law - a conscientious objectors.
ANN MCKENZIE: Yes.
PC: What is at stake if there isn't enough wiggle room for doctors who are conscientious objectors to opt out of any participation in medically assisted death? What's at stake?
ANN MCKENZIE: Well I think you know our concern is that we might be you know disciplined by a college of the future who is not supporting us, or that we might even lose our jobs. You know there are some doctors in Ontario who are considering moving, considering retiring. There are some medical students who are thinking maybe I'll just have to choose another profession because I cannot do a job where I have to do something that I consider to be unethical. The stakes are really high.
PC: Dr. Ann McKenzie thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
ANN MCKENZIE: Thank you.
PC: Dr. Ann Mckenzie is an emergency department physician in Manitoba who supports Bill 34. She was in our Winnipeg's studio. Well for a different take on this I'm joined now by Arthur Schafer. He is founding director of the Center for professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba. He was also part of a panel of experts that provided recommendations to provincial governments on assisted dying legislation. He is also in our Winnipeg's studio Dr. Schafer. Hello to you.
ARTHUR SCHAFER: Good morning, Piya.
PC: What do you say to what you just heard from Dr. Ann Mckenzie?
ARTHUR SCHAFER: Well I don't agree with Ann. And I don't agree on a number of points. First of all, one of the pegs on which this discussion is hanging is the proposed bill 34 by the government of Manitoba. And if you ask well, what's the problem that to which this bill is purports to be the solution. The problem is supposed to be that physicians such as Ann, who have conscientious objections to participating in medically assisted dying, might be fired. So I would ask the question has any physician in Manitoba ever been fired or disciplined for failing to provide not just MAID, which we've only had legal for a little over a year, but abortion or contraception or any other medical services.
PC: Ecxept, her argument as you heard it is that she's not worried about it hasn't happened. She's worried about if it might happen.
ARTHUR SCHAFER: Yes, well. So, there's never been a physician in Canada to my knowledge who's been fired based on conscientious ethical objection. So that's point one. Point two what about all the physicians who want to participate, who want to help patients, who see it as their duty to make all options all end of life options available to their patients at the end of life, and who could be fired or disciplined if they happened to work at a religious affiliated hospital. This bill is totally one sided. It ignores the great majority of physicians and it ignores the needs of patients. So I don't think there's any need for the bill, but I think it's real purposes virtue signalling. I think the government of Manitoba's saying we're friendly to religion but they're not quite so friendly to a patient's right to access services. And we've seen in Manitoba both at the Saint Boniface hospital and the Misericordia hospital how religious dogma can fundamentally undermine the health care needs of patients.
PC: Okay and I'm glad you brought up that last point because there's a specific example I want to talk with you about. Earlier this week an 88 year old Winnipeg, man who was one of those hospitals that you just mentioned, who has a form of ALS, finally did receive an assessment for a medically assisted death. But Cheppudira Gopalkrishna told CBC that he first requested that assessment back in May while he was at a faith based medical institution. By the time our colleagues in Winnipeg spoke with him last week he was desperate. Take a listen to this.
I can’t move. It's very difficult to do anything independently. Lying in the hospital bed, with few visitors has not been easy. I'm just spending time here in bed. I could break down in tears. I have no other hope. Anything to cut this short other than assisted suicide.
PC: Dr. Shafer We do know that there are some timelines that are set out about when patients are supposed to get information if they request a medically assisted death. It's a couple of weeks before they're supposed to get some information and there's a waiting period. What do you make of this example of Mr. Gopalkrishna’s story.
ARTHUR SCHAFER: I think the Misericordia hospital has behaved in a way that's both cruel and arrogant. Here is a patient who is totally vulnerable, suffering from a neurodegenerative disease ALS. And in the first instance they claim that they handed him a card with a MAID number on it, I don't know if that's really true, but he's unable to use the phone. And according to them, and I suppose your previous guest Ann, if they helped to make a phone call it would be participating in something which is against their conscience.
PC: He's physically unable to use… he can't dial the numbers to call even if you give him a number.
ARTHUR SCHAFER: No that's right. So after months of suffering and being unable to access his rights, unable to contact the Medical Assistance in Dying committee, a visitor to Gopal managed to - He asked to get in touch with me and I informed her - I informed him through her - how he could get in touch with the MAID Committee, which he then did. She phoned and he was able to speak to them. And then of course in order to assess whether he's eligible, they need his record. The hospital didn't respond to their e-mails and their phone calls asking for his record. So days and weeks went by and finally the record was extracted and then the hospital said that this frail elderly patient couldn't even be assessed in the hospital. We're not talking about the assisted death happening in the hospital. We're talking about the team, the health care team coming to talk with him and discuss the issue with him, that couldn't happen. Look I think there needs to be balance. The Supreme Court said we should respect the conscientious objections of physicians. But at the same time these have to be balanced against the patient's right of access. And I'm going to offer a revolutionary proposal. A doctor's prime ethical obligation and health care facilities is to put the best interests of the patient first. And to deny patients information, which I think Dr. Mckenzie said that she wouldn't do, she wouldn't. Would she not even tell them that this is an option at the end of life? Is that participating? I think it's unconscionable not to give patients the option and then I think with frail vulnerable patients, to force them- I will just mentioned one last case, Piya. We had a case of a dying patient who has granted the wish to have MAID. This patient was at the same Boniface hospital which refused to allow the procedure in the hospital, even though the medical staff and its own board of governors had said that in exceptional cases this should happen, and the patient was transferred out of the hospital instead of dying in bed with friends and family the patient died in an ambulance alone. I don't think that's a correct balance between patients’ rights and a doctor's right to conscientious objection.
PC: Dr. Shafer a when this country, when the various provincial governments were trying to come up with how to do this, to balance those rights between conscientious objectors and patient's rights to medically assistance in dying, you helped advise them and here we are you know almost a year and a half later and it's gotten into the nitty gritty so to speak. How does this actually play out day to day in various hospitals, faith based or otherwise in our country? Where are we right now with the balance and where do we go from here?
ARTHUR SCHAFER: It's difficult to know, Piya, because the data is very preliminary and very incomplete. But just in general I'd like to comment that our hospitals, including our religious affiliated hospitals, are all publicly funded. Their patients are of every religion and none. Their physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and social workers or of every religion and none. And the idea that end of life options and keeping people comfortable and respecting their wishes at the end of life should hinge on the religious dogma of the particular church to which a hospital or a personal care home. I mean in effect what we're saying is that if it's a Catholic or evangelical personal care home you can't die at home because they can refuse to maybe even to let you be assessed there. And certainly they can refuse to let you die there. I think we need to- Canadians need to reflect on the role of religion in health care. And I think we want to respect the right to conscientious objections by physicians but not when it prejudices the well-being of patients.
PC: Arthur Schafer thank you for your take on all this, this morning.
ARTHUR SCHAFER: Nice chatting with you, Piya.
PC: Arthur Schafer is founding director of the Center for professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba. He too was in our Winnipeg's studio. I know that there's a lot of debate about this across our country.If you want to get in touch with the current to talk about it please do so. You can tweet us @TheCurrentCBC, Facebook.com/CBCTheCurrent or you can e-mail us by going to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent. All right. The CBC News is next. And then when did being a mom become a lifestyle brand. We're going inside the world of social media influencer parents and we'll ask about the finances and the ethics of monetizing your family, your children online. I'm Piya Chattopadhyay. You're listening to the Friday edition of The Current. We're back in just a bit.
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'I don't feel like I'm exploiting my kids': Social media moms divided about sponsored posts
Guests: Ana Klizs, Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer
PC: Hi I'm Piya Chattopadhyay and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current.
PC: Still to come, at this year's Miss America pageant the questions got political. Like what do you think of America's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement?
I do believe it's a bad decision. Once we reject that, thank you, once we reject that, we take ourselves out of the negotiation table.
PC: That was Miss North Dakota's decidedly non Trumpian response. And she won. Yes that is the new Miss America. At a time when everything from football to Facebook is politicized, it seems that beauty pageants are making more of a statement too. We'll delve into the politics of pageants in half an hour. But first branded content at the breakfast table.
MOTHER: The great debate: Chocolate.
CHILD: Peanut butter.
Child: I turn for chocolate and she turn for peanut butter.
MOTHER: But we're going to go find out who likes what, more. My guess, peanut butter.
CHILD: My guess, chocolate.
PC: Well that might sound like a bit of spontaneous family fun; mother and son debating favorite flavors of Cheerios. Tut there's more going on in that Instagram video. It was posted by Ginger Parrish an American mom with a mere 187,000 followers. And if you're a social media savvy you may have guessed; that post sponsored by the cereal company that makes Ginger Parish what's known as a social media influencer. Product placement in your Instagram feed has been more closely associated with celebs named Kardashians. But increasingly every day moms with good style and big followings are using their social media channels and their families to sell. I'm joined by three women who are part of this trend in advertising. Ana Klizs is behind Bluebird kisses. She is an Instagram personality and lifestyle blogger who has three children. She's at home in Toronto where most of her videos and photos are taken. Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer are the Toronto best friends who are known on social media as Cat and Nat. They are at Natalie's place where many of their photos and videos are shot for social media. Hello to all three of you.
PC: Ana Klizs let me begin with you. You have quite a big presence on Instagram about 100,000 followers. What kinds of stuff are you posting?
ANA KLIZS: It's just sort of by every day. So anything for recipes to what I'm doing with the kids, my pets. I have a bit of a zoo over here so.
PC: So what kinds of things. Give us give us a little bit more. What kinds of things would be seeing when we go to your Instagram feed?
ANA KLIZS: So a lot of my followers tend to like sort of what I'm doing in the house. So there's a lot of house shots. Most of my days spent with my youngest son Henrik, who is home with me. My older two go to a school. So it tends to be a lot of him and I do which is play on the ground, or you know cook a meal, or play with our dog or cat or... I really don't think my social media is that interesting to be honest.
PC: [laughs] Well a hundred thousand people obviously do.
ANA KLIZS: [Laughs] I guess. Yes.
PC: And that Natalie Telfer with Cat and Nat. What kinds of things do you post?
NATALIE TELFER: Oh my gosh we post lots of things. We are a hectic… the two of us our lives are hectic. We have seven kids between the two of us. We do our daily lives together. We also have husbands. We are dropping off, picking up. We travel a lot. We do family excursions. We do car dance videos. Literally it's kind of like a diary of our lives and Instagram is just one or the media platforms that we use.
PC: Catherine Belknap, you make money off this. How do you do that?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: We're very fortunate that we get to have that, that is something that we get to do. And you know we are really clear that we create content and it's not just posting a picture with a brand and the brand to work with us know that. You know we like to get creative with them and we create videos around our product with our ideas. We have to come to a conclusion together that works for us works for them. And sometimes it doesn't and that's okay, but we can't compromise. You know the thing with social media which I think people don't realize is that people are smart. They are so so smart. And you can see B.S. from a hundred miles away.
PC: How did the brand find you?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: Their job. That's the job they hire a PR team and PR team's job was to go out there and hiring people and the demographics of the brand that they're working with, and that is how they find us.
PC: And what kind of brands – you don’t need to name drop them. Like what kinds of things will we see you creating content with?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: Interesting things like you know let's say we're working with a bank right now, because we know it's really important for ourselves and our kids to be educated about finance’s future. So when we create things about bank. Its staff helpful hints that moms can actually take home and they can start a conversation with their kids. Because often we don't know how to tackle that subject.
PC: How oh how lucrative is this for you, Cat and Nat? Nat, I'll come to you in a minute. But how lucrative is this? Is this a full time job for you two?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: That's not- our main goal is not to just work with brands. We are our own brand. We have big goals coming not the not the end all for us.
PC: You guys have become stars that you know that you can sell your own stuff, in other words.
CAT AND NAT: Well, yes.
PC: Ana Klizs, when it comes to what you do, do you consider this a business?
ANA KLIZS: I do now. When I started it was sort of just a hobby so. I just started it with my blog and posting the things that I sort of enjoy doing on a daily basis. And I actually had a full time job, like a 9-5. When Henrique our baby was conceived, it was a bit of a surprise. We weren't expecting any more children which is why we got our puppy. So at that time I said you know maybe I'll take on a few more branded posts. There's a lot of really cool stuff that was sort of coming our way and a lot of really interesting requests from brands that I knew and I loved, and that I just never had the time to sort of dedicate. And once I started doing that it has become sort of like my full time job.
PC: And how do I, as a follower of view on social media watching you do this stuff, know whether you're getting paid when you post something about a product?
ANA KLIZS: So anything that's paid it has to be clearly marked. Usually either has to be marked sponsor ad or you actually have to talk about it in the wording of your post. You have to say that this is something that is a sponsor post.
PC: And so I want to talk to three of you about another aspect of this, which is that you all have children that that are part of your social media world when it comes to this stuff. And you know as well as anyone that there's a lot of debate and discussion amongst parents about what to post on social media for kids, if it's right or wrong it's wrong. Do any of you have reservations about how your kids are put on social media in these kinds of branded content ways?
ANA KLIZS: I don't know. It was a discussion that I had with my husband pretty early on, more around the blog, more so than my Instagrams. My Instagram is gone kind of steadily but my blog had a couple of posts early on that sort of went viral. We had the discussion of what we want to share. And you know what is the downside to it. As my oldest son is now getting a bit older, I'm just a little bit more conscious though posting his face on my social media and on my blog, as much as it used to me in the past. Only because he's not changing at the same rate as say for example my baby. And he's a little bit more recognizable. But also now that he's getting a bit older it's a discussion. So I don't just take a photo of him. Usually I explain to him what it is that we're doing. He's aware of the blog. He's aware of the Instagram. I discuss it with my husband sort of for a kind of big campaign where his face is going to be very very visible.
PC: And Natalie and Catherine where do you approach this, from in terms of your kids being on your social media feeds and presenting them?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: You know we got a lot of them and often they are on a group. And often a lot of good people don't know who's who. I kind of take the same approach. The older ones, the oldest is 8 and they kind of know- Really our Instagram is the Nat and I in our journey and less about our children and kind of our experiences. So there's less of a focus on them.
ANA KLIZS: I'm completely in agreement with what Cat and Nat are saying. It's the same [unintelligible]. I take all the photos myself. And if my kids don't want to do something, they don't have to do it.
PC: Is it ever weird to have so many people following your home life. Like I post pictures of my kids on Facebook but like they're my friends or whatever - that see it or whatever. Does it feel weird that so many people have this window into your home life?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: We would not be doing it.
ANA KLIZS: I would say the exact same. It doesn't feel weird at all. And to be honest, the benefits kind of outweigh any of the negative. We had an issue with my son when he was really really young and I kind of just poured my heart out on one of my posts, and a bunch of moms offered - not just like that the token sort of “oh it's okay everything's fine” - but really helpful and valuable advice and we found some really great doctors for this issue. There is so much more to it than just posting that photo. There's a community behind that social media.
PC: You know parenting is hard. We all know that. Do you feel the need to tap? You do show the funny side of parenting, and Natalie and Cat, you have this beautiful these beautiful homes. Really nice stuff. You have great outfits. Do you ever feel pressure to kind of show your show the perfect side?
NATALIE TELFER: I think we're notoriously known for showing. That's our whole thing is the imperfection. And you know that's literally every post is about the hard and we all know the easy. It's not about what we have, because anywhere you are in this world - mother's love, a mother's frustration, a mother's fears, a mother's hopes for her children - Every mother has the same fears, dreams, hopes. When there's like something terrible that goes on, we're all fearful. That is what unite on rather than focusing on what people have and don't have. And yes there's privilege and there's certain things that come out of Instagram that you can see. But at the end of the day the emotions and the experiences go hand in hand, and that we focus on and that is our community. And there's a reason that we had you know 500,000 people on Facebook and 150,000 of all demographics, of all races, all religions.
PC: Before I let the three of you go, I want to get your take on a question that you've been - and an accusation that has been lobbed at you many times before, that you're exploiting your kids. Catherine Belknap. What do you say to that?
CATHERINE BELKNAP: [Laughs] Well we personally we've never had that accusation, thankfully. I think those people maybe that is their feelings and I'll respect that. I know what's right for me and my family and Nat has a say for her and her family. People don't know the situation. If my kids are like “no”, then no. That's cool. You know at the end of the day, if this all fell and it went way, I would still have my family. I would still have my friendship and my experiences and my laughter. Like Nat and I, this is not our life. It is what we do but it is not who we are and we just have a great community that's behind us literally. If you comb our Instagram and Facebook you cannot find a negative comment. We don't get the negativity. So we share our experience and you can't really hate someone's experience because it's not fair. So we tend to focus on the amazing people who don't do that. We get thank you letters. I'm not joking, every day. So those people, I mean, power to you. Just don't share your kids, then, awesome. We will do us, you do you.
PC: And Ana. Have you heard this criticism before that you're exploiting your kids or people that belong to your community that do these things, that there is an exploitation here? And how do you respond to that?
ANA KLIZS: I definitely heard that there's actually a pretty nasty sort of website out there that talks about bloggers and influencers and people that are on Instagram and they bash people. So these comments have come up on there. I've now made a point not to read it anymore. And the truth is that I'm comfortable with my family. I'm comfortable with my kids and I'm really comfortable with what I'm doing and what I'm sharing. There's definitely a lot more positive that's come from it than the negative. And you know a few months ago when I was going through postpartum, and I didn't a video and started talking about it. There was a lot of moms that wrote back saying you know “thanks so much for talking about this, so many people don't.” And that's what it's sort of about for me, connecting with other moms and connecting with other people and I don't feel like I'm exploiting my kids. I don't think that they feel they're being exploited either. And so it's just what's right for us.
PC: Thank you to all three of you. Appreciate your time.
GUESTS: Thank you. Thank you.
PC: Ana Klizs is an Instagram personality who writes the Bluebird Kiss's blog and Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer are the best friends who are known on social media as Cat and Nat. They're all in Toronto. Heather B. Armstrong was once known as ‘the queen of the mommy bloggers’. Her blog dooce.com was one of the first of its kind to go viral and to team up with sponsors. The blog was so popular she made international headlines, when she abruptly pulled the plug on it, because she said it had taken over her life. Heather B. Armstrong joins me from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hello.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Good morning. How are you?
PC: I am okay. What are you thinking listening to those three moms?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: [Laughs] Do I tell the truth?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Well, I've been in this business going on 17 years and I applaud what I applaud that they're enjoying what they're doing, and I applaud the enthusiasm that they have. I would love them to look at what has happened to me, and those like me, as a cautionary tale for what's to happen.
PC: Okay so give us that truth, Heather Armstrong. What happened to you?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Well I think that making a business off of documenting your life in social media is an unsustainable model. Simply because of the toll that it takes on your life, on your relationships, on your psyche, on your physical and emotional stability.
PC: So give me some examples. What do you mean when you say those things? What did it do?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Well basically what you're doing is you're documenting every aspect of your life. I mean you when you go on vacation, you have to stage photos. You have to take videos. You really never off. You can't really just turn it off because you're only as good as the last thing you posted. And people start to feel ownership of your view, of your children, of your animals, of your vacations. And it becomes an extremely invasive way of making money.
PC: It is I imagine - basically what you're saying is if you got tired of pretending to be perfect.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: I got tired of manufacturing content that made it seem that that was what we were supposed to be doing in our lives. I had to manufacture experiences so that the brands would pay me.
PC: Like what? Like what experience? What kinds of things did you post?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: I was under contract and that like a car company made - I had to write 3 posts on my website about getting into the car with my children and going on a ride somewhere, like the zoo or to the mountains. And we had to play a word game, which is a completely manufactured experience with my children. We don’t play word games in the car. We fight and scream in the car [laughs]. And I had to get photos of my children looking happy when they weren't and they didn't want to do this activity. That I was forcing them into the car for an activity for a brand that was like “this is the experience that we want.” And I remember my child coming to me with trembling, crying saying please don't make me get in the car and do this. And that's when I realized this is just – we have gone too far. This has gone too far.
PC: You had to force your children to act.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Exactly.
PC: And how much control did the sponsor, in this case her others, have over your blog and your life.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Well at the time I was kind of an ad network and so I had to basically take every sponsor [unintelligible] that came my way. They had total control, total control over the tone - and my tone is extremely irreverent and I had to pull - I had to dial it back very very very strongly and people could feel that it was stilted. People could feel that it wasn't natural.
PC: So when you said to the company: “Listen my kids aren't in the mood. We're having a bad day. One's grumpy. I'm tired,” whatever. “We don't want to do this”. What did they say to you?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Oh, I couldn't say that to the company. I mean I had signed a contract [laughs]. I realized at that point that I had signed my child into that contract and it felt so wrong.
PC: How old are your children at this time, Heather?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: My children were 5 and 11.
PC: So the 11 year old said “Mom. I'm not doing this” and you said…
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Actually the 11 year old was just like “Okay let's go do this” and the 5 year old was like “Why are we doing this? Why are you making me doing this?”
PC: And so we started our conversation by you rhetorically asking “Should I tell the truth?” And so I want you to tell the truth. What do you say to some people like those mothers that we just had on who were like “Listen we're just all part of our life like we're just capturing our life and getting paid to do it. And it's not such a bad thing”. What do you say to them?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: I you know I hope that it continues to be as fulfilling as it is for them now. I mean there was a time in my life when it was extraordinary fulfilling when I had control, which I've seen again that have come back to blogging. When I had control and I didn't have a brand coming in saying “Okay, let's talk about banking”. So now I have to go manufacture and experience about banking. Having to manufacture my life around sponsored content, took a toll on me that literally almost me in the ground. I wanted to be able to go on vacation and go on vacation and then I had to document it.
PC: And you kept at this for a long time. So why did you keep doing it?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Because I was under contract. I had signed myself into it.
PC: And the one question that I can't seem to get an answer out of any mommy or lifestyle blogger is how much money do you actually make out of this? You might not want to get me a dollar figure but give me some sense.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: They're making bank.
PC: They are making bank. Six figures?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: At least.
PC: At least. So that's the kind of money you were rolling in. And so you were doing this for the money. And because for a while you thought” this ain't so bad.” And then the pressure of doing it and being on all the time took a toll on you and your kids.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Exactly. Yes. I see these accounts and it's wonderful that they've got these really supportive communities. That's why I continue to do it. But I look at the amount of content that they're churning out and I just like it's so unsustainable. Just on your physical and emotional stability.
PC: And arguably it's a misrepresentation of what parenting is really like, because we all have bad days and our kids are bad days.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Right. Well it's a lot of you know staging things that a lot of you know making sure that things look good and then taking that picture. It's a lot of arranging things in your home so that it's beautiful when in actuality it's all a mess.
PC: And yet you heard our last guest and others say look this really opened up conversations for real people, for real mothers, to talk about things like you know postpartum or how we teach finances to our kids if I if I do this thing for a bank. So what about that element of it?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: I think that's wonderful. Again like I continue, really I continue to do it because in the community around it and the support and the sharing of stories and hopefully they can sustain that model. I wish them all the luck in the world but the reality for me having done it now for 17 years I understand it the toll that it takes.
PC: So you quit doing this. You take a break and now you're back on the social media, right?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Yes I am.
PC: Are you a “regular” person back on social media, or as a mommy blogger sponsored bla bla bla ?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: [Laughs] I mean my Twitter bio says that I exploit my children for millions and millions of dollars because of course that was the criticism lobbed at me. And in the end…
PC: Do you think that's a valid criticism?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Well in the end I sort of turned it on its head. I am using that as my Twitter bio. But when my child came to me and said “please don't make me get in the car” I felt like what I was doing wrong. I felt like I was exploiting her and I wasn't calling the shots. That's why. And I was putting her into a situation that was like -this is not real life and I'm not representing real life in what I'm doing.
PC: So you're back on now you have this kind of you know Twitter as you said bio that's true at its core but kind of joking and what you're saying. So what are you doing differently this time?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Well this time I'm not signed to any contract. The sponsors that I work with I write my contract.
PC: That says what? If my kids don't want to do it, we're not doing it?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: I really don't really involve my children that much anymore in sponsored content. And if I do I read it by them. And it's just I can't manufacture an experience. Most of the sponsored content that I do is naturally fitting into my life or is just sort of a sponsor comes in and sponsors something that I'm already doing.
PC: And I introduced you as the once queen of the mommy bloggers. So, I imagine now, when you come back, in your specific case, and say to the sponsor “It's on my terms”, they're a little bit more willing to do this. Not everyone's The Queen. So you know they can't say to the sponsor “I'm only going do it if it's not ‘authentic’”. So you've got a little bit of a leg up nowadays.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: I have some leverage, absolutely. And they know I mean the whole reason that I became successful was because why irreverent take on parenthood and life. And so a sponsor has to be comfortable with the fact that there's going to be four letter words. There's going to be you know a skewed take on things and there's going to be irreverence, and without that it's just not me. My audience will see straight through it.
PC: Your kids okay?
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: The kids are really good actually. They often say “You post more about her than you do about me. What's going on?”
PC: Heather Armstrong good to talk to you. Thank you.
HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG: Thank you.
PC: Heather B Armstrong is a blogger author and podcaster. We reached her at her home in Salt Lake City, Utah. All right, coming up in our next half hour poise and protest. Beauty contestants are using the pageant platform to voice their political views. We will hear from a former Miss World Canada who famously did so herself. That's coming up in about 90 seconds. Do get in touch with us here At The Current. We love to hear your thoughts about what you hear on our show. You can find out all the ways to get in touch with us by going to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent and you can listen to things that you may have missed as well. I'm Piya Chattopadhyay. You're listening to the Friday edition of The Current. We're back in a minute and a half.
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'I didn't enter a beauty pageant to be judged by men': Contestants bring politics to the stage
Guests: Anastasia Lin, Susan Cole, Kimberly Hamlin
PC: Hi I'm Chattopadhyay and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current.
[Applaud and cheers]
PC: Well last Sunday 23 women in Peru went on national television hoping to become Miss Peru. But instead of describing their body measurements, as is usually done in Peru’s pageants, the women flipped the script.
My name is Melody Calderon my measurements are 81% of aggressions against girls under five years old are acted out by close family members.
[Applaud and Cheers]
My name is Karen Caren Kweto and I represent Lima. My measurements are 156 attempted murders so far.
[Applaud and Cheers]
My name is Juana Assevedo and my measurements are more than 70% of the women of our country are victims of street harassment.
[Applaud and Cheers]
My name is Romila Lozano and my measurements are more than 13,000 women are victims of trafficking.
[Applaud and Cheers]
PC: Pageant organizers said they got the idea of doing that after learning how many of the contestants had been raped or assaulted. And part of what made it such a powerful moment, shared all over the world online is the seeming contrast between politics and pageantry. But the two do have some history together. When Anastasia Lin became Miss World Canada, in 2015, she used the platform to speak out against China's human rights violations. Anastasia Lin is with me here in our Toronto studio. Hello.
ANASTASIA LIN: Hi.
PC: When you heard those Peruvian beauty content contestants you think what?
ANASTASIA LIN: I'm very proud of them. I watched the video online and they looked like they spoke with conviction and I'm really glad that these girls are bravely using this platform to speak up for what they believe in.
PC: Let's talk about your story your experience with pageants. When was it for you Anastasia that you thought “hmm I'm going to bring politics into it”?
ANASTASIA LIN: When I saw the then first Miss World Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam, she was speaking up about China's human rights abuse in Vancouver and that's when I first got inspired to join beauty pageant.
PC: So it was actually that you actually came to this from the politics side of it. You're like “okay here's a way I can speak out. I'm going to get into beauty pageants”?
ANASTASIA LIN: Yes.
PC: Okay. So the leap for you as compared to these Peruvian contestants is that in the Peruvian example, the people who organizes did this right this was all sanctioned. In your case, it wasn't like you were said hey go out there and be political. Was it in the moment that you said I'm going to say this or was it a planned speech in your head?
ANASTASIA LIN: I think at the beginning I wanted to advocate for human rights in China through beauty pageant. But the moment that really got me to take this seriously was when I had to stand onstage and speak about it. And after that I think a providence or fate just brought everything on me. My father was threatened in China because of my chosen platform. And that's the moment when I really had to make a choice to stick to what I believe, to continue what I came here for or to give up.
PC: And remind us what you said
ANASTASIA LIN: I said that I believe in the Canadian value of freedom that we should all believe- we should all do what we choose to do, do what we think right and oppose what we think wrong. And I'm going to continue to speak about human rights in China. And afterward I went to American Congress, UK parliament, Taiwanese parliament, Canadian parliament to testify to advocate for human rights.
PC: You said there that your father was threatened. So talk about the impact of voicing your political opinions during the beauty pageant had on your life and your family's life.
ANASTASIA LIN: So when I won't miss world Canada in China the media were very excited about it. They probably didn't check what I was talking about.
PC: Meaning that someone in the Diaspora had won Miss Canada.
ANASTASIA LIN: Yes. And they were using it as almost like a propaganda tool. And my father received congratulatory messages and the media were rushing to interview him. But after just a couple of days all the media article disappeared. And if my story stayed on, they change it to a different girl's picture. And my father received a call from the security agent saying that if your daughter continued to speak about this will turn your family like in the Cultural Revolution. And that means public humiliation and persecution. And because of that my father he text me and called me to leave them a way to survive in China. And that's because I spoke that I wanted to speak for freedom for not just the Chinese people actually for everyone.
PC: So your father said to “please stop speaking out, our safety is in jeopardy.” You didn't. You kept talking.
ANASTASIA LIN: Because in the past the Communist Party had used this tactic on many Chinese people and the norm is to keep quiet. I grew up in Canada and I never believed that coercion and compromise to coercion will lead to a good result. And so and also I believe that more media attention will provide extra layer of protection for my father as well. So that's why I decided to do it.
PC: You won in 2015 the World pageant didn't happen. I think that year but you continued to advocate as you say talk about this elsewhere. How what is the situation with your family now? The threats came to your dad. What happened?
ANASTASIA LIN: My father right now his business is had been damaged in many ways. And my grandparents, we scheduled a meeting in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year last year, and the Chinese police went to their home to take away their Hong Kong permission visa. So they couldn't come to meet me. And my mother has also been denied China visa. She's Canadian. We are basically being kept separate but right now there's they're safe. And that's when I'm praying for every day.
PC: You have not tried to go back to China since then.
ANASTASIA LIN: I was declared persona non grata by the Chinese government. That's the highest level diplomatic punishment. I haven't attempted to go back.
PC: Anastasia, just stick around. I want to bring someone else into the conversation. Susan G. Cole is a writer editor author of two books on violence against women. She's also here with us in our Toronto studio. Hi Susan.
SUSAN COLE: Hello, Piya.
PC: What do you think of pageant contestant like Anastasia or the Peruvian women using the stage the platform of the beauty pageant to get political?
SUSAN COLE: Well I think it's spectacular. I was really impressed with Anastasia when I first heard about her campaign and I honor her, here and always. Similarly with the women in Peru, it was such a spectacular subversion of the pageant process.
PC: Sanctioned subversion and in that case.
SUSAN COLE: Well in which case I'm wondering how long the pageants will last if every single woman who gets up there continues to challenge our social norms. I mean can you imagine what might happen if somebody got up and started challenging capitalism for example? The sponsors would really not like that. And there was a very complicated relationship between sponsors and beauty pageants as we know. I think that, for me, I what was so special about both honest Anastasia's Act and the women in Peru is that it signified a collision of values of women speaking out on stage to express their views and the essence of the pageant itself.
PC: And yet, Susan, there are people who say “look, okay, politics, politics if you want to get political, really? A beauty pageant?” Like this is where we objectify women.
SUSAN COLE: That's exactly what my point would be. And that's why I'm saying that if in fact women continue to do it this way, I'm guessing that the pageant itself may be obsolete which is what I'm interested in myself, I find the idea of beauty pageants really problematic. What they do is they put women up to be paraded in front of judges to be judged. And I mean certainly they're trying to rehabilitate the pageant by having them answer questions about this and that, some pageants have dispensed with the you know the swimsuit part of the competition. But still it is a beauty pageant. And so I think women should certainly be political if they're going to be contestants. But I would argue that the beauty pageant is not that great for all women.
PC: Let's bring in our former beauty pageant person, Anastasia, what do you say to that great Susan G Cole says do you get political but the beauty pageant thing maybe do it a different way. What do you say to that?
ANASTASIA LIN: I think beauty pageant has evolved in the last few decades. Yes, and it varies from different pageants. For example you just raised, what if the contestant start to speak about capitalism. Well last year in 2016 Miss World Final was held in Washington D.C. and the whole this event was sponsored by Chinese sponsors. That's according to their website. And I was there and so I had to sign a contract saying that it was all their permission. I cannot speak to the media. The whole pageant was three weeks. About two weeks I had a media blackout all over the world the media was sending requests and I couldn't speak because my cause goes directly against the sponsors’ interest. But eventually due to media pressure my voice got heard. My platform was about organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China, and it was heard all over the world. I think we are using the beauty pageant as a big as a mega speaker to make our voice heard. And I think that itself is wonderful. I didn't enter a beauty pageant to be judged by men. I am proud of myself body image but I'm not defined by it.
SUSAN COLE: I actually can see that I'm hearing you talk. It's very obvious that you're not defined by that but in fact the pageant continues to be defined by that and that's why it's called a beauty pageant. That's why people are being judged. That's why the expectation of its contestants is that they be compliant and that they be passive in this process. And it's when women are not that way that that it becomes a news story. I'm also concerned because I know that you've been very successful in the pageants, what happens to the women who are not so successful. I know that there are scholarships that are won by the winners. How much money is spent by those who are trying to win the pageant and lose the pageant. So that the spotlight right now is on the incredibly brave women who are speaking out in this context. But there is a wider context that I think it's really important for us to consider.
PC: Anastasia Lin, would you have been able to voice your protest as effectively and be heard, in some other forum one that didn't also highlight the way that you look?
ANASTASIA LIN: Well I think beauty pageant did provide a very unique platform. Perhaps other platforms wouldn't yeah. For me I think beauty pageant is through my three years in competing, actually I compete at twice. First year I didn't win but I think I learned more from a losing campaign than winning one.
PC: Were you political that year?
ANASTASIA LIN: Yes. Very much so. I think in any competition there are winners and losers are not losers but people who don't get the crown. But it's what we learn from the process of competing in the pageant. Many woman learn how to talk, how to hold themselves, how to conduct a conversation, how to demand attention, how to use these chances to further their education opportunities. And I think what women get from beauty pageants is not just a pretty image or beautiful dress. These days is more about what they can do with their voices.
PC: You have a line I think on your website that says something like beauty with a purpose.
ANASTASIA LIN: That's the motto of Miss World. But I think I have internalized it and taken it for myself. And I do believe to live by that motto. Whether the pageant does or not it doesn't matter.
PC: And so Susan G. Cole, here is Anastasia saying: “Look I'm an example of someone the beauty pageant has evolved” and you know there are others who say they now give out scholarships, that it is a platform “gorgeous women” who are saying “we're more than that” and “here's a platform that we can have our voice.” You say still the same old, to some extent.
SUSAN COLE: Well no I actually was very clear that I think there are steps being taken when women speak out using the pageant as a platform. My problem is that it's still a beauty pageant. It still has resonance and I think we should also think about the viewers of the beauty pageant. What are they going through? What are young women thinking when they look at these standards of beauty? Why is it called a beauty pageant? Let's call it a brain ball or even a personality pageant. I think that is one of the difficulties that it continues to stick to this issue of image and perfection. I don't know that we've seen very many alternatively shaped women for example as a signal of beauty. I don't know if I've ever seen one with bad teeth or who's struggling with that issue. You know what I mean? That it's a different kind of situation when there's only one standard of beauty.
PC: Would you like to see them banned in 2017? I mean this debate has been going on for years and I'm just wondering.
SUSAN COLE: Actually the best way to render them obsolete is for women to continue to speak out in the way that Anastasia is because of enough women get up there and actually do the kind of things that the organizers did in Peru, then the beauty pageant is not going to be what it was. It's going to be a platform solely for women to speak their minds. I would stop calling them beauty pageants. I would consider- many of the sponsors of the beauty pageants are often beauty companies that are making tons of money off cosmetics and other exploitive industries like that. So there's more to making this kind of change than just banning the beauty pageant proper.
ANASTASIA LIN: I don't know if nowadays the judging beauty pageant the sole criteria is how beautiful they are. I'm very sure that I was not the most beautiful girl in that pageant.
PC: But Anastasia, to Susan's point which is these things are going to make themselves obsolete. Are you worried about that the more “political” beauty pageant that they're going to go out of business, so to speak because many of the viewers aren't tuning in for the politics?
ANASTASIA LIN: Oh. I don't know, the more media exposure they get, probably more sponsors well come in. And this becomes more of showcasing womanizing talent and their outspokenness than just beauty itself. And I'm sure that nowadays the beauty pageant criteria has changed. The judges don't just look at a girls look. Oftentimes they have to look well-roundedly if the girl is able to be a leader in the future, how independent is her thoughts.
SUSAN COLE: But it's also the case wouldn't you agree, Anastasia, that unless you are comply with a certain standard of beauty you're certainly not going to get on that stage.
ANASTASIA LIN: Well I think that girls who are participating in beauty pageants do value their femininity, but femininity is not necessarily inferior to masculinity. It's the opposite.
SUSAN COLE: I mean this is referring to femininity I was referring to a particular standard of beauty. So I mean that that conversation femininity is something different I just feel like you don't get near that stage unless you look a certain way. I mean it's taken a while for example for diverse- certainly in Miss America pageant for anybody but you know white contestants to be on the stage for example. So there was always that certain kind of standard and I do think that you know it is called a beauty pageant for a reason.
ANASTASIA LIN: Well that standard doesn't just existing beauty pageant. It exists but across the entire entertainment industry. That's the image that our society has on who looks more beautiful.
PC: We will have to leave it there. Thank you both. Anastasia Lynn was Miss World Canada in 2015. Susan G. Cole is a writer editor and author. Thank you both of you. They're both here with me in our Toronto studio.
VOICE 1: Last month a demonstration of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK in Charlottesville Virginia turned violent and a counter protester was killed. The president said there was shared blame with “very fine people” on both sides. Were there? Tell me yes or no and explain.
VOICE 2: I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the facts and making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That the number one issue right now.
PC: Well that is some up to the minute politics at this year's Miss America Pageant. It took place in September not long after the Charlottesville race riots. And that was Miss Texas Margana Wood stirring the audience with her powerful critique of the American president. Our next guest has explored moments like that one, where beauty pageants and politics do mix. Kimberly Hamlin is an associate professor of history and American studies at Miami University. Today we have reached her in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hello.
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: Hi Piya. Thanks so much for having me.
PC: How does these latest political moments, the one Miss America Anastasia Lynn, the two being separate, fit into the evolution of pageants?
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: That's a great question. I think these more recent episodes are pretty noteworthy in terms of them being the first time the contestants themselves. I don't know if I would- I wouldn't call Miss Texas's answer a protest. I think maybe it was a protest on the part of the judges but she was just answering your question. But in terms of the Peru example, and Anastasia Lin that is certainly noteworthy in the history of pageants. Previous protests have involved women themselves protest. Feminist activists in the 60s, 1968-1969, in the pageant itself, but never the contestants themselves. Although as I found and I argue in my research, the Miss America pageant in particular has always been a site and a place of political discussion about the proper role of women in America.
PC: And share with us because I think most of us are unfamiliar with the connection - the historic connections - between pageants and politics. Give us a history lesson in that.
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: It's a great question. It's a really fascinating story and it starts in 1921. Prior to 1921 in the U.S, there had been no annual but occasional seaside beauty contests where different beach towns would have a bathing girl contest, or newspapers would have a photo contest where readers could submit so they thought were the most beautiful. But these never really took off and they were definitely considered kind of a low brow. You wouldn't want your daughter to participate. But then in 1921 something changed. And what I think the main factor was that is that women got the vote in the U.S. in 1920 and they voted for the first time in the national elections in November of that year. Fast forward to Labor Day weekend 1921 and hotel owners in Atlantic City said “well let's extend our fall frolic this year. Let's try to keep the customers past Labor Day and let's do so by incorporating a beauty pageants.” And at first this wasn't even called Miss America but something about the inner city beauty queen. It really peaked the nation's interest in 1921 in a way that had never had before. And so I think the proper role of women in America really changed the framework of looking at women in their bathing suits and evaluating them numerically, in ways it sort of an acceptable middle class pastime.
PC: So one other way, in other words you are saying – this is in the 20s – “Here's what American women should look like, not like those suffragettes “you know.
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: Exactly. Exactly. That is exactly right. Because you can really see this in the type of women who won in the 1920s. They were always the youngest contestants, the smallest contestants they never [unintelligible] which was a sign of being modern of being a flapper. They always were reported as not smoking, not wearing makeup, very wholesome. They didn't want to participate really even themselves or gain fame for themselves. They were seen as being kind of these wholesome traditional figures in contrast to the more modern women all around.
PC: And then in the 60s the you know feminist protested the existence of the pageants. And we heard in 2017 just now that that ongoing debate that we've been having about should they exist, should they not, do they object to by women and if so, to what extent, and how can it be used for good, if not. So can pageant contestants now flip the script and turn these events into a feminist performance?
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: That's a good question. I'm inclined to agree with Susan that fundamentally at their core pageants are about objectifying women, that women in their swimsuits as I mentioned earlier are being evaluated numerically. And I think that really sets the stage and it contributes to this broader culture that we have and seeing of course in the U.S. in the Harvey Weinstein movement, the Me Too movement, the [unintelligible] of sexual harassment of women and the link there is the objectification of women. And you know beauty pageants are certainly not the only place where this happens. You might even say they are just a small example of where this happens but they nevertheless contribute to it.
PC: And then there is the argument that - if we leave that argument whether they should exist or not aside - but look at them as a evolved sort of spectacle if I can put it that way. Do you see a parallel between politics and pageants, and say politics and sports I'm thinking of like the Take a Knee movement?
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: Yes that's exactly a point I made yesterday, is that I think the exciting they are able to the Peru protest is not a previous pageant example, but instead the Take a Knee movement. That is an example of people whose bodies are used for entertainment we watch on TV, and don't necessarily think of them as having a political purpose. But when the bodies themselves, in the case of the ticket, the African-American men and the Peru example the case of women, using their bodies to say you can't just look at these bodies without seeing the connection between [unintelligible] when we are off screen. And I think that's a powerful statement.
PC: And Susan G. Komen makes it makes the guess - if I can put it that way - that this is not going to keep the beauty pageant alive for much longer. The sponsors will pull if women start getting political and “take a knee in their realm”.
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: I think so that's a possibility I suppose. But I think another way to think about protests would be not participating at all. What would it look like if women refused to watch pageants? If women refuse to participate in pageants, because your earlier guest made the point it's not just about the participants but also the viewers. You know we make a choice ourselves of what to tune in to, which articles to read and what to support with our viewership.
PC: Kimberly Hamlin thank you for your time.
KIMBERLY HAMLIN: Thank you so much, Piya.
PC: Kimberly Hamlin is an associate professor of history and American studies at Miami University. We reached her by not a great connection in Cincinnati, Ohio. Well that is our program for today. Stay tuned to Radio 1 for Q where actor Colin Farrell will join host Tom Power to talk about his new film The Killing of the Sacred Deer. And this Sunday at noon you can catch me in my regular gig hosting Out in the Open here on CBC Radio One. This weekend in light of recent high profile sexual assault cases, we will take a look at how to navigate consent in 2017. I'll speak with Tom Stranger who in 1996 raped his then girlfriend and then owned up to assaulting her 10 years later.
Consent is a black and white issue. There is no gray. It's mutual or it's sexual assault. In me evening a young man, making the wrong decisions and wanting to talk to it now, I do hope that just serves as an example that this can be spoken to and one needs to take responsibility for their choices.
PC: What does sexual consent mean in 2017. I'll ask that question. This Sunday at noon on Out in the Open you can listen to it online right now at cbc.ca/open. And be sure to download the radio player Canada app to keep up with The Current, Out in the Open and all your favorite CBC radio shows on the go. It is from the App Store and Google Play. Finally today, after a chat with social media family influencers earlier we're going to end things off with a little satire from the folks at CBS’s This is That. This is from a video sketch title. Meet the Social Media Influencer Family. We're going to post the whole thing on our social media. I am Piy aChattopadhyay. Thank you for lending us your ear here on the Friday edition of The Current.
BRITTANY: Hello. I'm Brittany Anderson and my husband A.J.
BTRITTANY: Yes we have two kids. Jade she's 15.
AJ: And Rider.
BRITTANY: We had an awesome week of engagement. Okay guys. Traffic is up on every single Anderson accounts work hours.
AJ: You work Anderson.
JADE: I love being a professional influencer family. My popularity at school is [unintelligible] since we started doing this and I'm allowed to use my phone in class because technically I'm working.
BRITTANY: Rider. Have you posted yet today? Because I am looking at your channel and I don’t see [unintelligible] posts.
RIDER: I really don't care about social media, all that Jazz very much. Not as much as her. But my parents just said it's important for me to gather a sizable following by the time I am 18 or so. So here we are.
AJ: Yes this is her full time job. Our family brand and I am putting it online, managing it.
BRITTANY: It's all about family.
BRITTANY: It's all about family.
AJ: Yes. And you know we've been talking a little bit mostly as a way to get some numbers up. But I think it's a pretty good idea trying to get Britt on board. I was thinking about knocking this one up again and seeing if we can't get nine months of some pretty solid content. So we'll see how it goes. We'll see what happens is going to give it a.
BRITTANY: Triple B Brits Baby Bump. Will probably hashtag that, actually, so just follow that.
AJ: Yes. Triple B, yes.
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