Power play: Internship for beauty, not brains
This is the time of year the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom takes in a small gaggle of summer interns.
We benefit from the fresh, blossoming talent of these young people. They benefit by getting some professional experience during their college careers, collecting clips and resume fodder.
Another good thing about our relationship with our interns: We have the good sense not to make them vie for the internships by posing in swimsuits.
Which is why I cringed, then clicked out of curiosity, when I saw the online-story headline “Bikini hiring contest for nuke plant interns gets toxic reaction.” This can’t be an American company, I muttered to myself.
Sure enough, it happened in another country: This
was a Czech power plant.
The company couched the competition in the format of a pageant. “CEZ’s Temelin station posted photos of 10 high school graduates posing in bikinis and hard hats on its Facebook page last week,” according to the CNN.com story. “The woman with the greatest number of likes was supposed to be crowned ‘Miss Energy 2017’ and score a twoweek internship with the company.” Which leads me to wonder what they would have done if any males had entered the contest. Would they have had to don men’s swim briefs?
Some clueless representative of the facility, billed as the largest power resource in the country, tried to make excuses for the company in a comment accompanying the post: “We think photographs are very tasteful. The combination of beauty and the industrial environment gives an interesting result.”
Combination? More like incongruity. Shown with the story is a photo of the Temelin station, looking very much like a no-nonsense entity in which one would expect the prerequisite of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and a STEM education only: Four big, ugly, smoking nuclear cooling towers; a building
that resembles a utilitarian apartment building in Washington; and several of those two-headed electrical tower thingies. Again, a place where you’d expect a female to totally not be judged on looks.
Nancy Coleman, writer of the CNN story, waxed a bit sarcastic: “Shockingly, people were not thrilled.” In fact, because of the fallout, company officials apologized a couple of days later and announced that all 10 young women would be offered internships. Fine. Except, they attempted an explanation: “The purpose of the competition was to promote technical education.” Uh, OK. The story provided a link to the Facebook page of the comely young ladies,
which, as of the afternoon of June 26, had not been taken down.
Nope, over here we don’t link being good-looking and skimpily clad with professions having nothing to do with being good-looking and skimpily clad!
Well, except for the bikini-wearing car washers and baristas who occasionally hit the news.
OK, over here we don’t objectify guys in a workplace context!
Well, except for those calendars featuring shirtless-and-buff firefighters and police officers that always seem to be such good fundraisers. (Note: Yes, I had to go looking for online images of the aforementioned
calendars to make sure that they still produce them, and that they produce them in America. OK? Get off my back.)
It could be argued that the car washers and coffee pushers and cops and firefighters are presumably older and have already landed their jobs, rather than showing skin to compete for them. Therefore, they cannot be counted as casualties of exploitation. They’re willingly allowing themselves to be objectified, whether for a “good cause” or a good profit.
But the desired results are the same: You look good half-naked, you get the internship. You sell the coffee. You raise the money.
So, until the end of time as we know it, cheesecake and beefcake — if I may use those old-fashioned terms — are going to find their way into even the most unlikely arenas in all permissive societies because, well, there will always be an appreciative, likes-hitting and paying audience. And there will be legit jobs (modeling, anyone?) and pageant titles that require someone to look nice in skimpy attire or fit in swimwear.
But let’s at least refrain from heaping the “show some skin, get a job” requirement on interns at the power plant.