Power play: In­tern­ship for beauty, not brains

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - Email li’l ol’ fully-dressed-in-my-logo-photo me at: hwilliams@arkansason­line.com

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.

HELAINE WIL­LIAMS

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