“I’ve got mortgages and homes
I got stiffness in my bones
Ain’t no beauty queens in this locality (I tell you)
Oh but I still get my pleasure
Still got my greatest treasure
Hey big woman you gonna make a big man of me” – Queen, Fat Bottomed Girls
Sometimes absurd stories allow me to make a more clear case for freedom and policy preference for a democratic society from a Christian standpoint. Earlier this week, a San Antonio beauty queen was stripped of her crown in a dispute with pageant organizers (story here). There is some dispute about the cause, but the beauty queen, who sued to keep the crown, claims that she was dismissed over her weight and refusal to lose an additional 13 pounds. Seventeen year old Domonique Ramirez is reportedly 5″8′ and 129 pounds.
First, let’s dispense with the obvious. Five-eight, 129 pounds is rail thin. This is a body-mass-index of 19.6, right at the low end of “normal,” supposedly between 19 and 27. This is phenomenally thin. If the pageant actually wants this girl to lose 13 pounds (down to a BMI of 17.6, which is “underweight”) then it’s a bit absurd. It’s unhealthy.
Now, on to policy. The facts of the case are clearly in dispute with different parties making different claims. For the sake of argument, we will assume that the “worst case” is true – the pageant indeed asked Ramirez to lose 13 pounds and dethroned her for non-compliance.
Freedom of association would dictate that this is a disagreement between two parties who can freely associate with whom they will. If the pageant decides, for whatever reason, that they don’t want Ramirez as the beauty queen anymore, then they can dismiss her. That’s freedom. It’s pretty cut and dry.
Now, let me point out that ever employment situation or even a pageant like this should have some contractual obligations for both parties. That is, there should be a piece of paper somewhere, signed by both the pageant and Miss Ramirez, stating what her rights and obligations are. I don’t know of such a paper or what it states. Hopefully, it would put parameters on just what Miss Ramirez can be asked to do. For that matter, every person should have some sort of standard agreement with their employer laying what they can and cannot be made to do. (In the obvious case, one would hope all female employees have contracts indicating that male bosses cannot request or even insinuate that they perform sexual favors – just as one simple example.)
If a contract exists and Ramirez has been asked to go beyond her requirements, then I hope she wins. If, however, the contract does not exist, or does not give her right to refuse weight requests by pageant organizers, then I say the pageant is well within their rights. Why? Because this is a free country, and it’s their [insert string of appropriate, well-conjugated expletives] pageant! Freedom has to mean freedom for the employers to make personnel decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their business.
In fact, I will actually defend that position based on the Golden Rule. Do undo others as you would have them do unto you. Now, you may look at this and say “if I was Ramirez, I wouldn’t want to be asked to drop 13 pounds, so the pageant shouldn’t ask her to.” But this is not the issue, you are not Ramirez or the pageant. The question is what should the legal code of the United States dictate regarding the situation? Why? Because this is (approximately) a democracy – and the legal code is a set of dictates that I place upon my neighbors, and they place upon me.
If I owned a pageant, in which I had invested my money and from which I hoped to make a profit or accomplish some other social good, then I would not want my neighbor to dictate policy to me. It’s my money, my work, my pageant, my efforts – It’s my decision. Enough with the snarking from the sideline of the morally upright non-contributors. It’s not their business. To my mind, the Golden Rule dictates that I (and therefore the democratically elected government) leave the pageant alone and let them run their business.
Do I disagree with their decision? Sure. Do I think they have it wrong? Sure. But God didn’t put me here to live everybody else’s lives for them. I have enough trouble trying to get my own life right. I don’t at all mind telling this or that person what I think about their choices – I’d be quite unfriendly if I saw them endangering themselves and didn’t speak up. But to use the force of government to enforce my moral dictates is a bridge too far.
As for Miss Ramirez, we wish her all the best. If you’re reading this, Domonique, you’re beautiful and you don’t need to lose any weight … unless you want to keep your crown – it’s your choice. Don’t fall for the notion that you need this crown to be a success in life. You’re young, thin, and beautiful, and you live in the land of opportunity. You’ve been dealt a pretty good hand, and you can do whatever you want.
For the rest of you, sing it with me:
“Oh won’t you take me home tonight? Oh down beside your red firelight …”