By BRIANNA WHITE
Observing the effects of beauty and body politics on college culture will be the focus of Dr. Karen Tice’s presentation as part of EKU’s Chautauqua series. She will be discussing her recently published book Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Student Bodies, and College Life at 7:30 p.m. Thurs., December 5th. at O’Donnell Hall in the Whitlock Building.
Dr. Karen Tice, chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies and a professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Kentucky and recipient of the Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association (2012) for her book Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Student Bodies, and College Life, will discuss her interest in what activities students do in higher education in addition to what we can learn from student culture. Using issues of race, gender, and student pop culture, Tice challenges her audience to think of the effects beauty and body have on any given campus.
As mentioned in her book, campus beauty pageants are increasing, and a new rise in other types of pageants. This surprised Tice, as she bases her discussion on her experiences in attending beauty pageants across Kentucky. “I tended to think they were something from the past, not something like a contemporary phenomenon,” Tice explained. However, she questions what we can learn about gender from such activities and why there is a division of race, politics, religion and Mr. and Mrs. in such events.
When writing her book, Tice said she had a target audience of individuals who think of these major issues in terms of student life and experience. Campus trends and habits are based on the topics mentioned in reality television and other forms of media. Media tells society how to fix the problem with shows such as What Not to Wear, giving the example that beauty is everything. The originality of students is looked down upon, as these shows seemingly convey the message that perfection is everything. This is reflected in the culture of higher education as perfection of stereotypical beauty and body becomes the key competitive component in the pageants Dr. Tice has attended.
While teaching education and gender studies, Dr. Tice has become familiar with the effects of gender, race, and religion when compared to the social norms and expectations. She focuses on always thinking broadly about issues and how they affect each other. “Education isn’t just what happens in the class, we have to think broadly about what norms are set up for men and women,” Tice said.
These stereotypical norms and expectations society faces adds a pressure for each individual in modern times. Dr. Tice wants to express her message that these beauty and scholarship pageants aren’t the center of the world in campus culture. She wonders why we deal with these issues in a higher education setting.
Tice acknowledges, “We don’t think appearance matters,” but it obviously does in aspects that can degrade or put down the diversity of a campus culture. She questions what this says about the higher education institutions that are supposedly focusing on fundamental education, rather than supporting the trends media and society bring.
Dr. Tice’s presentation is sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work, the Cultural Center, and the Honors Program.