The Mechanics of Degradation

A local bar takes advantage of our society’s failure to meet the economic needs of young women

By Amanda Davies

Dec. 2004/Jan. 2005

Everybody knows it’s difficult to get a university education. Every year tuition fees increase, books are increasingly more costly and the cost of living continues to go up. Student loan schemes abound but come with years of post-graduation debt. You’ve heard the statistics. Between 1990 and 1999 tuition rose nationally an average of 126.2 percent. Amounts owed at graduation have increased from $5,265 in 1982 to $25,000 in 1998.

If you are a woman these barriers to getting an education increase. If you are an Aboriginal woman, they are nearly insurmountable. While tuition continues to increase, women’s income compared to men’s remains low. According to Statistics Canada, a woman still earns only an average of 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Astonishingly, this percentage drops when comparing women and men in full-time positions. In 2001 women with coveted full-time work earned only 71.7 percent of men’s average earnings through full-time work.

Thankfully, in recognition of all the financial barriers women face in obtaining a university degree, a local Regina bar has come to the rescue. Now women have the option of donning a bikini top and riding a mechanical bull in front of dozens of salivating good ‘ol boys to help pay for their university degree.

“Bikini bull-riding” is promoted as the spectacle it is to the typical patrons of this bar, but in order to entice the young women needed to complete the equation, the bar is offering a $1,200 cheque made payable to the University of Regina or the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology as a grand prize for degrading yourself … I mean … staying on the mechanical bull the longest. The contest will culminate during that odorous time of year when hundreds of cow folk descend on Regina to partake in the exhibits (who could miss the cow with the window surgically attached to her stomach) and rodeo competitions of Agribition. Yeehaw!

Contestants who are lucky enough to advance to the semi-finals will get the chance to parade their fringed bikinis in front of a glut of cowboys hoping for a wardrobe malfunction, eager to relax after a hard day of tormenting horses or in need of an ego boost after failing to wrestle down that calf faster than the other guy. While there can be only one winner in this contest, I’m sure the “losers” will have plenty of beers bought for them as a consolation. Hey, free drinks. After all is said and done and regretted, one lucky lady will be $1,200 richer and will be able to take … uh … maybe two classes at the U of R, but forget about books. Thanks local Regina bar!

Unfortunately, even with the help of student loans and sleazy bars, women are still destined to occupy lower-income, lower-security jobs than men even though they are earning the majority of university degrees awarded in Canada.

Even women that earn their degrees through faculties typically associated with women, like Social Work, will earn less than their male colleagues.

So what’s a girl to do? It’s more difficult than ever to afford university tuition, to pay the additional fees, to buy the books, to pay the bills, to feed yourself. Perhaps bikini bull-tiding isn’t such a bad idea after all. I mean, is it that different from waiting tables, bartending, or … ugg … retail? Sure it’s degrading, cynical and childish, but our society is degrading, cynical and childish. The fact that this can occur and is successful reflects that. Sure, we need to speak out against these glaring instances of bad taste. More importantly, we need to challenge the source—the societal norms and values that classify women as objects and conditions them to believe they are. There should be more to life than this.

Amanda Davies is currently working in the service industry, but is contemplating going back to school to major in bikini bull-riding. Statistic were borrowed from the Canadian Federation of Students website which can be found at: www.cfs-fcee.ca/index_fl.html.

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