The Miss Bumbum Contest: This Week in Ass-Grabbing Journalism
A year ago, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I vowed to quit consuming news content, disgusted by the mainstream media’s fondness for ass-grabbing anything that looks ratings-worthy, and squeezing it hard. Despite all that, I’m liking how a trending story this week about Brazil’s “Miss Bumbum” contest is showing how fake most of the news media’s war on fake news—especially sexual harassment—really is.
This week’s annual contest to find “Brazil’s best ass”—which was reported on by the Washington Post, Newsweek, the HuffPost, and a number of other media outlets— features thong-clad contestants bending over before a panel of judges to win cash prizes, modeling jobs and a chance at celebrity.
No serious U.S. news outlet would have picked up on Miss Bumbum were it not for the words “Fora Temer” (“Out Temer”), which were scrawled on a Brazilian flag waved about by a 28-year-old self-described “model and reporter” from Amazonas, who dieted, strutted and squatted her way to victory.
It matters little that this was an ass contest. The phras Fora Temer—co-opted from earlier protests to oust Brazil’s president—was the kind of flimsy justification that media outlets needed to put Miss Bumbum in the headlines: as political empowerment for women.
Here’s a sample of the asinine coverage this spawned:
Huffpost: 3:19 pm
Newly Crowned Miss Bumbum Brazil Demands President Step Down by David Moye.
Less than eight hours later:
Newsweek: 10:25 pm
Woman who won best butt contest in Brazil demands President Temer resign by Robert Valencia.
Not to be outdone, the next day, 11/8/17:
The Washington Post: no time stamp given
First Miss Peru, now Brazil’s Miss Bumbum: In South America, the beauty pageant is the new political platform by Kyle Swenson and Samantha Schmidt.
The Washington Post’s article, from its “Morning Mix” reporting staff, landed just a day before two more men—Alabama Judge Roy Moore and comedian Louis C.K.—were thrust into the spotlight already shining brightly on Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, George Bush Sr., and the pussy-grabber-in-chief who took office a year ago. There were others, of course: so many it’s hard to recall all the names.
Kudos to the three female WaPo reporters (Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites) behind the exploding Roy Moore story ("Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32"), which just might derail Moore’s candidacy for the senate. Great job. Really.
But did the Miss Bumbum story published by WaPo a day earlier merit coverage? And two reporters?
This story was nothing but aggregated online content, the foundation of all fake news. There’s no accountability; no independent research nor reporting involved; no original interviewing; no broad sourcing, or even sourcing one can fact check to see if the winner, Rosie Oliveira, really is a reporter herself or, as WaPo reporters Swenson and Schmidt called her, a “journalist.”
Is she one? For that, you’d have to click the link to the contestant’s page. There, you’ll find videos of Ms. Oliveira, posing in thong and high heels, as well as her ass measurements (100 cm) — all of it in Portuguese, not English. How’s that for research?
Fortunately, the HuffPost’s David Moye provided most of the other details Swenson and Schmidt (as well as Newsweek’s Robert Valencia) also featured, including this deep-but-not-political thought from Oliveira herself:
“My biggest dream is that politics in Brazil improves, that we can have peace of mind and guarantee health, education and security to all. I want to live to see a political reform. I have no children and the country we live in keeps me from this dream. I wish I had children and that they live in a better Brazil than we live today.”
What they all missed were Oliveira’s “aspirations,” which have everything to do with using PR to get more modeling jobs and not with fixing what’s wrong in politics. This may be a dream of hers, but a dream is not an occupation.
“I decided to participate [in Miss Bumbum] because I'm a model,” Oliveira’s contestant profile reads, when translated into English. “I already participated in the Gatas do Brasil contest and I was runner-up. Since then I have been accompanying Miss Bumbum and every year it grows more and has international media. I have seen opportunities to expand my career, do some catalog work and magazines outside Brazil.”
Aside from that, no mention of schooling; no mention of studying journalism. No mention of reporting she’s done or wants to do.
To be sure, I went online and googled every word (in Portuguese) you’d google to find the work of a fellow journalist. I found nothing.
I then wrote to Swenson and Schmidt to with some questions, but they did not respond. I followed up by asking a Portuguese-speaking friend and PhD candidate to search for articles on or by Oliveira. He found one that mentioned two interviews she did as a model: one of Sabrina Sato, a television personality, and one of TV-cosmetic surgeon Dr. Rey.
Does that make her a reporter? It may. But as a journalist who has spent anywhere from a month to a full year researching a story, I’d thoroughly question any winner of Brazil’s best ass contest about what her interests in politics and journalism are before welcoming her to the club.
Because most of the writers, as well as the audience for this piece were men, no such scrutiny was forthcoming. The politics that put Miss Bumbum in the headlines were just window-dressing to slip more scantily dressed photos of women into places where men can find them without reading Maxim.
Take the photo gallery of Miss Bumbum contestants in thongs published in HuffPost, dispensing with any pretensions that the contest has anything to do with female political empowerment. Why even bother with the article accompanying it? It’s like that joke about Playboy. Did anyone really buy it for the articles?
No wonder harassment has become normalized, or that the hand of sexual predation keeps grabbing victims. The media’s making money off it, while exposing and condemning it.
But back to Swenson and Schmidt: Why two reporters on what was a cut-and-paste job, with minor editing?
Is it possible the “Morning Mix” crew decided that a male/female byline showed balance and collaboration, suggesting they had worked together? That a tacit endorsement by a female journalist made the article more legit?
I note that Swenson (the male reporter) posted it on his Twitter feed. Schmidt (the female reporter) did not.
In the same vein, I’m guessing the Washington Post put three women on the Roy Moore piece because if only one wrote it, she’d be targeted with death and rape threats. Spreading it out among the three of them enabled a faster and also sound route to publication, and (hopefully) less harassment.
The entertainment industry has set up young women as prey for powerful men for years. The media has capitalized on this behavior as well, publishing article after article on how to put on the brakes.
Here’s an idea: Pay your reporters more. Hire some fact checkers. And, stop grabbing at every piece of ass story that walks by, just to get ratings. It’s not just women who will be thankful. Men will be, too.