Beauty contests and why progress is good


Earlier this week I posted an article about Ms. Veteran America. By all accounts, it appeared to be a dignified and fun way to honor female vets. Good for them.

Because not all beauty contests are that way.

Back in the day, things were different on ships. Not better, but different. There was no internet. Ships were all but isolated from the outside world when they were out to sea. Hazing was tolerated. And women were not allowed to serve on combatants.

Consequently, when a ship crossed over the equator, instead of marking the event with the more civilized celebrations seen today, the Crossing the Line ritual became more of a rite of passage.


Bad things happened. People were pelted with three foot sections of fire hoses. Men in underwear were sprayed with frigid salt water. “Wogs” were forced to crawl through rotting food and suffer other indignities at the hands of those salty sailors (the “Shellbacks”) who had crossed the equator before.

And there was a beauty contest.

wog beauty contest397

Theoretically, the Sailor who won would become King Neptune’s bride, and avoid the nasty hazing that the rest of the Wogs would be forced to endure. It was a lie, of course, but the new guys did not know that.

They wanted to win.

They would use mops as wigs, towels as skirts, and whatever gimmicks they could find to increase their odds of winning. They were, quite frankly, not very good at it.

I saw many such ceremonies over the years, but the one that stands out involved a young man who had obviously prepared well for the beauty contest. When he walked out, instead of the usual hooting, laughing and hollering that you would expect when ugly men wear skirts, an uncomfortable hush fell over the crew.

beauty contest 397

He was not pretty, per se. But he was not ugly either. He walked with a certain grace, a certain … familiarity that no one expected.

It was unsettling. I cannot remember whether he won or not, but I do know that if he didn’t, he should have.

Today, things are better. Crews are integrated. The raunchy days of yesteryear are gone. Beauty contests, as far as I know, are no longer a part of the Crossing the Line ceremonies.

Some may say that we have lost our traditions, that we have gone soft.

If you had ever seen a Crossing the Line beauty contest, you would think differently.

You would call it progress.


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  1. Jeff, I don’t know if you wrote this due to the recent buzz concerning the obituary for Navy Tradition that was printed in the Navy Times. This probably isn’t the time/place for it, but yes; the Navy has lost its traditions and has gone soft. This MCPON is so PC it makes me puke. He stated that “the sailors serving today are some of the bravest men and women that have ever served.” I’m sorry, nothing against today’s sailors, but that’s a slap in the face to those who served in WWII and other major conflicts.

  2. I still like the old NAVY with no women on ships. It forces them to become masculine as they boss men around. It also broke down good order and discipline.

  3. So if bossing men makes women masculine does it follow that men bossing women makes them feminine? These first two people who left comments should wake up and join the 21st century. In my opinion, hazing caused more problems than any good it ever accomplished. Good riddance to all those sophomoric rituals. The Navy is better off without the hazing. I am not without experience in them either. I drank my Dolphins, and had them “tacked on”. I’ve been across the date line, the equator and the arctic circle. I participated in the rituals because that’s what was expected and I really had no choice. Although, I never thought that there was any real value added by the experience. In my opinion, one good port visit did more to bring togetherness to a crew than all the hazing ceremonies that I experienced. And I very much disagree with the statement that the MCPON statement is a slap in the face to others. One statement that is a fact is that 100% of the Sailors serving today are volunteers, which wasn’t true in WWII, Korea or Vietnam. Does having women in the Navy make things more difficult? Of course it does. Few things worth doing are ever easy, especially if change is involved. Police, and firefighters across the nation have learned to deal with it. So can the Navy. I’m sure many of the older men in those professions longed for their old hazing rituals too. It doesn’t matter what the change is, some traditionalists will always say that it makes things harder or breaks down good order and discipline. The Navy has survived the elimination of flogging, has survived integration, has survived the end of the draft, all of which were thought to be blows to good order and discipline. The Navy will survive, and prosper, with the inclusion of women and the elimination of the bigotry towards sexual orientation.

  4. delaneyhi (probably aka “Master Chief”); get a grip on yourself. I can’t speak for ‘sailin’ but as for me, there was nothing wrong with Crossing the Line or tacking on your crow. Simple solution; if you don’t want to participate, don’t. Just like TV shows; if you don’t like what’s on, change the channel. Because of vocal minorities like you, the majority has to kow-tow to people like you to ensure we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. As for your statement that today’s Navy is 100% volunteers – and?? The point of my comment is that MCPON Stevens is smoking crack when he says the sailors today are braver than those of WWII. Not a single sailor today has been engaged in battle unless they’re a SEAL or IA. The only exceptions I can think of those who did damage control on the Stark, Samuel B. Roberts, Cole, etc.

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