Retrofest needs changes

Retrofest 2By Christine Wieringa

Social media is buzzing with accusations and rumors of an un-level play field when it comes to this years newly added event to Retrofest, Miss Retrofest. If these rumours are true then I cannot disagree with those people saying this is a horrible representation of our city. Accusations of vote trading, offering gift cards for votes and even paying people to vote for them, are making the competition more controversial than helping our city’s image.

For those of you who do not know what vote trading is, there are pages on Facebook where you can post the online competition you are in, and people will vote for you, if you vote for them. This would be fine and dandy if these sites were made by locals for this competition, but it is not. Basically, someone in China can vote for you as long as you vote for them.

Some argue that this is good campaigning, but I beg to differ. This is a competition for local girls and last time I checked, we do not have a plane full of Chinese voters arriving in Chatham to celebrate Retrofest with us, so why do these votes even matter at all in the competition? It puts a real  damper on the competition and makes it very hard for girls who have worked their behinds off to get votes in the community.

Others have been accused of offering gift cards in exchange for votes. The deal is, you vote, and you get your name put into a draw at the end of the competition. Some may find this a harmless tactic, maybe even a smart tactic, but in reality, not every competitor can afford to do a draw, just to stay in the game. The more serious accusations, of people buying votes, should mean an automatic disqualification if this is indeed going on. This is pretty self-explanatory and can pretty much be agreed upon, that it is wrong and should not be happening.

The idea of having a Miss Retrofest to represent the female population in such a male dominated event was great. Lets face it, although some women love cars just as much as men, there needs to be more events to draw the female crowd downtown. When they announced this competition, I assumed it would be held in Tecumseh Park, with judges and an actual competition of sorts. I was surprised to find out that all you needed to do to compete was snap a picture of yourself in retro gear and collect as many online votes as you can. Clearly, the rumours and accusations going around revolving this competition should be reason alone to change this event for next year, to make it fair for those who are competing. Even if these accusations and rumours are not true, why are we voting for a woman to represent Retrofest based solely on looks alone? Is that not the only thing you can tell about a person by a picture? If anyone claims differently, you must have super powers that I just do not have.

If we are going to vote based on a picture, it should not be for the title of Miss Retrofest. You could easily flip this into a positive by picking the top 12 photos and pairing the winners with the top 12 cars from the show and doing a calendar to be sold at the event. The competition could start earlier in the year to ensure the calendar will be finished in time for Retrofest. The competition could be turned into a fun way to bring people downtown. If the theme is the 1950’s, it would make sense to set up ballot boxes to vote for the title, instead of using the internet.

Stick to the theme and keep modern technology out of it as much as possible.

Sadly, this whole thing has turned into nothing but a beauty contest and I feel horrible for the girls who can not keep up with their competition for things that are completely out of their control. I really hope the coordinators of this event are taking notes and make the changes to ensure a fair and level playing field for everyone participating in this event in the future. If being voted on because of looks doesn’t take a jab at one’s self-esteem, I am sure constantly having to defend yourself against these accusations do. It’s ridiculous to put women in this place to begin with. We may be celebrating the 50’s, but we are not actually living in that time period. Things have changed since then, there are more to women than just a pretty face. Give these girls an real chance to speak and have a healthy competition with their peers, instead of  regressing backwards and putting women on display as objects. Just because it is a celebration of the past, doesn’t mean we need to act like we haven’t gotten past the fact that there is more to a woman than if she is pretty and photogenic.