Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Some great Thoughts about Judging and Contests

by Jim Drew

Someone recently asked why all the judges for Big Leather Contest were all titleholder themselves, why there weren't community activists or other leaders who didn't happen to have titles on the judging panel. The implication being two-fold: that there were valuable people not being asked to judge, and by having only titleholders as judges, they were perpetuating a narrow view of what a titleholder should be.

While some of us roll our eyes at a judging panel filled with just big name titleholders, or with the same people who judged several other prominent contests, every now and then we see just "Joe Smith" on a judging panel. And what is our reaction then? "Who the heck is that?" Or "Why are they having him judge the contest instead of that big name titleholder who is in the contest audienc?"

Let's be frank: celebrity judges and contest staff are a draw for some people. It may be the only chance they have to see Mr. Big Name Leather in their area. (And who knows, maybe they can pick him up if the stars are right!) Celebrities aren't the only reason people attend a contest, but if producers didn't believe they were a draw, they wouldn't invite them, pay for their travel, and advertise their presence.

Celebrity judges and contest staff also serve to draw from their own niches and posses: if your tallymistress is a former titleholder from another state, odds are good a couple others from her area will come as well, and her friends from the local are will attend to be able to spend some time around her. (Okay, being around the tallymistress at a contest isn't a great example, I admit.)

I've dealt with contests where all the judges were previous winners of the title. State-level ones where one of the judges was a local bartender. National-level ones where I could only find one bit of online info about one of the judges. Contests where more than half the judges were on the board of the producing organization (that's one way to get a titleholder that the organization wants!). And I've been around titleholders who tell everyone how offended they are about not having been asked to judge. I'm sure every titleholder has similar stories.

When I have had to and will have to select a judging panel, I try to balance: someone not local (to get a perspective from someone who may not know any of the contestants or the local politics), someone female (for a male contest), someone not a titleholder (for the "everyman" perspective), someone not heavily associated with leather (bears, Court, local organization, etc.), and so on. I know that I tend to read between the lines of any judging panel announcement, so I prefer to have judging panels where there's nothing much to read into.

-- Jim Drew
Seattle Leather Daddy 2004
International Mr. Saliva 2006
Mama's Rubber Cowboy


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