Miss Conception

“I am a progressive, and I personally think that pageants, on the whole, serve no other purpose in this day and age but to enrich their organizers.

Just a few days ago, our country’s pageant mill minted a new “beauty queen” in the person of one Angelica Lopez of Palawan as Binibining Pilipinas International. And a few weeks before that, a certain Yllana Marie Aduana was crowned Miss Earth Philippines 2023. Like others before them who had won the Miss Universe Philippines, Miss World Philippines and, of course, the local Miss Earth competitions, they will compete, and hope to win in the international equivalents of their competition as representatives of our country.

Our country takes pride in winning a total of fifteen crowns in the so-called “Big Four” of international beauty pageants: Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International and Miss Earth. There are, to be sure, “lesser” contests: Miss Supranational, Miss Grand International, Miss Intercontinental, the list goes on and on. And our women have won in many of them. Truly, we are one pageant-crazy nation, as witnessed by how life seems to be put on hold whenever one of the major ones air in the country.

Beauty contests have also been considered traditional springboards to fame and fortune. We have many A-list actresses who started out as beauty queens. Two of the most prominent of these would be Gloria Diaz — “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa” — and Pilar Pilapil. Others like Pia Wurtzbach and Kylie Versoza also tried their luck, but their showbiz careers did not gain as much traction as the first two parts because, in the case of Ms. Wurtzbach, she was a bad actress.

While it seems that beauty pageants are here to stay, many (this author included) have serious doubts about their continued utility in this day and age of changing societal roles.

One main criticism against traditional pageants is that they promote a measure of “beauty” that is too high: One must be tall, slender, with perfect body proportions, and a style of comporting oneself on stage that takes years to master. Thus, this gives rise to a culture of sorts that makes ordinary mortals try to achieve the same level of pulchritude, only to fall short, as the vast majority of women are not as endowed as the standard pageant candidate. This state of affairs, many say, leads to a distorted sense of worth that strongly implies that one is less of a woman when one does not fit into the mold of a beauty queen.

Another critique is that pageants objectify women, in the sense that they are treated as mere “things” that must comply with certain specifications; hence, they must look good in an evening gown and swimwear, know how to sing and dance for the obligatory production, and be able to answer asinine questions that are hardly a source of edification. The way by which they are paraded before a live and remote audience like cattle, some would add, is essentially demeaning to the contestants, making them look like “pieces of meat,” like in a cattle auction.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love looking at lovely women. In fact, my Twitter profile states, in part, that I am “a lover of beauty” and my personal motto is that “women are the foundation of society, so men must lay the foundation.” Nonetheless, I am a progressive, and I personally think that pageants, on the whole, serve no other purpose in this day and age but to enrich their organizers, promote products and personalities (especially couturiers), and provide she is the sum total of all her wit and wisdom, her learning and experience, her personality and charisma. Happy hunting grounds for dirty old men (don’t look at me, I bathe three times a day).

Levity aside, if doing away with these pageants is too extreme a measure, we should at least stop sending the message that a woman’s worth is limited to how tall of stature, curvaceous of figure and lovely of face she is. Indeed, a woman is more than that:  To say or think otherwise would be a serious misconception.

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