I grew up in a family where there were more women than men. I could remember the times that my great grandmother would stay up late to tune-in to beauty pageants like Miss Universe, Miss Earth, among several others, both local and international. I watched several of these shows, especially if there was a Filipino contestant but only up until 2nd year college.
These pageants showcase women who are thought to represent their respective culture, and as time went on, pageants have also included charity and humanitarian work. However, as the years pass, these pageants, both male and female, have become a tool of oppression to both sexes.
So how does something that’s seen as a morale-booster and a medium for advancing one’s advocacies become harmful?
Aside from commodifying and objectifying the contestants, selling them to people through tickets, product placements during the show, even betting on them, there is another problem that’s spread like cancer. Although its effect is not easily seen and felt like that of a virus or a disease,but it has, nonetheless, claimed lives.
The problem with “beauty” pageants is that it has set the standards and norms of who, what, and how someone should look like to become “beautiful” or “handsome”. For example, the conventional Philippine standards of beauty have bias against dark-skinned people and tend to favor those who have fairer complexion; or the fact that many of us consider those who have acne as a rather unpleasant sight to behold.
Female pageants, although maybe unintentional, have pressured women throughout the years to conform to conventional standards of beauty, focusing on “what to wear”, “how much make-up to be used”, “how thin should I be”, “how my hair should look like” and “my breasts/butts are either too big or too small,” and these things have bothered women to the point that many have harmed themselves after failing to achieve what they think is required of them.
It has reduced women to mere models of physical beauty. I know that pageants have now incorporated personality but let’s be honest; we judge them by their looks.
The male pageants are not exempted, either, as these have become very oppressive for men too, setting the standard of a supposed male beauty when in fact, it only pushes an agenda of machismo and constricting gender roles. It tells men how he should look like to be “gwapo” or “macho,” or that you need to have a great, usually freakishly muscular body to be “manly.”
These pageants have then given rise to many cancers of our society. An example is fat-shaming or body-shaming. It is an act of bullying that has claimed the lives of many, young and old, male and female.
These pageants have created a culture of superficiality that’s rapidly spreading through the continuing support of many who fail to see and realize its dangers. I am writing this not because I want to put an end to pageants but because I want to let people know of its bad side that instead of empowering, it has become oppressive and objectifying. I want people to realize that true beauty cannot be measured by scoring them from 1 to 10, and that no one will ever have the right to define what is truly beautiful.