by Isabella Kristianne Angan
The Miss Silliman pageant is on its 72nd year and still remains the longest-running university pageant in Asia. As per request of President Betty C. McCann, the pageant this year will be “modest and simple”. In line with her zero-waste advocacy, the president encourages candidates to represent their assigned Silliman woman using recycled fabric or ukay-ukay finds for their themed wear during the pageant night on August 24. Miss Silliman has had its own share of criticism because pageantry can be too grandiose or focus more on the outfits, rather than the advocacy. Up to this day, debate still arises whether pageants are sexist or feminist.
Another set of beauty queens were crowned in the Binibining Pilipinas pageant last March 19. It is no wonder Catriona Gray won as Miss Universe 2018. She is the first Filipino to win two titles in Binibining Pilipinas, as Miss World Philippines 2016 and Miss Universe Philippines 2018, and now she’s ready to take the universe by storm. But first, she has to convince some people she’s deserving of the title.
Two past queens have publicly disagreed with Gray winning the Best Swimsuit award. While watching the ABS-CBN telecast of the Binibining Pilipinas finals Sunday night, Binibining Pilipinas Miss World 2007 Maggie Wilson and Miss International 2013 Bea Santiago opined on social media that Gray did not deserve to bag the award. They claimed that Candidate #14 Samantha Bernados had a body more deserving of the award.
In the Philippines, the pageant hype is more than that of the Olympics. Pageant experts are born while watching a few pageants here and there. So negativity like that of Wilson and Santiago is already a norm after big pageant. Pageants have been around for a while, yet there is one question that no one can seem to agree on: are pageants sexist or feminist?
The reason feminists look down on pageantry is because it perpetuates the belief that there is a competition between women about who is smarter, sexier, or more beautiful. A pageant is believed to be a contest of who sets the standard of beauty higher. Feminists also believe that pageantry promotes the façade of superficial beauty because beauty queens parade around in skimpy outfits and faces caked with makeup.
On the other hand, pageants can be a training ground for those who are working on their self-esteem and confidence. Anyone who can walk, twirl, and pose in seven inch heels deserves applause, but someone who can come up with an answer for a predetermined question in milliseconds is a spectacle to watch. Not to mention how beauty queens are given a platform to speak about their advocacies and have the power to influence thousands of people in a heartbeat.
The real problem here is not the pageants or the people who choose to do pageantry, but society and how they perceive pageantry. Just because it’s a competition, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be about putting other people down. There is also a choice to lift people up in competitions where beauty queens pour their heart, soul and mind to fulfil their dreams. Society should allow people to do what makes them happy, and appreciate the hard work and dedication ladies put into winning a crown, sash and a few minutes of fame. Pageantry can be vain, but it can also be empowering, and it’s time we let people enjoy the pageantry and their victories without snide remarks.