As far as feminist movements are concerned, a small faction of these politically active group of women decry the exploitation of women in beauty pageants such as Miss Universe and all other identical competitions that cloak in the name of charity hidden (but sometimes too obvious) assault against half of the human population.
If one generalization is too glaring to brush off, countries that are so engrossed with beauty pageants have a history of Spanish colonization, or has been influenced by the Castilian culture; take a look at the Philippines, Venezuela and the rest of Latin America including Brazil, although it has been under Portugal, still the influence of Spain is not negligible to that small country in the western side of the Iberian Peninsula, or the US but most especially the southwestern part where Hispanic culture has the biggest concentration. If it is not a coincidence, Spain has one of the most patriarchal societies in the world. In Vietnam, the venue for this year’s Miss Universe, on the other hand, although it is also patriarchal, surprisingly beauty pageants are not popular.
Beauty pageants cloak exploitation with charity. Their skewed logic that charity, since it is their usual concern, could serve best its purpose when it is coupled with beauty (that is, the physical aspect) is humorous if not a tasteless, bad joke. In order to be beautiful, all women contestants must be tall, around 170 cm or taller, charming, with aquiline nose, slender figure, long flowing hair that can be blonde, red, or black, big and beautiful smile, etc.
Let’s take a look. Distributing relief goods needs long arms and legs since trucks loading canned sardines, bedding, instant noodles, mosquito nets are rather high, so long legs are necessary. Well, it makes sense to be tall then.
There is no direct correlation, as far as I know, between narrow nose and the a keen sense of smell, so there is no need for it in disaster reliefs to find rotting human cadavers in, say, a sunken ocean liner.
A starving African mother and child won’t really be fascinated by a slender woman wearing a sash with a “Miss Universe” logo doing a catwalk in font of them while they are ravaged by HIV/Aids.
Although a long flowing hair is attractive and a sight to behold, it can cause public commotion in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, it’s vestigial since women have to wear purdah and hide all parts of their body except for a narrow opening for the eyes. A long hair, in fact, will just be cumbersome and will add more to heat inside preventing the reigning Miss Universe to comfortably hold an Afghan baby for some photo-ops.
A big and beautiful smile is scandalous amid wailing family members whose loved ones were killed in a tsunami.
Miss Universe and other beauty pageants of its kind look down on and devalue women. Granting it is unfair to generalize them because other aspects of a woman are also used as a criterion such as congeniality, intelligence (?); however, they give wrong impression to the one billion plus of humanity that NBC, Telemundo, and other media partners brag to have reached during the world-wide coverage. A woman is valuable only as long as she is beautiful as defined by a group of fashion designer, a construction company manager, a “hot” actress, a former beauty queen, Donald Trump (of course) and a cohort of some prominent people who are thought to hold the hegemonic opinion to declare who is the most beautiful women in the whole of the universe (an insult to undiscovered life forms that exist in some corners of this universe).
Although some will argue that there is an objective way of telling what is beautiful, for now, mankind has not reached a certain point of advancement where it can numerically rate beauty. Using numbers to gauge a woman’s beauty just does not make sense.
What about women deemed as ugly? Are they disenfranchised? Can’t they be good enough to distribute relief goods for charity, or charming enough to placate the warring Hutu and Tsutsi tribes in Rwanda? These are silly questions. But they are silly because these questions are raised to give meanings to an equally silly competition.
Miss Venezuela might have gone home to Caracas with the crown, and her smile might have covered the front pages of all July 15, 2008 news papers all over the world; but she has done nothing to elevate the status of the sex where she belongs.