Almost every other little girl out there dreams of becoming a beauty queen. We are a nation enthralled with beauty pageants that it has become a national pastime rivaling the fame and following of telenovelas and basketball games. In our country where chaos is the order of the day, we need palliatives to over-sensitize our senses so that we have no more emotional energy left to expend over much more mundane matters that never gets resolved. Stuff like, bumper to bumper traffic, graft and corruption allegations and the perennial battle over the separation of the church and state. And so, we latch on to the craze of selecting a beautiful maiden to represent all the good that is in us. It is a pastime that has reached comic-level and spectator-sport proportions. So much so, that our militant sisters in GABRIELA have dubbed beauty pageants as a “meat market.”
While I do not altogether dismiss the possibility of being exploited while in the
pursuit of the beauty title, the fact remains that exploitation is a possibility that confronts women wherever they are. Ogling and catcalls occur almost frequently whether you are on the ramp or on a sidewalk. Indecent proposals and lewd repartees occur just often, if not more, in conventions as it does in beauty pageants. In fact, from personal experience, I have found that men are less inclined to ogle, paw and hoot when they know I am a beauty queen—somehow, they feel intimidated to do so. And during that brief pause where they are held in thrall is the perfect opportunity to send out vibes that says, “if you cross the boundaries of decency, I am very capable of doing another Lorena Bobbit antic.”
I believe that the dividing line between exploitation and the celebration of women in a beauty pageant is exemplified by the fact that the candidates are there on their own free will. And whatever they are subjected to occurs as a result of their own volition. If you do not feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit in public, don’t pursue a beauty title. If you do not want to be subjected to an evaluation of your personal and physical attributes, then do not join a beauty pageant.
It is a sad fact that society rewards us more for looking good rather than being
good. It is a tragedy that the standards of beauty conform to a specific form and
shape—that is, congruence of features, a particular waist-to-hip ratio and long flowing hair—without taking into consideration the beautiful varieties that can occur in between! It is ironic that what makes a woman truly beautiful: her personality, character and style can get cramped and overshadowed by a less appealing package of flesh and bones.
But then these truths and ironies do not justify summarily dismissing beauty
pageants as foolish exercises in prejudice, discrimination and exploitation. After all, it is not simply the pageant organizers who envisioned the ideal for beauty. The ideal for beauty is universal and surprisingly almost uniform across cultures and continents. (i.e., clear skin, congruence of features, well-proportioned figure). Also, more often than not, the women who rise above throngs of other beautiful women are women of character, wit, grace and poise –those who possess that elusive quality known as the X-factor.
Indeed, character, wit, grace and poise are pre-requisites for being truly beautiful. These are the qualities that shine from within to illumine even the most bland of faces. As for those who continuously cling to the stereotype that beautiful women are dumb and shallow, look again. History is replete with beautiful prime movers. To those who tenaciously condemn beauty pageants—call me biased, but still see beauty pageants as a venue for celebrating women and celebrating the beauty that is in them. Joining and winning Mutya ng Davao 1997 has changed my life for the better. It has opened doors for me that otherwise would have remained permanently shut. The crown and title
of Mutya ng Dabaw has served me in good stead as a platform for me and the causes that I believe in.