Am I the Only One With Mixed Feelings About Beauty Pageants?

My Filipino side was cheering, but the rest of me has questions about the pageant system.
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My Filipino side was cheering, but the rest of me has questions about the pageant system.

I can’t speak for many other cultures, but as a Filipino-American, I know for a fact that Filipino culture is obsessed with beauty pageants. 

Not only will you find Filipinos passionately cheering on compatriots for international competitions (if one happens to win, you can guarantee she’ll be a household name), you’ll also find them setting up their own beauty contests at the local level just for fun, for annual fiestas/religious celebrations each town or village tends to have. Even all the way here in the US, find an area with a substantial population of Filipinos, and look — more beauty contests!

So when I found out that Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, had won Miss Universe, even after the whole drama that surrounded the announcement (host Steve Harvey initially told everyone Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo had won. See awkward moment above), my first instinct was to feel proud for many reasons.

First off, she’s the first person to win the major pageant for the Philippines since 1973 — and the third in all of Filipino history to earn the Miss Universe title (although over the past five years, many Filipinas have come close). She worked really hard to get where she is, and it was her third try representing the Philippines at Miss Universe. 

Personally, I think it’s great when an Asian woman’s beauty (Pia is half-German, half-Filipino) is celebrated by the mainstream media, for whatever reason. And since she’s a makeup artist, I pretty much want to be best friends with her. Not to mention she's stunning, and I like looking at pretty people.

But I also, in a way, felt like I was caring about it more than I should. 

I, of course, am still happy for the winner and for all my relatives who are definitely happy with the outcome. I guess I just have mixed feelings about the system. I can appreciate the showy aspect of it — beautiful faces, interesting outfits and walks, etc. — but I can’t get past certain messages the pageants send. 

I have all these questions. Why is it important for a woman to be fit and conventionally attractive in order to draw attention to certain causes? Aside from fostering national pride, what does a beauty queen actually do for her fellow citizens, aside from giving them bragging rights? (I’m not trying to be rude; I genuinely just want to know.) Why aren’t there any male beauty pageants on local television? Do I secretly want to be a beauty queen?

I wish I had the answers.

  • Did you watch the Miss Universe pageant? What did you think about the results?
  • What’s your take on pageants?