Today beauty pageants are one of many talent competitions that dominate primetime television. But unlike singing competitions, dance competitions, or trivia competitions, beauty pageants involve the evaluation of one of the most subjective human traits: physical attractiveness.
These competitions have been around since antiquity, and many nations hold beauty contests every year. But what makes a beauty pageant like Miss Universe baffling is that the winner is considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
It’s ridiculous to label someone the most beautiful amongst a population of nearly 7 billion people, with countless different ethnic groups and cultures idealizing various standards of beauty. The criteria used to evaluate these contestants, especially with their emphasis on thinness and light skin, is definitely not representative of all the diverse kinds of women in the world.
Furthermore, the standard of beauty advertised by these events is unattainable for the vast majority of women, and the pressure to strive for this unreachable “perfection” can lead to depression, eating disorders, and poor body image.
Although these competitions also involve the evaluation of intellectual traits or “inner beauty,” it seems like these segments are set up to intentionally make the contestants look as dumb as possible.
For instance, in the interview portion of the most recent Miss Universe pageant, Miss USA Nia Sanchez was asked to deliver a 30-second message to global terrorists. Even though this is an utterly absurd thing to ask, Sanchez kept her cool and responded by saying: “As Miss USA I can only spread the message of hope, love, and peace.” Of course, countless people mocked Sanchez on social media for this “clichéd” answer, despite the fact that the best terrorism analyst in the world wouldn’t have been able to provide a satisfactory response in that short time.
Even though pageants like Miss Universe make this kind of shallow effort to judge contestants on more than just their beauty, the bottom line is that these women are still being judged primarily for their sex appeal. Not only does this reinforce the idea that women should be valued primarily for their physical appearance, it totally ignores how the public perception of gender roles has been evolving over time.
Women in the 21st century shouldn’t derive their self-worth solely from their physical appearance. Instead they should use their self-confidence, intellect, and life experience to accomplish the goal they set out for themselves.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We don’t need a crummy beauty pageant to tell us what is and isn’t worthy of our attention.