I got to admit it, I am total cad when it comes to beauty contest – I love watching them. As a heterosexual man, I like looking at women walking around in not very much. Then, there’s the anthropologist, sociologist in me, which enjoys something more – the reaction of the public towards these contests and what it says about them.
Beauty contest evoke a host of emotions in people. You have the brigade that hates them, arguing that beauty contest degrades women to the lowest common denominator (Let’s not forget that the Miss Universe Pageant was once owned by Donald Trump). Then you have the extreme end, the societies that take pride in them. Venezuela, for example takes so much pride in the fact that it has produced more “Miss Universes” than anyone else and has established a school just train girls to get through the pageant.
While I do admit that Beauty Contest are shallow and superficial, I believe that they have their uses. Just as sports has been used to raise boys from the streets into well to do heroes, beauty contest can do the same for girls. Conservative India for example, celebrates the various Miss’s by turning them into Bollywood starlets. As well as producing a great number of pageant winners, Venezuela produced the woman who won the grown and gave the world a first-hand account of what the soon to be US President is https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/30/alicia-machado-donald-trump-backlash-smear)
While places like Venezuela and India use the pageant to get its girls onto better things, we in Singapore do something entirely different. No, we don’t attach the pageant for being a sexist relic. We merely set up the girls who enter the contest for a royal roasting. Where one would expect men to have sympathy for women who willingly parade in swimsuits, here in Singapore …..well just read the comments in the following links:
Sure, I understand that we’re a society that doesn’t value the beauty pageant winner the way Venezuela does. I can understand that we’re a more conservative society where the girls considered “beautiful” don’t enter beauty pageants (once again, I don’t think Singapore can claim to be more conservative than India). – But do we really have to take so much delight in being so mean.
Sure, some of our beauty queens deserve the roasting they get. I think of Miss Ris Low, the 2009 winner of Miss World Singapore, who proceeded to give a lesson in how to turn people off while possessing a decent body in a bikini by giving an interview on internet TV ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F74FZfdSJY) and then getting caught shoplifting and committing credit card fraud.
Now, Miss. Low is back. She no longer looks like this:
She now looks like:
However, she’s learnt how to speak properly (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3bGVHh3ifw) and somehow she’s managed to use her infamy to propel herself into different things.
While Ms. Low deserved her online roasting, many of our other beauty queens have been decent representatives of the country and projected a respectable image of what a beautiful Singaporean woman should look like. I was particularly fond of Nuraliza Osman, our 2002 winner, who happens to be a senior legal counsel at Shell. Another beauty that comes to mind Eunice Olsen, who became a nominated member of parliament (a job I would love to have). I’ve also had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Cheryl Tay, who was the 2005 winner and a vet (brains and a good heart – girl who loves animals).
What makes girls like these join the pageant? Surely you can’t say any of these ladies are lacking in the brain department nor can you say that they were coerced into the joining the pageant.
Which leads to the main point here – we may like beauty pageants for being shallow and superficial but we don’t have to mean spirited about the girls who enter the pageants. We should accept that a woman has the right to define beauty in her own way and we should celebrate that women with brains have the conscious choice to enjoy these pageants.
As for the guys who are complaining about the girls in the competition – I’m reminded of what my favourite flesh ball once said – “Eh, you think you very handsome ah!”