How Far Women Have Not Come

In the last sixty-three years, women have become professionals, political leaders, pursued higher education, become property owners, and exercised birth control. In the last sixty-three years, women have played a productive and necessary role in society. Yet, the 63rd Miss Universe Pageant aired on January 25th, 2015. Sixty-three years of women competing against each other to be the face of universal femininity and beauty, judged based on three “very important” categories: evening gown, swim suit, and personality interview. 

Let's build a case for the women who initially participated in beauty pageants all those years ago. Let's argue that participation was a calculated move by women trying to gain independence and financial stability in a time where opportunities were limited. While not the best method, women could capitalize on their beauty and womanhood. 

However, is this still a strong justification for continuing this competition? Crowned winners today, as per The Miss Universe official website, spend their reign representing their platforms, raising awareness and funds for charitable alliances and travelling. Sounds great and all, but women today accomplish all of this without having to first be judged on how good they look in bikini. In saying this, we don’t intend to belittle the accomplishments of the pageant contestants. These women are no doubt beautiful, but they also hold redeemable qualities beyond their beauty. Contestants are pursuing higher education and have unselfish career aspirations that try to bring growth to their own country or a community/group in need. In a competition where prepping your answers is encouraged, eyebrows are plucked, legs are waxed, lipstick is drawn, and hair is blown out, we need to question these aspirations.

If women have more opportunities today and femininity is defined more broadly than just outer beauty, shouldn’t we question whether beauty pageants still belong in this new reality? Approximately 7 million viewers tuned in on Sunday for the crowning of Miss Universe, in the demographic of 18-49 year olds. Women participate, women watch, women judge...are we going to be constantly stuck in this cycle? 

Each year, articles like this one are published which question the role of beauty pageants in today’s, dare we say, progressive society. Of course you read and respect the ideas of gender inequality and female exploitation brought forward by the author, but you resume your regular life afterwards. Such articles will continue to exist as long as the problem of gender inequality and objectification of women exist. But perhaps the more we speak about it, the more we will start to question why chosen Miss Universe contestants fit one beauty formula – light-skinned, tall, and thin? Why is one woman a representation of all women? Isn’t a woman worth more than the way she looks in an evening gown or how she thinks to answer a question based on what will please the crowd? In having these conversations, we can start to think that this platform can become a solution. Can this pageant be used to showcase a diverse range of beauty, intellect, and femininity?

Donald Trump, owner of The Miss Universe Organization, stated on the relevance of beauty pageants in 2015 “It’s the age-old thing; it’s never going to die—magnificently beautiful women, the Miss Universe pageant is known to have the most beautiful women in the world...whether it’s politically correct or not, who cares, it’s a formula that will never die.” 

Women will continue to be beautiful; we don’t need Trump to tell us that. Women are much more than just beauty; we hold the power to change how we are perceived and defined in society.

We can change the formula.

It starts with women.