Alternative (non-winning) answers to Binibining Pilipinas questions
“How is winning a crown still relevant?”
This was the brilliant question posed by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima at last night’s Binibining Pilipinas pageant. She served as the Chairman of the Board of Judges.
Justice De Lima basically asked how beauty queens figure in the messy world of Philippine politics. This isn’t surprising, since asking difficult questions is a trope in beauty pageants, and the contestants are expected to answer them on-the-spot, while doing the Skinny Arm and flashing a megawatt smile.
The contestant who received the question answered: “I can be a voice to inspire people to help and unite.” (Hey, doesn’t anybody mention “world peace” anymore?)
Seeing Leila De Lima, who herself is one of the most influentials Filipinos today, judge a beau-con made me think of this long-debated question: Do beauty pageants empower or objectify women?
Some will say that yes, it’s an avenue for beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated women to show a pageant-crazed country how beautiful and intelligent and sophisticated Filipinas are. But judging from what transpired in the 52nd Binibining Pilipinas pageant —take note that this has been going on for more than 50 years—it is still as old-fashioned and sexist as ever.
Case in point, the swimsuit competition was quite uncomfortable to watch. If you are a woman watching that particular segment, you probably wondered about the presence of male models pretending to be construction workers in the background. What did that mean? In real life, women try to avoid construction sites because—sorry for the stereotype that follows—it is known to be a place for unwanted attention and catcalling, which is, you know, street harassment.
Other than that very self-aware moment, in which the pageant mocked its own ~male gaze~, there were plenty of times when the contestants, as well as the judges, disappointed us in the Q&A:
Q: “Will you marry a man who is less successful than you?”
Contestant’s answer: “I will marry a man who is less successful than me because love is unconditional.”
Alternative answer: “That question only supports the idea that for a marriage to work, men should be more successful than women. If you gender-swap that question, it won’t even be an issue.”
Q: “When is a woman truly successful?”
Contestant’s answer: “A woman is truly successful when she sees the happiness of the people around her and if she has a special someone standing right next to her.”
Alternative answer: “A woman is truly successful when she enjoys equal opportunities as men and when she recognizes that she can be successful on her own.”
Q: “In our modern times, do you think it’s appropriate for women to court men?”
Contestant’s answer: “Anything is possible but men should go after women.”
Alternative answer: “It’s time to smash the traditional gender roles in courtship. (No wonder why more than half of our viewers are single.)”
Q: “What do you believe is God’s greatest gift to women?”
Contestant’s answer: “God’s greatest gift to women is giving birth to a child.”
Alternative answer: “God’s greatest gift to women is choice.”
Q: “How is winning a crown relevant in the wake of conflicts?”
Contestant’s answer: “I can be a voice to inspire people to help and to unite.”
Alternative answer: “Not. At. All…So, do I get an award for being honest?”
Well, isn’t it ironic that the pageant was shown during Women’s Month? As long as beauty pageants promote age-old beliefs on how women should appear and behave, winning a crown remains irrelevant to the pressing issue of gender inequality. Despite all its faults, the Binibining Pilipinas pageant, and all the beau-cons in the universe, is still a fun show to watch. And to think of it as anything other than pure visual entertainment is missing the point.