Social Issues

What the Miss Universe debate misses


The case of 23-year-old Jenna Talackova, who was initially disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant, prompted its rules to allow transsexual women into the competition.

Since the recent announcement of the Miss Universe that it is now allowing transsexual women in its international pageant, the chattering classes simply would not stop. Those who support this move see it as progressive effort to further gender equality in society (Is that same-sex marriage we see in the horizon?). There are also those who are outraged, denouncing it as a huge disrespect for the 60-year-old international event that supposedly celebrates womanhood. Many also fear that transsexual women would soon crowd natural-born females out of the pageant, like weeds choking a garden.

However, all these talks ignore a vital issue, that is, whether beauty pageants are still of any relevance today. In a time of female presidents, female CEOs and female astronauts, nothing can be more counterproductive than to judge a woman by how well she works that bikini. Beauty pageants also bring to mind the slave auction in the olden days where men and women are sold in a market, bodies freely fingered by prospective slave owners to see if they were sturdy enough to work in a farm, mine or manor. Little wonder, then, that the number of female victims of human trafficking is increasing every year.

What the beauty pageant has done is not unlike what a business enterprise does: acquire yet another market.To increase its profit, of course. An oppressive power winning the consent of an otherwise oppressed group of people to fortify itself.

If anything, this move brought to light what being a woman really means for the organizers of the Miss Universe, and other similar beauty pageants as well: A woman is anyone who looks like a Barbie doll.

Whatever happened to the feminist movement?

Image source: LA Times


Spilled but not spoiled

I hear it all the time. “Okay, I’ll stop right there so I don’t spoil the book/movie for you.”

To which I often say: “Oh, no, it’s okay. So, what happened next?”

Apparently, many people do not want  to be told the turning points or, at least, the ending of a novel or movie  until they got hold of the book or watch the movie themselves. It’s a delayed gratification thing, I guess. So, it has become a rule of thumb among book and movie reviewers to not reveal whether the hero dies or survives in the end. In social networking sites for bibliophiles like Goodreads, you would find some book reviews with a notice in the beginning that goes: This review may contain spoilers.

So I think I am one of those few people who don’t mind some spoiling, because spoilers do not necessarily ruin the experience for me.

The thing that is given away by spoilers is the sequence of events, or the plot. But there is more to a story than its plot. Equally deserving appreciation are the characters and their interiors lives, the setting, the author’s voice or writing style, etc. For movies, there are the mise en scene, musical score, editing, etc. And of course, there’s the insight, which often varies from reader/moviegoer to another.  All these work together to achieve that ephiphany that lights in you after the last page is turned, that born-again feeling you have that makes you remain in your seat while others are already making their way to the theater exits.

Take, for example, your favorite book or movie. You’ve read/watched or seen it a countless times, which means on the second time, you were already reading/viewing a “spoiled” book/movie. Yet, on the 1, 456th time, no love seems to have been lost.

It has become my habit to bring a book wherever I go, in the same way that Linus carries his comfort blanket around. Often, the book I grab in that hasty moment shortly before I step out of the house is Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart. It has kept me company while in a bus caught in heavy traffic or while in a queue in a government office that never seem to move. I can recite now some passages from it  without looking. For some reasons, I never get tired of it.

I suppose no amount of spoiling can put a good book down.

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