Miss Universe: a Feminist Demonstration or a Bad Influence


Lizzie Graff, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Is the Miss Universe pageant a sign of feminine autonomy and representation, or a continuation of belittling patriarchal expectations? 


Although I appreciate the hair, dresses, and make up of the 2023 contestants of this year’s Miss Universe, I pondered whether or not the pageant actually valued intelligence, talent, and determination when deciding who gets crowned. Especially in the wake of Russian invasions of Ukraine, political motivations seemed like they might play a factor in this year’s coronation. 


The Miss Universe website describes its purpose: “The Miss Universe Organization exists to advocate for a future forged by women with courage to push the limits of what’s possible, who are curious in the discovery, and the audacity to do it again. We know how important it is to reach gender equity for the good of all people.” 


But how does this competition really emphasize power and equality?


According to Insider, a former judge claimed that the pageant was all about appearances: “”Beauty, beauty, beauty. It’s all about beauty.” A later study by Insider partially confirms this statement, observing trends in the body sizes of the participants. Although Miss Universe claims to value intelligence and success, this study shows that the average body mass index (BMI) for contestants has dipped underweight since 1990, and the average height has increased by around three inches. 


It is extremely unfortunate that these body standards have only become stricter in recent years, while winners become thinner and taller, setting unrealistic expectations in a society that claims to be moving towards body impartiality. With the instant gratification from social media, and constant comparison to influencers, teenagers world round are undoubtedly unsatisfied with themselves after being told that they must be thin, tall, kind, intelligent, and tame, something women are told all too much already. 


However, being thin and tall does not discredit these women from being successful and intelligent, and they should definitely be recognized for their abilities. Miss Universe is also a vehicle for various countries to represent their culture. Miss Universe is the only pageant to feature a segment where contestants not only wear formal dresses and bikinis, but also show off a cultural item of clothing, spreading knowledge to viewers globally. Additionally, despite its lack of anatomical diversity, the pageant has increased its geographical diversity significantly, representing 94 different countries, as of 2023.


Despite its cultural representation, the Miss Universe pageant capitalizes on viewers who desire to admire thin women in small outfits, seemingly defying the claim that it prioritizes empowering women, when it flaunts an near unattainable idol for young girls to dream about, believing that their physical attractiveness directly correlates with their intelligence. It is wonderful to be feminine, beautiful, tall, and thin, but advertising the pageant as inclusive and realistic is harmful.