The annual Miss Universe beauty contest was held this past Sunday, and while the winner was Miss Philippines, most of the attention was on a contestant who didn’t make it past the preliminary round. Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, made history by being the pageant’s first transgender contestant – a man was now on stage with the women.
In 2012, the Miss Universe organization eliminated its requirement that contestants had to be “naturally born” women, making Ponce’s appearance this year possible. But the pageant isn’t doing away with all their rules: women over 28 are still out, as are married or divorced women. In addition, the swimsuit/athletic wear requirement excludes women who find that style of dress immodest, eliminating much of the Muslim world, the Amish, and also Orthodox Jews. Finally, contestants can’t ever have been pregnant.
Even as the media was celebrating the pageant’s historic inclusion of all sorts of “women” it was continuing to exclude all sorts of women, banning them on the basis of age, marital status, or religion (those modest Muslims and others). The pageant wasn’t acting consistent with their professed “inclusive” values. But that the organizers aren’t exactly deep thinkers shouldn’t surprise us; these are folks who evaluate a woman based on how she fills out a bikini.
What’s funny is how far the pageant is willing to go to accommodate men. Consider their ban on contestants who’ve been pregnant. This actually tilts the field in favor of transgender contestants because it can only be applied against genuine women – Angela Ponce can’t ever get pregnant.