Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder (Vẻ đẹp nằm trong mắt người xem)

Miss Vietnam 2020 Do Thi Ha (C) and two runners-up Phuong Anh (L), Ngoc Thao (R)

Beauty contests are still popular in Vietnam. It’s hard to believe, or maybe not, when you consider that Vietnam is still very much a patriarchal society, a Confucian legacy resulting from nearly a millennium of Chinese occupation and other influences. These events, which idealize and commercialize the female body, are a throwback to a less enlightened and more misogynistic time. Old habits die hard.

A 16 August 2022 Dan Tri International article entitled Miss Vietnam 2022 beauty pageant launched, from which the above photo is taken lists the eligibility criteria:

Women who have graduated from high school and are at least 1.63 metres tall and have had no cosmetic surgery are eligible to enter the contest. Participation is to be limited to unmarried women who have never given birth or parented a child.

Entrants who have previously won first, second, or third prizes at local beauty contestants nationwide will progress through to the final round of the Miss Vietnam 2022 pageant.

Moving forward, contestants will compete in parts such as the swimsuit, evening gown, and talent segments, as well as taking part in charity projects for the community and a Q&A.

They have added “beautiful” by Vietnamese cultural standards. 1.63 meters is tall by local standards. In 2021, the average height of 18-year-old Vietnamese females was 156.2cm.  

Every society forms a consensus about what is means to be beautiful and handsome. It is an ideal that girls and boys learn about growing up and that many attempt conform to, often at great cost to their self-esteem. So much for the notion (and reality) that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” We are all beautiful or handsome to someone. Beauty is much more than someone’s appearance and physical features. It is their personality, behavior, values, and way of interacting with others, the whole package.

It’s high time that Vietnam abolish these useless and destructive events. Since the government decentralized regulations that permit provincial authorities to license beauty pageants, expect to see more not fewer of them in the coming years. After all, there’s money to be made.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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