Oct 152013

Once upon a time I joined a stand-up comedy competition and finished third.  I could say that I beat a couple dozen other aspiring comics to finish third. I could even make a case for that achievement by pointing out that the top two finishers went on to become full-fledged world-touring performers.

Not me. For a reason, I chose to see the experience as an ordeal where I lost to two other people that I (on that night) believed I was better than. I was second runner-up. The second biggest loser.

The reason I felt like a loser was because I was in a competition where the winner was determined subjectively. There was no finish line to cross ahead of the others. There was no score tracking the number of points we made.

On that night, the winner was determined by judges. In other words, a combination of opinions from a tiny sample of the entire comedic population — “a jury of my peers” — decided that I wasn’t going to win. They said I lost, and there was nothing I could do to prove that I did not.

That was too long ago, so I’m not recalling this to be bitter. I am actually going somewhere with this.

It sucks to be judged.

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Our country has recently been done proud by two beautiful women who were sent off to foreign lands to capture the hearts of a panel of judges and bring home a crown.

Megan Young was crowned Miss World 2013, and yet I only heard about it because some strangers on the bus were questioning her heritage and whether she deserved to represent our country at all.

Mutya Datul was crowned Miss Supranatural 2013, and I learned about that because I overheard some men discussing that she was “in fact” a tranny.

Later in the week I heard rumors that both would soon be dethroned because they couldn’t possibly be virgins. A stipulation that says they can’t be married or pregnant was stretched all the way back to the state of their hymens. I found it amusing.

The judging never stops.

My guess is that beauty queens are the easiest targets because they seem to be defined by judgment. Just the idea that they willingly joined a pageant seemed to insinuate that their lives revolved around seeking affirmation. If pageant judges could put a crown on her, surely public judges were entitled to take a shot at ripping it off.

In 2012, Joy Castillo-Pasidis was crowned Mrs. Universe Philippines, and I had a front-row seat to the proceedings.

Ah, the judging. I remember the criteria because I remember being floored by my utter disbelief.

“40% Face, 40% Body, 20% Personality and Intelligence.” I am NOT making this up!

This was how we were supposed to judge a woman? I kept going over it in my head. Eighty percent of her value was her appearance: of which half was vaguely referred to as her “Body.” How do they measure this? Was there a further sub-breakdown for “Body”?

Maybe 10 points for round breasts, and 10 points for shiny areolae. Then 15 points for her ass, and another five for whether or not the b*tch could shake it.

It was a gift that kept on giving. Hey, as long as we are setting the women’s movement back a few generations, how about 20 points TOTAL for both personality AND intelligence?

The Super Secret Law of The Headhunter and the Job Interviews: “Smart girl, that one, and charming, but let’s hire the skank with the big knockers.”

Way to reinvent the woman; good job, Morley.  Well done, Trump.

Back at the Mrs. Universe pageant, I sat pondering the mental state of whoever came up with an award to be given to the “Best in Sexy Wear” when my ears zoned in on the cacophony of random comments from the onlookers in the peanut gallery.

As the women on stage moved forward towards the panel of judges, I moved back to stand within earshot of the “unofficial judges” in the crowd. Notepad in hand, I jotted down their comments (and my unspoken reactions).

You could say I sorted through the cacophony, because a friend dared me to use that word two times within 30 seconds.

Ay walang suso.” (I was surprised they didn’t say “dede.”)

Walang bra, nakakahiya! (I immediately went to verify this, in the name of journalism, of course.)

Maganda to, ma-chubby lang.” (made me think of Jolina Magdangal for some reason.)

Ang sikip ng damit, halatang pinilit (Ah, the poetry!  I had to see if that comment came from Gloc-9 himself!)

I finally had to stop my note-taking after this next one raised the roof and tore it down:

Dalawa lang ang maganda, pinaligiran na ng mga aso.”

Gems. Absolute gems were being thrown. I felt wealthy beyond my wildest imaginings. Was all this real?

Apparently there were considerations beyond “Best in Sexy Wear,” because the emcee proceeded to rattle off a list of consolation prizes. The term “Door prizes” came to mind, but what I ended up thinking was that these were the “Dog Prizes.”

Again, I am not making the following up.

Mrs. Friendship (for the type who always ended up in the friend zone).

Mrs. Personality (for that intelligent lady who scored only 20 points TOTAL).

Body beautiful (or as men called it, “The Hipon Award.”)

Mrs. Photogenic (for the lady who needed professional lighting to be appreciated.)

Mrs. Cosmopolitan (for, um… WTF? I have no idea what this means.)

Most Inspired (as opposed to Most Expired…?!?)

Golden Girl (Meh. This was Mrs. Universe, after all.)

Best Smile (for the lady who was least aware of what was really going on.)

Darling of the Crowd (for the lady with the most relatives in the audience.)

Mrs. Tourism (I found out later that “Tourism” was being used as some kind of euphemism for “Exotic” — which was funny because “Exotic” was already a euphemism for “Ugly But Strangely Preferred By Foreigners Who Frequent Burgos.”)

Mrs. Intelligence (for the most frightening woman in the room.)

Fashion Icon (for the tallest contestant with the smallest breasts.)

Finally, there was a consolation prize for the “Woman of The Night” — which I was guessing was given to the woman most likely to agree to a one-night stand.

(It puzzled me that they could award someone as “Woman of the Night” and still go on with the rest of the evening to crown a winner.)

Mirth and musing aside, listening to the list of awards gave me a slow realization. It was the kind where the camera jump-stopped, then slowly zoomed in on my slowly widening eyes as the music swept in. It was that moment when I was supposed to turn around and behold the truth.

It absolutely sucks to be judged.

I suddenly understood what this pageant REALLY celebrated — whether they intended to or not. Stay with me on this.

You ever watch a hopelessly outclassed boxer take a beating from The Champ for 12 rounds but never get knocked down? With both eyes swollen shut and his nose broken in three places, this patsy would crack a smile so wide you would think his jaw would fall off.  After the final bell, he would face the crowd with both arms raised like he was the champion — all because he stood there and took everything The Champ had, and then walked off the ring.

This is what separates a Woman from a Man: a heroism I could never hope to match.

A woman lives her life under constant scrutiny. She is jabbed, hooked, and beaten down by judgment. She cannot walk across a room without being measured. She cannot offer an opinion without being doubted. She cannot skip a shower, or order extra rice unnoticed. She cannot be in a position of importance without being asked who she slept with to get there.

She cannot eat a banana, lick an ice cream cone, or drop a pen on the floor and bend over to pick it up without… well, you know what I’m saying by now.

Meanwhile, men walk across the room all the time. We are anonymous. While Woman struggles daily with the weight of a thousand eyes on her, Man gets his business done without anyone getting in the way to ask for his phone number.

The Super Secret Law of God’s Gift To Women: It isn’t a Man, and it isn’t Beauty: it is Courage. The kind that can stand under a spotlight and say “Here I am, judge away, assholes.”

This is what beauty pageants celebrate. Not Beauty, but incredible Courage.

I was under a spotlight for one night and judged “third best.” Then I drove off to a mountain booing and hooing. Meanwhile, women have to deal with being judged every minute of every goddamned day.

Women walk into the ring and take that beating, then walk off with a smile.

Courage is what gets a woman across a room of laiteras. She wears her confidence — not as clothing, but as part of her skin. She learns to love who she is — never losing grace, or the smile on her face — despite being ranked and treated like a horse in a race.

I am a man and I know I cannot endure that kind of violence.

My slow turn is complete, and I am at the Mrs. Universe pageant again — suddenly and completely amazed. I am blown away with admiration for these women who I previously dared to judge for my own amusement.

It was now time for the dreaded question and answer portion — where the contestants got a chance to earn their whopping 20 points.

A man asked:  “Who do you think should decide how many children you can have? The couple or the state?”

Then a woman: “As a married woman, what advice can you give to all would-be wives and mothers?”

Another man: “How can a candidate in this pageant weave positive change?”

Maybe she can weave baskets. I shook my head at the questions.

I wanted to jump on the stage.  I knew the question they wanted to ask — the one that no one dared to phrase. In my mind I slipped on my chauvinist gloves, grabbed the microphone, and threw down the clincher:

Convince me that you’re not just another person with a vagina. That where you are in your life is because of your own merit and not from standing behind a man. That you are more than a source of entertainment and a receptacle for birthing children. That when people credit you for something, the sentence does not end with “…for a woman.”

I would follow that up with a math question.

Twelve rounds of boxing. Every round a loss. Bullied. Hopelessly overpowered, and yet both arms raised at the end. And a big smile — oh, what a big, beautiful smile.

100 points for “Taking it Like a Man.”

What Beautiful Courage these women have.

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