I want to open up this topic and let people expand it because recently another post gave a scathing critique of beauty pageants as if they were destroying womanhood, promoting sexism, ruining women's health and that somehow these women were forced against their will to participate in this paternalistic corruption.
That is one opinion, but I don't see any possible way to concur with her assertion that one is not a good Catholic to watch a beauty pageant. It's only fair to clear this up. Clearly she has issues around feminism that colored her response, which was not apropos of the question.
She seemed to miss the point - could this be a SIN of concupiscence? There's no other way it could be a sin. An apologist must be careful to separate her personal opinions from Church doctrine. Just because we don't like the concept of beauty pageants does not mean "any Catholic" should feel the same way.
If a man or woman, in my opinion, enjoys the innocent excitement of women in pretty gowns, costumes and bathing suits, the way we enjoy much of God's beautiful creation, there is certainly no sin.
If we are watching with a lustful attitude, with the intent of physical or mental arousal, that surely is sinful. But I have never in my life seen anyone react to a simple beauty pageant as if it's a striptease act or something. Let's not be total prudes. These women are pretty and glamorous and it's fun to watch them, that's all. Women in most TV shows or movies display much more and are much more provocative.
As for the ladies having to possibly ruin their health by wearing heels, well, most young ladies do wear heels and somehow survive. Anything they do for the contest is because they want to. The are lucky to be pretty and talented and they are participating eagerly in a show that will bring the winners untold opportunities in scholarships, trips and social interaction. There is nothing degrading in that, as was implied.
So, the participants are not wrong, this is a free country and one can be a pageant contestant no matter how low someone else judges it to be. The observers have a pleasant time seeing lovely and feminine women who are a fine example compared to the trash on much of TV or the internet today. Their elegance and poise is something I would not hesitate for my sons or daughters to see.
I asked my priest what he thought, and he laughed out loud at the idea that a beauty pageant could be sinful to watch. Father did say, "as with any thing involving women, if a man is prone to lustful fantasies or over stimulation, he should not give in to those desires. However, that would not be the case for most normal men with a beauty pageant such as the Miss America type."