One important objection to beauty contests is that they add to the pressure that is put on women as they promote an idea of female beauty, to which only a minority of woman can realistically aspire to. It is harmful to them as it encourages dieting, cosmetic surgery and eating disorders. It can also simply them feel inadequate and ugly.
In contrast to this the strongest argument in favour of beauty contests is that in a society in which women are valued on their looks, and in which there really are fewer opportunities for women than for men, beauty contests give women a chance to get noticed. They also can be the route to success if you win them. Many Hollywood actresses such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Sharon Stone are former beauty queens, who would simply not have had the opportunities they have had without winning the beauty contests.
Another argument against beauty contests is that women in beauty contests are judged on their physical appearance rather than on any other qualities that they may possess. Judging women but not men primarily on their looks, contributes to the subjugation of women because other qualities such as intelligence are not seen as part of ideal feminity and therefore not as things to which women should aspire.
On the other hand it is often stated that people enjoy beauty contests. Many women enjoy entering them, and many people enjoy watching them, and nobody is forced to do either. The beauty of a fit, healthy, well-proportioned human is something from which we can all take pleasure, and beauty contests along with other forms of art, are ways that enable us to do this.