A beauty pageant with a cause
12-Nov-2017


“My name is Camila Canicoba and I represent the department of Lima. My measurements are: 2202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country.” During the Miss Universe Peru beauty pageant, the 23 contestants walked across the stage in glittering gold dresses and spoke directly into the microphone. Rather than share their measurements, as is typical of that segment of the pageant, the women shared stats regarding violence against women in their country. While the change in the program was seen as shocking, the use of pageants to highlight serious issues affecting women deserves further attention.

Beauty pageants are hardly known for being political, or even politically correct: many feminists denounce them for perpetuating unrealistic body types for women and the notion that women should just aspire to be a pretty face. In recent years, pageants have moved beyond looks to also focus on contestants with leadership qualities; winners of the crown may also engage in raising awareness for a social issue, as is the case with the Miss Universe pageant. While the main focus of a beauty pageant is still going to be the contestants’ appearances, why can’t they also be used as a platform to discuss issues pertaining to women?

Beauty pageants are a great platform to address women’s issues. Although some people argued online that the public wouldn’t take the violence against women statistics seriously because they were brought up at a pageant, the fact remains that pageant contestants, although they may look and seem perfect onstage, are also real women who go through the same issues as everyone else. The idea for the Miss Universe Peru contestants came to the pageant organizers after they learned how many of the women had been raped or assaulted. In countries such as Peru, Colombia and the Philippines, pageants have a huge following, while the Miss Universe contest captures the attention of the entire world. This following includes millions of impressionable young girls who would greatly benefit from hearing the women they admire or aspire to emulate discussing issues that may hit close to home.

In the end, the Miss Peru pageant sparked a discussion online about violence against women in the country. Later this month, the contestants plan to lead a march in the country’s capital, proving that beauty pageants can be more than just a celebration of women’s beauty. As society becomes more aware conscious of social issues, there is no reason why pageants cannot evolve and be used as platforms to spread awareness and change for women.


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