These days, beauty pageants are widely considered to be sexist, outdated and generally just a bit embarrassing. But despite social attitudes having rendered them virtually irrelevant, many competitions have failed to modernise, with contestants still facing pressure to lose weight and adhere to stereotypical definitions of beauty and femininity. Beauty pageants are hardly renowned for their feminist credentials.
The organisers of one recent contest, however, decided to buck that trend. Miss Peru 2018, which took place on Sunday, was a wholly feminist affair, with contestants reeling off facts and statistics about gender-based violence in the country rather than their own measurements, Buzzfeed reported.
In place of their own dress size, height, weight or bra size, the women highlighted the alarming extent of femicide, trafficking, sexual abuse, street harassment and violence against women in the South American country.
“My name is Camila Canicoba and I represent the department of Lima. My measurements are 2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country,” said one contestant. Another, Juana Acevedo, added: "My measurements are more than 70% of women in our country are victims of street harassment.”
Melina Machuca, also taking part, said: "I represent the department of Cajamarca, and my measurements are more than 80% of women in my city suffer from violence.” Meanwhile Romina Lozano, who eventually won the competition, claimed to represent the constitutional province of Callao. "My measurements are 3,114 women victims of trafficking up until 2014.”
Raising awareness of violence against women was the overriding theme of the night, which was organised by Jessica Newton, a former beauty queen, whose aim with the event was to "empower women". “Everyone who does not denounce and everyone who does not do something to stop this is an accomplice,” she told Buzzfeed.
When asked why the contestants were still required to be scantily clad considering the pageant's feminist intentions, Newton said she wanted to reinforce the notion that women should be respected regardless of what they wear. “Women can walk out naked if they want to. Naked. It’s a personal decision,” she argued. “If I walk out in a bathing suit I am just as decent as a woman who walks out in an evening dress.”