miss peru

Miss Peru 2018 Tackles Gender-Based Violence

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Amanda Moser

Fan of tattoos, David Bowie, and dogs with short legs. Not necessarily in that order.

If you’re like me, when you think of beauty pageants you think of hairspraying swimsuits in place, very white smiles, BIG hair, flaming batons, drunken paint parties, Gracie Lou, and wishes for “world peace”. Or maybe that’s just Miss Congeniality

Miss Peru

Either way, you probably know the basic formula for a major pageant. Ball gowns + big smiles + swimsuits + world peace = beauty pageant. With a healthy dash of criticism. You know, just for fun.   

You probably have a few opinions about pageants as well. Pageants are often criticized for objectifying the women who participate in them, while the women themselves are often berated for choosing to compete in them in the first place.

While many contestants have given attention-grabbing answers to judges’ questions, especially recently, pageants aren’t generally looked to for advice about how to change the lives of women for the better.

That is until the Miss Peru 2018 pageant in October, where the contestants and organizers used their platform in a wholly new and impressive way: to highlight violence against women in Latin America.

Rather than introducing themselves with their bodily measurements, the contestants, who came from different areas of the country, instead gave their name, their region, and a statistic about gender-based violence and femicide (the intentional murder of women). The statistics ranged from particular regions to their countries as a whole.

Miss Peru

Here are just a few of the “measurements” given by Miss Peru contestants::

  • Camila Canicoba, of Lima: “…2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country…”
  • Juana Acevedo: “…More than 70% of women in our country are victims of street harassment…”
  • Luciana Fernández, of Huánuco: “…13,000 girls suffer sexual abuse in our country…”
  • Melina Machuca, of Cajamarca: “…More than 80% of womenin my city suffer from violence…”
  • Almendra Marroquín, of Cañete: “…More than 25% of girls and teenagers are abused in their schools…”
  • Bélgica Guerra, of Chincha: “…the 65% of university women who are assaulted by their partners…”
  • Romina Lozano, of Callao: “…3,114 women victims of trafficking up until 2014…”
  • Melody Calderon, of La Libertad: “…61% of attacks on girls under five years old are committed by people close to the family…”

At an event designed, essentially, to judge women, these contestants decided to highlight and bring awareness to the gender-based horrors facing women across Latin America.

Miss Peru
Miss Peru 2018, Romina Lozano

Violence against women was the overall theme of the night — not just from the contestants, but from the judges’ questions and organizers as well, as images and newspapers clippings of murdered and assaulted women were displayed on the backdrop throughout the show.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, contestants were asked what laws they would change to address the issue of femicide, and Romina Lazono, the Miss Peru 2018 winner proposed the creation of “a database with the data of each aggressor, not just femicide,” and for women to “be able to protect ourselves.”

These women chose to take an active stand, to point out problems and offer up real, attainable solutions to help with the violence women face in their country. All while on stage, on television, in front of millions of people, in evening gowns and high heels.

The pageant organizer and former Miss Peru winner, Jessica Newton, came up with the idea of using the pageant as a magnifier for gender-based violence as a way to empower women.

The issue of gender-based violence is prevalent all throughout Latin America. Drawing attention to the violence women face in Latin American countries has also been at the forefront of the #NiUnaMenos movement.

Miss Peru
Ni Una Menos march in Santiago, Chile, on October 19, 2016. Via thebubble.com

Ni Una Menos, or Not One Less, began in Argentina in 2015 where the number of femicides is so high it’s considered a national emergency.

It’s defined as a “collective cry against machista violence,” and aims both to change the culture of hyper-masculinity and bring forth justice for victims of gender-based violence.

Created by a collective of Argentine female artists, journalists, and academics, the campaign has since spread to many Latin American countries and deals with issues of femicide, gender roles, sexual harassment, gender pay gap, sexual objectification, abortion, the rights of sex workers, and transgender rights. 

These women, like millions of others around the world, throughout history, have decided to take a stand for themselves, for others like them. They are taking back their power, demanding changes be made. They are rewriting their own narratives, much like the women of the Miss Peru 2018 pageant did.

Conversations surrounding beauty pageants are often difficult to maneuver and fraught with tension. It’s hard for some people to critique the idea of judging women based on their looks without also maligning the women who participate in it.

Regardless of your personal feelings surrounding beauty pageants, it’s easy to recognize that the women, and organizers, of the Miss Peru 2018 pageant decided to use their position in this competition to rewrite the standard narrative of beauty pageants for the better.

The more attention we draw to the injustices faced by those in positions of vulnerability, the more knowledge and empathy we impart, the more solutions we offer up, the better the world will be.

We all have to do our part.

These women, these beauty pageant contestants, these protestors on the street, are doing what they can to make the world a better place.

They are taking steps that will definitely, absolutely, help bring about the all-elusive pageant wish: world peace.