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Beauty pageant contestants seize platform for change

by Breonnah Colon - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Nov 14th 2017 10:00 pm

Latinx culture has a very long and even shameful history with the patriarchy, the social structure in which men hold primary power and importance over women, their lesser counterparts. According to the patriarchy, women are perceived as less capable of carrying out simple tasks, like thinking for themselves, and are pretty much incapable of doing much more than bearing children, cooking and cleaning. 

A common aspect of Latinx culture is machismo. According to dictionary.com, the term machismo refers to “strong or aggressive masculine pride.” For many Latino and Hispanic men, the notion of machismo goes beyond mere pride; it is the very essence of their being, it is who they are as much as their own blood is. 

It is very important to focus on the reasoning for this emasculating logic, because while men are the invisible victims of the patriarchal system, meaning they may not be aware of the detrimental effects of the patriarchy, Latina women are very clear and blatant victims. 

To “not be manly” enough is just a euphemism for saying someone is “too womanly.” For every male characteristic lacking, there is a female counterpart that is too prevalent in the man’s behavior. A man who isn’t aggressive enough is soft like a woman. A man who is not strong enough is weak like a woman. A man who cries or  shows fear is too emotional like a woman. 

While all these phrases may be seen as insulting, we have to ask why. Well, because according to machismo culture, the biggest insult to being a man, and his biggest fear, is being compared to a woman. 

The flip side to the machismo culture is forcing women to be lesser in practically every aspect of social life. Less aggressive, less outspoken, less bold. Sex is only one aspect where women are expected to be “more” in. Latinas are known for their voluptuous curves, soft lips, long, thick, curly hair and moving their hips either in sensual dances or during very passionate bouts of lovemaking. Oh, and thick, but adorably sexy accents.

Latina women are constantly put under the sexual microscope for their bodies, way of dress and manner of speaking. They have learned to fight to be seen as who they are rather than the fantasies men have, latinx or otherwise, but also to do it on their own terms. One of the most recent and widespread ways this was done was through the Miss Peru Beauty Pageant.

The New York Times explained that when the beauty contestants were asked to give their body measurements, contestants instead gave statistics of abuse faced by women in their respective countries. Facts about young female infants being killed for their gender, as well as cases of violence against women in public, were shared by different contestants speaking on behalf of women targeted in their society. The New York Times regarded this giving of information as a “defiant display.”

Apparently, many others agreed. The contest, which is a huge practice in Latin America, got international coverage. News outlets such as NPR and HuffPost were scandalized by the move made by the contestants.

NPR explained the situation as thus: “Viewers of the Miss Peru pageant on Sunday were startled when the 23 contestants strutted onstage in sequined gold mini dresses, introduced themselves, said “My measurements are ...” and then stated facts regarding violence against women.

My inner feminist is so proud of these women, who didn’t shy away from the weight their gender carries, but rather decided to clunk it down right on stage where the entire Latin American and eventually the global community could see it. The truth of the matter is that the facts shared by the beauty contestants are nothing new to Latinas. It doesn’t matter that they wore “gold mini dresses” or that they use the pageant they were competing in as a platform to speak on these issues. Much too often society looks at Latinas, but never truly sees or hears us. Therefore, we must speak louder and make ourselves be seen more, in order for our voices to be heard and our messages seen.

We are here, we are more than our sex and we are greater than our sexuality. Somos hermosos, fuertes y intelligente. No amount of masculine ideology will ever take away our own identities. 

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