These beauty pageant contestants spoke on feminism

These beauty pageant contestants spoke on feminism

Speaking about feminism at a beauty pageant sounds almost as oxymoronic as going to the desert to catch fish - and yet it happens (the feminism, not the fish-catching). Historically, the contests are known for objectifying women, and judging them on the purely aesthetic bases of who has the prettiest face, or the best butt, or the whitest smile - but that hasn't stopped some contestants from speaking their mind on more important issues.

For instance, earlier this year, Miss America contestant Margana Wood made headlines after speaking about Donald Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville protests.

When one of the judges asked what she thought of the president's handling of the issue, the 22-year-old beauty queen said:

"I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious, that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should’ve made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now."

In Peru, however, contestants at a beauty pageant have gone one step further: not only using their platforms to discuss politics, but to make those political issues the central focus of their performance onstage.

Rather than giving their bust, waist and hip measurements, as contestants would normally do when called to the front of the stage, the beauty queens used the opportunity to present harrowing statistics about the problems still faced by women in the districts they represented.

Here is what some of them had to say:

"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."

"My name is Melina Machuca, I represent the department of Cajamarca, and my measurements are: more than 80% of women in my city suffer from violence."

"Almendra Marroquín here. I represent Cañete, and my measurements are: more than 25% of girls and teenagers are abused in their schools."

But the political statements didn't end there.

In a later segment of the competition, the women were paraded out in their bathing suits, which has often been considered the most degrading part of any beauty contest. However, in this particular pageant, the purposes of the swimsuit display were flipped: showing nudity was not something to be considered taboo or sexual, but as a demonstration of women's ownership over their own bodies.

"Women can walk out naked if they want to. Naked. It’s a personal decision," said Jessica Newton, a former beauty queen, and organiser of the Miss Peru pageant. "If I walk out in a bathing suit I am just as decent as a woman who walks out in an evening dress."

Moreover, in the final segment, participants were quizzed on what laws they'd like to change in order to tackle the high rates of "femicide" - women being murdered because of their gender.

In an interview online, Newton said that "Everyone who does not denounce and everyone who does not do something to stop this is an accomplice."

While it's easy to think that western society has achieved gender equality, and feminism is no longer necessary, it's important to remember those who are still suffering. Violence against women in Peru is startlingly high, but it's good to see women taking a stand for the issues which still affect them and millions of others across the globe.