Just today, I came across a news online about a petition not to hold the Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines in 2017. Some women’s groups want the pageant committee to reconsider its decision to hold the said pageant in the country due to some “elected leaders'” rather derogatory and demeaning attitude towards women.
As expected, there are those who oppose the idea and defended the country’s ability to host the prestigious event. One of them, and the one who caught my attention the most, was Miss Universe 1999 first runner-up Miriam Quiambao. She said that despite the disappointing disrespect of “certain leaders” towards women, holding the pageant in the country can actually be used as a campaign for women empowerment.
I think the way she sees women empowerment is just sad. It is sad that she sees women empowerment where women are pressured to conform to a certain, superficial standard of beauty. It is sad that she sees empowerment in subjecting women to the male gaze and objectification by making them flaunt their “flawless and carefully crafted body” in swim wears and glamorous gowns, where women are only able to prove their intelligence in just a matter of seconds with only a single question. It is sad that that she, together with a lot of women all over the world, sees empowerment in taking home a crown that stands for nothing but a mere stamp of approval for confirming to what others want to see in you, and not by being confident in your own, real skin.
Because personally, I think women empowerment is more than just having a pretty face and a perfect body. I think the real women empowerment is educating women and teaching them to believe they are beautiful and that they deserve to be honored regardless of their shape, size or color. It is teaching them that their skills, intelligence, and abilities are what define them as humans. It is teaching men to treat women with the respect that they deserve. It is teaching both men and women to treat each other with fairness and equality at all times.
So for the women out there who seek true empowerment, let us go beyond what is superficial. Let us not settle with just a crown and flattery.