Talk about resistance in unlikely places. Facing horrific rates of violence against women- the week before, the hashtag #PeruPaisdeVioladores (Peru Country of Rapists) was trending – the contestants for Sunday’s Miss Peru beauty pageant flipped the script in their introductions, with each replacing the usual grotesque reciting of her measurements with grim statistics on domestic violence.
The protest came in the wake of skyrocketing stories of assault and violence: An estimated 7 out of 10 women, many young, are said to experience some form of abuse, putting Peru second only to Bolivia in South America. Last year, after a video that recorded a naked man dragging his girlfriend by her hair earned him only a suspended sentence and modest fine, thousands of women marched on Lima in “a cry against impunity.” The video, said one protest organizer, was “the drop that filled the glass” – final proof that “No one will protect us. The State is definitely not going to be there.”
“My name is Camila Canicoba. My measurements are 2,202 cases of murdered women in the last nine years.”
The pageant echoed that anger. Images of news stories about violence against women periodically flashed behind the contestants – especially incongruous as they pranced in bathing suits – and final interviews focused not on hobbies but what laws they’d propose to battle the violence. Wearing gold sequined gowns, the women set the tone at the start: As each approached the mike to declare their names and (usually, ignominiously) their bust, waist and hip measurements, they offered, often defiantly, other numbers. “My name is Camila Canicoba,” said the first. “My measurements are 2,202 cases of murdered women in the last nine years.” From Belgica Guerra, “My measurements are 65% of university women are assaulted by their partners.”
From winner Romina Lozano, “My measurements are 3,114 female victims of trafficking until 2014.” Within minutes, the hashtag #MisMedidasSon (My measurements are) began trending across Peru. Jessica Newton, the pageant’s organizer and a former winner, defended the protest in all its dissonance – including the supremely objectifying bathing suits. Women should be respected, she argued, no matter what, if anything, they wear. Miss Peru must be “the ambassador of ordinary women,” she said, “of all women who have no voice.”
Abby Zimet is a staff writer for Commondreams.org.