The Miss Landmine Angola competition is a pageant that seeks to celebrate female empowerment and expand definitions of beauty. I’m no huge fan of pageants, and I can understand arguments against adopting regressive practices like beauty contests even in an effort to challenge beauty norms. Seeing women in bikinis isn’t exactly revolutionary; but seeing women whose bodies are outside of the thin, white, able-bodied ideal in bikinis can feel pretty ground-breaking. I especially like their Manifesto:
* Female pride and empowerment.
* Disabled pride and empowerment.
* Global and local landmine awareness and information.
* Challenge inferiority and/or guilt complexes that hinder creativity- historical, cultural, social, personal, African, European.
* Question established concepts of physical perfection.
* Challenge old and ingrown concepts of cultural cooperation.
* Celebrate true beauty.
* Replace the passive term ‘Victim’ with the active term ‘Survivor’
Can’t argue with that.
That said, though, there is still an issue with slotting women into the traditional femininity box in order to make her physical appearance more acceptable. I like that these women are unapologetic and proud of their bodies; however, BfP makes a good point:
Supposedly it is to be used as a way to raise awareness–but is it really necessary to call a woman “Miss Landmine” to get the damn point across? And what with Heather Mills dancing in the Dancing with the Stars show–I’m wondering, should we call her Miss Car Accident if she wins the competition?
Perhaps I am too cynical?
Unfortunately, it looks like I was too quick to voice my approval of this project — Black Looks highlights the fact that the contest is being used to promote designer clothes in fashion magazines:
My mind is not in a place where I can think clearly but my gut reaction to this is that it is highly offensive, disgusting exploitation of African women. In the background of some of the photos there are these white people smiling and glowing as they make up and dress the women – like mannequins. Putting the issue of beauty pageants aside and the patronising comments on Western opinions and African cultural traditions etc, it is still an inappropriate tool which objectifies women beside landmine survivors are men as well as women. Even the use of the words Miss Landmine is horrible. And who the hell is going to be buying these glossy magazines and wearing these fancy clothes? Certainly not the women survivors who are poor unemployed women?
I stand corrected.
Thanks to Luther for the link, and Damia in the comments.
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