Miss Peru 2017 Shifted the Conversation from Bra Sizes to Gendered Violence

When contestants in the Miss Peru beauty pageant step up to the microphone to introduce themselves, they’re supposed to state their name, their hometown and their hip, waist and bust measurements. Now, you may be shocked to learn that women are expected to announce their bra size on a televised stage. Keep reading: that’s not the most shocking part of this story.

Because when Camila Canicoba came forward to introduce herself, she chose to share a different statistic: “My name is Camila Canicoba and I represent the department of Lima,” she said. “My measurements are: 2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country.” Each of the 23 contestant then presented themselves with a statistics of gendered violence rather than their body size.

“My name is Juana Acevedo and my measurements are: more than 70% of women in our country are victims of street harassment.”

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

“My name is Luciana Fernández and I represent the city of Huánuco, and my measurements are: 13,000 girls suffer sexual abuse in our country.”

“My name is Romina Lozano and I represent the constitutional province of Callao, and my measurements are: 3,114 women victims of trafficking up until 2014.”

The theme of gendered violence carried through the event. Newspaper clippings were displayed behind the contestants during the swimwear portion of the competition, showcasing the stories and faces of women who have suffered gender-biased crimes. Then, instead of answering questions about dating advice, the final segment of the show had each woman speak to which laws they would alter to combat violence against women.

Most audience members and media outlets applauded these women for standing up and speaking out about the . But not everyone is impressed: some have called the show hypocritical, stating that beauty pageants reinforce the objectification of women.

Which isn’t completely off tune—there is, and always has been, a complicated relationship between beauty pageants and feminism. Pageants can be empowering and fun, but they’re also said to be systematically outdated and restrictive; they can cultivate a stereotypical definition of what’s beautiful and place limits on what we consider female success.

But it’s a women’s prerogative to put on a bikini and strut across a stage. These pageants are about confidence, which is something that the contestants of Miss Peru 2017 put on full display. They knew the entire South American nation would be watching, and they acted in true solidarity.

“Now, nobody can be indifferent to the level of violence,” Susána Chavez, director of Promsex, a gender rights group in Peru, told The New York Times. “These competitions focus on many stereotypes about women and judge them by their physical characteristics, but they impact a broad group of women and men that we [feminist groups] do not reach. We’ve never seen a time when there is more awareness about the problem [of gender violence].”

We should be shocked to hear a women be asked to announce her body measurements to an audience. We shouldn’t be shocked to hear that violence against women is a mass problem that needs to be addressed. Kudos to this courageous group of Peruvian women; if you have a platform, use it to mobilize, speak up and raise awareness. Whoever you are, and wherever you are.