Feminism, Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 08/25/2009

The New Miss Universe Thinks We’re Post-Feminism

Stefania Fernandez

Stefania Fernandez

Stefania Fernandez, the 18-year-old Miss. Venezuela, won the 2009 Miss Universe crown on Sunday. 

Normally, I’d probably just sigh and say something sassy. To me, the reasons why beauty pageants are sexist/anti-feminist and just plain stupid are pretty freakin obvious– such as blatant objectification and valuing beauty above all else. Again, the self-esteem excuse is complete crap. If being judged almost entirely on the way you look is building your self-esteem, well all I’ll say is there’s a hella lot more you could be proud of yourself for than something (like looks) that is mostly beyond your control. I say mostly because I guess starvation, hair removal, and the use of excessive makeup could be in your control, but that’s a WHOLE other story. 

I didn’t watch the pageant. So when fbomb reader Katherine sent me this yahoo article about the Miss Universe pageant…well, I was rather pissed off. 

During the question and answer segment, Fernandez said that she believes men and women are equal, stating, “I feel we have reached the level that men are at.”

When asked how she thought beauty contests promoted equality between men and women (doesn’t the fact that they asked that question that way say so much in and of itself?) Fernandez responded, “We have quite a following worldwide. We are models to follow.”

I find this absolutely fascinating for several reasons. 

1) She’s From Venezuela 

Of the entire Venezuelan workforce, only 31.9% are women, and of those with work 63.8% receive an income of less than 500 Bolivares per month ($260 at the official exchange rate, $120 at unofficial). Venezuela also has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean, and around 5 women are killed weekly in gender related violence. (Venezuelanalysis)

And that’s just her own country. 

Also, Zuleika L. once posted right here on the fbomb about her views of feminism in Venezuela. Her opinion was a little different than Fernandez’s. 

Miss Venezuela is MY role model!

2) Having a Following = Equality

I don’t understand that argument. Just because people are watching you doesn’t mean that they, in the very least, look up to you, which is what I think she was getting at. I think perhaps she just doesn’t have any concept of what real issues are, and what real role models are. I’m supposed to look up to you because you look good in a bikini and can (sort of…not really) ANSWER a couple of questions? I’m sorry…why? 

3) This Performance Took Place at this Pageant 

Yeah girls. Who needs feminism when you can just grow up to be on a reality TV show (do nothing), and then move on into the world of talentless pop stars? It’s even high-school-education-optional! We truly are blessed as women to have these kinds of options. 

So, yeah, that comment pissed me off JUST A LITTLE bit. Again, the idea that we don’t need feminism anymore (…we do…) and the whole idea of girls looking up to beauty contestants when there are so many other WORTHY role models. 

You know what’s cool? Using your brain. That’s what’s up.

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  • Hope Springs Internal @ at 1:37 pm, August 25th, 2009

    Wow, this is pretty absurd. Of COURSE we need feminism! I really can’t believe that. And as for using your brain? That’s DEFINITELY what’s up! Great post addressing and appalling topic. There are still beauty pageants? Really???? That alone is upsetting enough!

  • Jen @ at 1:49 pm, August 25th, 2009

    Good job taking her statements apart. You’re right on. :)

  • Emma Jayne Cooper @ at 4:10 pm, August 25th, 2009

    Bravo, well put! What nonsense! Miss Universe should maybe open her eyes and she’d see so much more of it…

  • Sarah @ at 3:58 pm, August 26th, 2009

    Miss. Venezuela said that so she could earn the male judges’ votes, OBVI.

  • Becca @ at 10:05 pm, August 26th, 2009

    Actually, the scary thing is that some women (and men) actually believe that feminism is no longer needed, and it is quite possible Miss Venezuela is one of those people.

    You’ve done a fantastic job of pointing out why this is such a flawed position to take, Julie, and I sincerely hope there aren’t too many young girls out there taking Miss Venezuela’s statements to heart.

  • Becca @ at 10:06 pm, August 26th, 2009

    *correction: I guess I should have referred to her as “Miss Universe”.

  • Henry @ at 11:04 pm, August 26th, 2009

    Honestly I don’t understand why you are all so worried that feminism might not be needed, isn’t the fact that she feels equal, kind of the point. You should be proud that she feels that way, if she is wrong or right isn’t the question its the fact that if she felt lower then men she would of never said that and that is the whole point is it not?

  • jess @ at 2:48 pm, August 27th, 2009

    What world does Miss Venezuela live in? Fairy World???
    Henry dear, the point of all this anger is that, if we really do live in a post-feminist world, none of the following could happen:
    -Rape.
    -People thinking a woman in a miniskirt deserves “it”.
    -lesbian love would be recognized as love and not a way to attract men.
    -”Bulging Brides” wouldn’t exist at all.
    -doctors, nurses, teachers, and cartoonists would be regarded as role models (that was me, future animator)

  • Becca @ at 6:08 pm, August 27th, 2009

    Henry- you’re making a good point. However, you’re also making a fairly steep assumption.

    Sexism is very rarely obvious. Our society is one that has sexist and even misogynistic attitudes very deeply ingrained into it, to the point where it can be tricky to differentiate sometimes. How often do you hear the term “slut” thrown around? How often do you hear the phrase “she was asking for it” when a woman wearing a miniskirt is assaulted?

    The point is, just because people are not able to *recognize* sexism does not mean it isn’t there. It’s very likely that Miss Fernandez has spent her whole life surrounded by pageantry, to the point where it seems normal and even healthy to her.

    The fact that Miss Fernandez feels equal isn’t at issue here. It is whether her own actions match up to her statements. This is where the disparity comes in.

  • K8 AH @ at 11:14 pm, August 27th, 2009

    Julie, thanks for writing about the article that I sent you! It made my day! Excellently done as usual! Great research too! Like I said it instantly angered me when I read it and you were the first person I that I wanted to share with immediately.

  • Henry @ at 12:32 am, August 28th, 2009

    Wow, if you think i’m making the assumption, you should read some of this from where i sit. Rape is never right, abuse is never right towards men or women, and I have never heard some one say that a woman deserves “it” when they wear a mini skirt. And as a Canadian lesbian love is recognized as real love not just for show. But I digress, the point of feminism isn’t to fix the worlds problems but for women to feel like that have a choice to do whatever they want, and if that is to be Miss universe or a doctor or whatever that is there call, and she should be backed for not letting anyone tell her different.

  • snowflake @ at 12:56 pm, August 28th, 2009

    It doesn’t piss me off at all. I disagree with her, but hey, it’s her loss. I think it’s ignorant of her to say something like that. However, it doesn’t make me personally mad.

  • Julie @ at 11:26 pm, September 7th, 2009

    Henry, how does it help me to *feel* like I can do what I want, when I really can’t? How does it help me to *feel* that I am being treated equal to a man, when I still get paid less to do his job, when I still get discriminated against in a job interview because people know a woman my age might be looking to start a family (I’m not) and go on maternity leave? How does it help me to *feel* that I am treated equally when it’s not actually safe for me to walk in my own neighborhood at night because I could be assaulted or raped?

    Actually, *feeling* like I am treated equal when I’m really not is more dangerous for me, because I won’t protect myself, and I won’t fight for my rights. Ever heard of a guilded cage?

  • Toongrrl(formerly known as Jess) @ at 12:08 am, September 14th, 2009

    Well put Henry.

  • dare2believe @ at 2:59 pm, September 16th, 2009

    When I was little I used to watch those beauty contests. Afterwards, I wore the most revealing panties and bikinis I had and walked “Sexily” around the house. My parents just laughed.
    Yeah, really great role models, don’t you think?

  • Kori @ at 11:44 pm, November 30th, 2009

    @Henry
    So lesbians are recognized in canida? Thats great, its not in america, and ill bet its not in a bunch of other countries too!

    YOu know nothing of feminism if you think its all about letting women do whatever we want.

  • Irritated @ at 5:19 am, December 29th, 2009

    I’m honestly shocked that I’m the first to mention this..

    “Who needs feminism when you can just grow up to be on a reality TV show (do nothing), and then move on into the world of talentless pop stars? It’s even high-school-education-optional!”

    Your… attitude toward ‘high-school-education-optional’ Is incredibly offensive. I don’t like the fact that you associate beauty contestants with education level at all.

    Having a high education won’t make you a smart, informed feminist… And being a drop-out won’t make you an ignorant, vapid sex-object.

  • Beauty Pageants: What You Should Do Instead | fbomb @ at 11:02 am, January 19th, 2011

    [...] attention to beauty pageants anymore. My reasons for hating them are pretty obvious and I’ve written about them here before. They blatantly objectify women. If they’re boosting “self-esteem,” as pageant [...]

  • Natalia @ at 1:42 pm, January 25th, 2012

    “2) Having a Following = Equality

    I don’t understand that argument. Just because people are watching you doesn’t mean that they, in the very least, look up to you, which is what I think she was getting at.”

    Excellent point. She is just a (passive and pretty) image and people look at her, way different than looking up to her.

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