Miss Universe contestants may lose more than their clothes in topless photo shoot

From paintings of Greek goddesses to photos of pinup girls. From Marilyn Monroe to Angelina Jolie. Mankind’s obsession with the female body has never waned.

For years, the Miss Universe pageant has fed this obsession under the guise that the contest represents the empowered women of today’s world.

The problem is that this pageant places women into a box labeled “ideal beauty”, which, to them, is defined by how pretty a woman looks as she walks in a bikini and an evening gown, and answers one simple question to show spectators that she does have a brain. So although the pageant pretends to celebrate women’s independence, it actually shackles them by scrutinizing them under a pink magnifying glass that filters out their minds and leaves only their aesthetic qualities.

Case in point: the recent Miss Universe topless photo scandal. In the controversial photo shoot, some of the Miss Universe contestants supposedly showed the world what beauty is by posing topless, wearing nothing but bikini bottoms and body paint.

I am not denying these women the right to pose topless if they want to. The contestants were given the choice whether to pose topless or not. But the fact that this was an official Miss Universe photo shoot shows that this pageant, however empowering it pretends to be, is still dedicated to the display of the female body. It is bad enough that nearly every minute of the televised pageant is based on appearance. The photo shoot proves that women are still objects to be looked at, not people to be loved, respected and cherished.

Miss Trinidad and Tobago said she felt liberated while posing for the photos. But she also freed others to judge her not on her character, but on her body. In the future, no one will remember what she contributed to Miss Universe. All we will remember is her body. She and the other contestants who posed topless do not know that they are giving others licenses to use their image for whatever purpose they desire — purposes that are usually not artistic.

Perhaps these women have forgotten that true liberation is liberation of the mind from the shackles and misconceptions of the past. True liberation is realizing that as a human being, one deserves respect and kindness. Demanding that you be respected and loved for yourself and not for your measurements is liberating. Finding inner strength is liberating — not prancing around half-naked in high heels. And if they do know this, the Miss Universe pageant doesn’t want to show us.

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