The use of public funds for beauty contests has been declared illegal in Oaxaca, making it the first state to define such events as “symbolic violence.”
State and municipal government institutions face legal sanctions and fines if they allocate resources to events where women and girls are judged by their physical characteristics. However, the law does not ban such events from taking place.
The legal modification bans “the use of public resources for the type of events where the physical characteristics of girls, youths and women are evaluated.”
“This legal action also prevents governing institutions from using such events to promote tourism or for official publicity,” the text continues.
The initiative was promoted by the state’s Permanent Commission for Gender Equality. The president of the commission, Morena Deputy Magaly López, said the modifications sought to dispel the gender based stereotypes upheld by beauty pageants. She said it was necessary to change cultural practices that are damaging to women.
Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved a similar measure in February. “Promoting competitions among women based on their physical attributes promotes sexist and ‘macho’ patterns that stigmatize, objectify, and minimize the role women play in our society,” the bill’s text reads.
It defines symbolic violence as “the expression, transmission or broadcasting by any media, whether privately or publicly, discourses, messages, or stereotypical patterns, signs, values, icons, and ideas that transmit, reproduce, justify, or normalize the subordination, inequality, discrimination, and violence against women in society.”
Beauty pageants are popular spectacles in Mexico. The country is home to three Miss Universe winners, most recently Andrea Meza from Chihuahua, who wore a costume based on the artisanal alebrije tradition, which is closely associated with Oaxaca.
The southern state has been a focal point for feminist politics in recent years. In the 2018 election the state Congress became majority female for the first time in its history; the following year the state became only the second in the country to decriminalize abortion before 12 weeks’ pregnancy for any reason; the first was Mexico City. Some other states allow abortion in cases of rape or to protect the life of the mother.
Globally, beauty competitions are experiencing something of a political revolution, according to the newspaper El País. “At the last Miss World, held in 2019, history was made when the first black woman took the crown … a year earlier, Ángela Ponce, a Spanish transsexual. won the contest in Spain … Swe Zin Htet, the representative of Myanmar in the Miss Universe competition, also broke the molds and was the first competitor to openly declare herself homosexual.”