The milk scandal: Is Miss Rwanda a celebration of femininity?

With just a few days to the crowning of Miss Rwanda 2018, we were treated to the “faux-pas” of the Rwandan values as the men would like us to believe.

With just a few days to the crowning of Miss Rwanda 2018, we were treated to the “faux-pas” of the Rwandan values as the men would like us to believe.

A picture of the contestants milking a cow irked the so-called hardliners of Rwanda culture. Their mistake – the container used to capture the milk was a recycled plastic can that originally contained detergent. Our Rwandan culture supposedly dictates that milk should be collected in a calabash.

Their second mistake; the attire they wore. Clad in their sports gear – tight black adidas shorts with matching tops – the beauty pageants who were from a sporting session, were deemed to be inappropriate for the milking occasion.

I would not want to delve deep into whether the same standard would have been required had it been boys who were milking the cows in their sports attire as the issue of how girls should dress seems to be every other person’s decision than the girls themselves.

And, for the containers used, whichever farmer they visited ought to be recognised for his recycling efforts. The plastic menace is really putting pressure on our precious environment.

The bigger picture here is that we, as a society, need to seriously think about the purpose of Miss Rwanda.

Beauty pageants present idealistic expectations of what women are expected to look and behave like. This has led to the objectifying of women with feminists arguing that in today’s world, beauty pageants have no place. The whole idea of parading is a sort of objectification as it makes the contest an excuse to ogle women.

And, with audience sizes exploding as a result of social media, the reasoning that the competition is counterproductive to the fight for gender equality begins to hold water.

However, one thing we must appreciate Miss Rwanda for is the confidence they have given women from all corners of the country. The competition has drawn contestants from all provinces with each having the chance to earn the power and status that the crown brings.

The selection process involves training on how to speak well, dress appropriately and carry yourself elegantly.

Gone are the days when the pageants were all about beauty and winners were measured solely by their looks. For Miss Rwanda to remain relevant, substance must kick in. It is more about attitude and intellect.

Believe you me, staying calm under pressure requires a lot of practice. I have witnessed previous competitions where the girls had to think of a smart answer on the spot while maintaining their composure in front of daunting cameras, tough judges and large audiences. Many have come through exceptionally well.

Many of the contestants have gone on to progress in their respective careers. The contest has open doors, with the girls going on to become successful in their careers.

They learned to be disciplined and confident. Those who withstand the ridicule that comes with the contest develop thick skin – only making them stronger.

It is no-brainer that Miss Rwanda is a stepping stone for the girls to be influential, powerful and have a voice.

However, Rwanda has structured its society in such a way that girls do not need a beauty contest to earn their worth – every girl is a queen.

Meanwhile, good luck to the girls who’ll be battling it out for that coveted crown at the grand finale today.

The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.

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