Anne Mungoma, the organiser of now controversial Miss Curvy pageant has told women activists that plus size women also need to be recognized just like their slim counterparts.
Since its launch in February, the pageant has been a center of criticism especially from some activists who describe the initiative as an ‘Objectification of the female body’.
Speaking during the just concluded Gender Identity Week dialogue on Friday, Ms Mungoma said she came up with the beauty pageant idea with an aim of empowering plus size women who are being margnialised because of their natural shapes.
The Gender Identity Week that took place at Makerere University was organized by the School of Women and Gender Studies in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden to discuss critical gender related issues.
“I want to change the narrative of beauty in Uganda. People think beauty is slim, which is not true. In Uganda almost 60 per cent of ladies are plus size and they are denied a chance to showcase beauty and fashion. Beauty pageants have been here and no one has ever come out to criticize Miss Uganda beauty contests which are meant for only slim women, does it mean that plus size women are not beautiful?” Mungoma wondered.
The advocate of plus size women also noted that these ladies have their natural bodies so they should be given a chance to be recognized in the beauty world.
“Society has branded the plus size women in different ways not in terms of beauty. They call us mothers, wives who should not be fronted on a runway but being a mother does not take away our intelligence, beauty and capabilities.”
Other than criticizing, Ms Mungoma called upon feminists to come out to fight for the rights of marginalized plus size women who among others are being chased out of their marriages and abused because of their sizes.
Dr Florence Ebila, a Senior Lecturer at Makerere University said Miss Curvy pageant to some extent subjects female bodies to male gaze where women are seen as sex objects.
“Such a pageant causes young women to conform to stereotype and they end up doing dangerous things like swallowing pills to get curves thinking that being curvy is the only way of being beautiful,” she said.
However, the academician advised women movements that they should not be divided because of the debate but set up a common ground to discuss the matter from an intellectual perspective.
Stella Maneno, a second year gender student said the pageant should be warmly welcomed by Ugandans since it gives plus size women platform to be recognized like their slim counterparts.
“It gives them self-esteem of expressing themselves freely, they feel they are part of the community,” said Maneno.
Another student, Stuart Nuwagaba said the pageant commodifies women in the name of promoting them.
“We should be enhancing their understating and capability but not parading them and selling them to male sex predators in the name of promoting tourism,”he stated.
“Miss curvy pageant in not the way to go in Uganda in this movement of feminism.”
At same event, Associate Professor Consolata Kabonesa, the Coordinator of Gender/ Sweden’s development cooperation in Uganda (Sida) project revealed that she doesn’t have any problem with the pageant but cautioned young women against growing ‘unnatural curves’ so that they take part in the contest.
“Young women need to know if you don’t have it, stay the way you are. They should not go for implants, injections and pills to get curves because they have health harzards,” said Prof Kabonesa.