Miss Papua New Guinea loses title in TikTok twerking scandal as critics claim double standard
The international outcry over Miss Papua New Guinea effectively being stripped of her title over a few seconds of twerking in her soccer training clothes is bringing awareness to how strictly pageant programs control their participants.
The decision of the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant PNG (MPIP PNG) committee to "release" Miss PNG has been met with backlash from female advocacy groups.
A soccer team captain, 25-year-old Lucy Maino is proud of her accomplishments on and off the field. Losing her title over complaints from local conservatives who say that a few seconds of dancing means she is no longer fit to be a role model for young women was a step too far in the eyes of international women's advocates.
The UN delegation condemned the move as not constructive, and evidence of the very bullying against women that has cost lives in PNG.
Allan Bird, East Sepik province governor and co-chair of the Coalition of Parliamentarians against Gender-Based Violence, went a step further to say, "What kind of society condemns the torture and killing of women yet get upset when a young woman does a dance video?"
The dispute reflects dissent within a society that both persecutes and even kills women for not adhering to strict roles of domesticity and "purity," while at the same time expecting them to adhere to set standards of beauty.
Other pageant participants think differently
There are many people who feel that pageant participants' involvement in activities traditionally seen as less "feminine" should be viewed as a positive development.
Brittany Hazelman Cox is another athlete turned pageant pro. A former Miss World Fiji, Cox also had a successful career as international basketball player.
This was on top of initially playing basketball on scholarship for Brigham Young University – Hawaii and graduating with a BA in political science.
Winning Miss World Fiji in 2015 helped reaffirm to onlookers that Brittany's ability to serve as a "role model" didn't have to conform to outdated norms of womanhood.
Fighting for women
Critics of 2021's Miss Papua New Guinea might not have been on board with a pageant winner wearing camouflage either.
Former Miss India Texas, Miss Bollywood USA, and Miss Pakistan USA contestant Hinna Akhtar was one of the youngest sergeants in her company in the US Army.
Now a nurse working with Hollywood A-listers, Hinna feels free to be both successful and chic. She proves that a woman should be able to model regularly as well as write children's books, without harsh judgement or criticism that she isn't adhering to someone else's standards.
She makes time to act, run a business, and take stunning shots for the internet, showing that women should be able to feel safe in their own bodies, without anybody else dictating how they should behave.
In her campaign as Miss Pakistan USA, she shared, "I can show [young women] that anything is possible because I chose to be a nursing student, a beauty queen, a philanthropist, a business owner, a US Army veteran because I believed in myself to make it possible, just as they can too."
Hopefully, the Miss PNG committee will take note of how a society produces successful women through empowerment – not censorship.
Cover photo: collage: Facebook / Miss PNG Lucy Maino 2019