Regularly scheduled programmes were interrupted today in order to go live to an important press conference in the Choliseo coliseum. The important press conference which somehow justified interrupting my soap opera about a priest who is friends with his first girlfriend and is going to marry her and her hubby who is also his friend but then suddenly her sister interrupts the wedding and tells everyone she is having sissie’s hubby to be’s baby! I know, how could you interrupt that! MAYBE for a natural disaster…
I actually wasn’t watching my soap because, don’t tell anyone but I was busy reading and I failed to do my junk tv duty on time. So, when I realize I’m missing my cutie priest soap I encounter a countdown till Zuleyka Rivera (current Miss Universe) comes back to the island. Because really, I give a fuck.
The first thing I hear as I watch this nefarious newscast is a promoter and Very Important Person earnestly stating that he feels that the planned reception and “Fiesta de Pueblo” is important to help restore the image of Puerto Rico. Because, recently we have been represented by horrible images. Having had the experience in his travels of seeing that we were being represented internationally by the images of people marching on the streets and breaking things in the capitol building he feels we need to erase those images from public view. The new images of receiving an emaciated and surgically enhanced beauty queen will help to restore the image of Puerto Rico. We will be seen proudly receiving a successful Puerto Rican and will be seen partying and happy again. No more restless natives. No more angry brown people. We will be happy because a Puerto Rican woman was declared officially Pretty in a purportedly international forum. Go us!
Then, some woman from the Department of Tourism went on to second the first guy’s words and declare that as part of the tourism industry and as a woman she felt complete pride in Zuleyka’s accomplishments. Yes, I too think that walking on a stage in Very High Heels reflects well on the struggle of women for equality, to be recognized as more than sexual objects, to have equal pay for equal positions, employment, health insurance and housing rights. Yup. Very High Heels. They are the key. Oh and mascara and the strength required to tolerate Vaseline on your teeth for that sparkly (chemically whitened) smile.
I am offended by these declarations. I am ashamed. I would rather be represented by people in acts of civil disobedience and protest for a disastrous and irresponsible budgetary crisis that left thousands without pay. I would rather be represented by strikes and by huge crowds defending our rights as a people than by a skinny teenager in Very High Heels. I would much prefer that we been seen by other nations as a politically involved people who fight for justice and not as the nation who has produced more Pretty Girls who can walk in Very High Heels (and wear heavy metal dresses although not without falling over and fainting on stage and denying eating discorders despite not having been suggested to have one). And our ability to party in the streets is cool but not something I am particularly invested in.
As a woman, I feel pained that we are still selling the beauty myth so aggressively and persistently. Never mind social justice, just make sure you are skinny and you can smile pretty.
I think Mayra Montero put it best when she wrote about her shock seeing the Lebanese representative on stage while her country was being ravaged by war: “Su país muriéndose y ella meneándose en tarima. Eso son los valores del Universo: el vacío, el egoísmo y la banalidad” (El Nuevo Día, La Revista 20 Julio 2006).