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Enabling sleaze

01 December 2018

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

In life there will always be willing victims and enablers.

This was the reason why we had that disgusting spectacle of 10 nearly naked Filipina domestic workers parading in a Wanchai bar before some predatory male patrons, on the ridiculous excuse that they were having a beauty contest.

Were if not for the participants’ willingness to flaunt their bodies hidden only by the tiniest of thongs and silicone strips to cover their breasts the whole event would not have happened.

And if there was no enabler like Roselyn who organized the sleaze fest and allowed a photographer in, there would have been no photos to be ogled at, passed around and held up for contempt by many.

But Roselyn may have been a victim herself.

In her world, putting together a show that allowed the women to flaunt all that they had, and perform stunts that appealed to men’s basest instinct was par for the course.

This could be gleaned in her decision to send out posters advertising the racy “beauty contest” giving out her full name and telephone number, and then later attacking people who shared the pictures from what she called a private event.

Roselyn was egged on and not taken to task because the participants themselves appeared more than willing to outdo each other in baring their bodies and become the object of fantasy of the ogling men.

These men, and women, who reveled in having taken part in that lame excuse of a beauty contest, should be held to account. The men, specially, who persist in telling them that there is nothing wrong with baring flesh to win a dubious contest, but are really just peeping Toms out for a quick fix, are profoundly guilty.

But we have a larger community that is equally to blame, the one that at best looked the other way when women in skimpy attires paraded before them, using competition or entertainment, or charity, as the excuse.

We have collectively become an enabler for an activity that has degenerated into one that exploited women, held them up for contempt and ridicule, and worse, made them feel proud of debasing themselves.

Organizers of beauty contests call this confidence; in truth, it is a false sense of self worth.

Women should not have to expose their bodies or do salacious stunts to feel beautiful and fulfilled.

But the baring of flesh is not just the reason why we stopped giving publicity to beauty contests for nearly the past two decades.

For one, it isn’t hard to regard them as a charade, from the  meaningless parade of beauty queen wannabes in all sorts of attire, oftentimes garish, ill-fitting or at times, pathetic-looking; the vain attempt to make them respond wittily during the Q&A, and many other frustrating signs.

More importantly, they come out as mere money-making activities held at the expense of the contestants. Doing them supposedly for charity does not excuse the exploitation.

Early on, we did an incisive article on what went on behind the stage at these events, and found many women getting mired in debt in their desperation to become the next Sunday Beauty Queen.

The reverse is also true in some cases, when it is the organizer who ends up losing money because he or she was not astute enough to know how to squeeze enough money out of the contestants.

The money at stake is not something to sneeze at: $1,500 just to sign up and sell tickets to friends, a similar amount to hire a makeup artist and hairstylist to ensure they look their best on the big day, double this to hire a personal videographer, at least $500 to hire a drop-dead gown, and so on.

For the organizers, it could also involve setting up a stage on Chater Road, which costs upwards of $25,000. Naturally, this amount would be passed on to the contestants as private sponsorships are difficult to come by for this type of event.

All in, the expenses for each contestant amount to more than what a domestic worker makes in a month. If the worker is addicted to joining these contests, it would not be far-fetched to say she could gamble away several months of pay for the dubious privilege of being queen for the day.

Then there is the baring of flesh, which seems to have gotten out of hand over the years because organizers are always looking for ways to make their event stand out.

I remember in particular the one that made us decide to stay away for good. Having been convinced to attend because of a promise that it would be a beau-con “with a difference” as there would be no swimsuit contest, I was dismayed to see it being replaced with a “best in jungle attire’ which creative contestants used to display more flesh than they would have if they just wore a bikini.

But the icing on the cake was when a loose tube top worn by a contestant came down not just once-but twice – during a production number, exposing her breasts in front of some 100 people in the audience, including the then labor attaché.

There were other sorry spectacles, including one where the contestants paraded in bikinis in the dead of winter in Chater Garden; and one where the women had to wear transparent negligees with no bras underneath in the “best in night wear” segment of a contest in Bayanihan Centre.

I am sure there are more, especially since we have determinedly stayed away from events that feature contests of this nature, and have thus luckily avoided witnessing the further degradation of our women OFWs.

But the Wanchai event showed us the use of beauty contests to exploit Filipinas, particularly OFWs, has not only continued but has worsened to the extent that the contestants in this flesh parade actually felt wronged when lewd photos they proudly shared on Facebook were copied and passed around.

When our core values as Filipinos have been torn to shreds because of events like this it is time to act.

Stop supporting beauty contests. If need be, report those who commit flagrant violation of Hong Kong’s laws on indecent exposure to keep our values and national dignity intact.

By doing so we protect not only our community but also our OFWs who came here to provide a better life for their families back home, and not become fodder for Hong Kong’s sex trade..

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