The Internet Governance Forum, is a governmental multi-stakeholder policy dialogue buzzword compliant event. The forum reports to the UN Secretary-General. This week the forum was held in Indonesia.
Realising there is noticeably low numbers of women in all levels of internet governance, and even internet use, a group of altruistic businesses set out to increase women’s participation. How? They added a beauty pageant.
Miss Internet 2013.
Here, lemme quote the press release
The Association of Indonesian Internet Providers (APJII) Bali branch is organizing a Miss Internet 2013 competition, calling for young women to participate in the event.
Wahid Juniarto, chairman of the organizing committee, told journalists in a press conference yesterday that the competition was aimed at increasing Internet usage among girls and women.
“We encourage women to use Internet services to enhance their knowledge, information and skills. It is an appreciation of any woman who uses the Internet for good purposes,” Juniarto said.
Registration for the competition has opened and the grand final will be held in Denpasar on Sept. 14. Women aged between 17 and 25 years old, who have a Bali identity card, are eligible to register as contestants.
The pageant was announced in July, and the winner selected in September. The event was showcased at the IGF and the winner was at the conference, to be found beside the showroom-like booth.
This was so many levels of inappropriate.
The decision to run the programme in a format that is strongly reminiscent of beauty pageants positions women as passive objects of beauty rather than active, diverse and empowered citizens and users of the Internet who shape and define the world we live in. This can have the effect of perpetuating gender stereotypes that act to further marginalize and discriminate women instead of promoting their rights and concerns, which runs completely contrary to the stated objectives of your programme.
The approach of this programme also runs a great risk of reducing women’s contribution to the development and use of the internet into becoming simply a marketing ploy and further communicates the message of the commodification of women’s images and representation in the shaping information societies. This is discriminatory.
The Internet Governance Forum is a United Nations mandated space and as such, we expect and demand adherence to respectful and non-discriminatory standards of behavior. As participants of the Internet Governance Forum 2013 who are working to advance gender equality and the active participation of women in Internet governance policy dialogue and processes, we see this as a huge step back taken by organisers in this process.