Anchilee did more than break old stereotypes

Anchilee did more than break old stereotypes

Thailand's Miss Universe candidate Anchilee Scott-Kemmis may not have attained the crown but her message #RealSizeBeauty, encouraging people to discard traditional beauty standards for more diversified realities, remains a winning one.

Anchilee failed to reach the top 16 finalists and her bid drew comments ranging from mundane criticism such as her dress being too wrinkled to more philosophical discussions on whether there should be certain standards for beauty regarding a person's size.

Overall, however, messages were overwhelmingly in support of Anchilee.

Despite debates about how far, or to put it honestly, how fat can one be to still qualify as an ideal beauty, Anchilee sent out a tweet reaffirming her position -- that she will not apologise for her body, what she stands for, and who she is.

Many online users thanked her for speaking out against stereotype beauty standards that demand women be thin, fit, and fair-skinned.

The hashtag #Anchilee was among those top trending yesterday, with most of them praising the beauty queen for inspiring women and girls to love and celebrate their bodies the way they are, to stop the all-too-common body bullying and shaming.

One user said Anchilee is the best representative of Thailand in 2021.

This can be an insightful comment especially if we choose to look at Anchilee not just as a candidate to vie for the Miss Universe Crown but as a representative of Thailand -- someone who is showing the world what the country is about and what it has to say to the international community.

In a way, it's intrinsically ironic that a message empowering women is coming out of a beauty pageant, a platform that already treats them as an object.

People can debate further whether the seemingly progressive message or other attempts to make the beauty pageant more relevant to modern lifestyle and woman's expectation can justify its continued existence.

But the fact that Anchilee's winning the crown locally shows how her message has already resonated widely in a society where women can't seem to be thin enough and where skin-whitening products are available for every single part of the body. Her role as Thailand's Miss Universe does testify to changing times.

Anchilee's #RealSizeBeauty message may fade as will the excitement of the beauty contest itself. But what is undeniable is there is a yearning out there, a pain point so to speak, among the people to get away from traditional myths and ideals that seem more binding than liberating.

This is not applied to just the body.

As society progresses, people -- their lifestyles, cultures, and preferences -- become more diversified.

What was accepted as true or natural at a certain time -- what was considered beautiful, what constituted natural gender, what should qualify as a marriage to what was considered just or fair -- may have shifted as new trends and behaviours emerge.

At present, it's estimated there are about 3.6 million LGBTQ people, or about 5% of the population in Thailand according to LGBT Capital, an online data centre focusing on the LGBT consumer segment to demonstrate the business case for advancements in LGBT equality and inclusion.

In everyday life, it is not extraordinary to run into same-sex couples. The cabinet itself last year approved the Civil Partnership Bill and amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code, both of which aim to legalise same-sex partnerships.

When it comes to marriage, however, the Constitution Court said no. What seems to have enraged human rights activists and lawyers, however, is the court's rationale to support its ruling that marriage can only be between a man and woman.

These include its explanation that the goal of a marriage is to build a family institution, to reproduce, hand over heritage and foster familial ties among members. The court ruled that a marriage between the LGBTQ may not be capable of cultivating such delicate ties.

The court's wording, calling the LGBTQ "people whose sex cannot be identified", who should be treated as exceptional cases and not included with those who can be clearly identified as men and women, did not go down well with people who believe that people should not be discriminated based on their sexual orientation and gender identity either.

While it is true that Anchilee's campaign endorsing real size beauty may not resonate beyond the beauty circle, it has successfully shown that there is a real desire to embrace diversity, to discard old beliefs and ideals that are no longer applicable to the modern day.

At one point in time, a beauty queen had to have a 22-inch waist. Anchilee has shattered such ideas. It is hoped that other positive changes will follow.

Atiya Achakulwisut is a Bangkok Post columnist.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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