Please welcome the Miss America 2.0, who will wear whatever she wants, thank you Image: Twitter
The Miss America of the #MeToo era will not wear a two-piece just because she has to, and she can, in fact, wear whatever she wants to. Yup!
"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance,” announced chairperson of Miss America’s board of directors, and a former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, who has also been one of the most vocal #MeToo activists.
The swimsuit round where all Miss America contestants were required to, for the lack of better words, "strut their stuff" in bikinis and high heels had been deemed terribly sexist. Miss America has also announced that they are no longer a pageant, but are now a competition.
“I’ve talked to tons of young people who’ve said to me, ‘I’d love to be a part of that program, but I don’t want to parade around in a swimsuit'," Carlson said in an interview to Fox recently.
The contest is essentially moving on from judging women based on their appearances, and that is clearly an opportunity for more inclusivity. Instead of walking down in a bathing suit, each contestant will interact with the judges to "highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America," the organisation said.
Carlson said the evening-wear portion of the competition will also be changed to allow women to wear something other than a gown if they want.
"It's what comes out of their mouths that we care about," Carlson said about the competition, which also famously involves a talent round.
This is clearly a winning move for the pageant, but why are former contestants unhappy with the trailblazing moment? For starters, many people are equating the swimsuit round with fitness.
"In a world where obesity rates continue to climb, I do see the benefits of a fitness competition because it taught me a lifelong discipline beyond the Miss America stage," writes former Miss Texas Kendall Morris.
But the Miss America pageant, however irrelevant to the cultural milieu, has never been about fitness and no woman should be told to dress a certain way to win a title. Plus, Miss America has only celebrated a very specific body type until now, much like Victoria's Secret. The new codes open up the mantle to thousands of women, who never even filled up a Miss America form because of their body issues.
Former Miss America contestant Sindy Nguyen also spoke out against the end of the bikini round. "A woman is not more respectable when she is covered up. Women are dignified no matter their wardrobe. Also, don't call yourself a feminist who demands the freedom for women to do whatever they wish with their bodies and then shame them for volunteering to participate in a swimsuit segment that showcases their confidence, strength and hard work on stage," she wrote.
The conversation boils down to choice — the swimsuit round was never a choice. It was a mandatory round, and the contest is now essentially more about individual freedom.
Former pageant Ellie Barmes agrees that while the swimsuit round can be empowering, it never should be made mandatory. "The job is to touch people's lives and be a role model. Yes, you can do all of those things while walking on a stage in a swimsuit. However Miss America is now focusing on what is inside," she writes.
When the Miss America pageant started in 1921, having young women parade around in bathing suits was a way to get tourists to come to the Atlantic City Boardwalk after Labor Day.
But how America views women has changed drastically since then and the Miss America Organisation is run by women who don't think it's such a good idea.
"In the climate of #MeToo, I think it's a really wise decision. We're living in a different era now, and when we move forward for the empowerment of women, we will be taken much more seriously, and I think that's huge," adds Carlson.
Tweeple, of course, have a lot of opinion about this move. Have a look.