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Sunday, Sept. 9 at approximately 8 p.m. PST, a new Miss America will be crowned. Miss America 2019 will also be the first winner who isn’t judged on the way she struts in a bikini. Since the annual competition’s creation, it has supported the idea that a bikini contest indicates a woman’s worth. Now, it has decided to eliminate the swimsuit portion of the pageant completely — yet another benefit of the #MeToo movement. I’m just not convinced it’s enough.
“We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition,” Gretchen Carlson, chair of the board of trustees of the Miss America Organization previously announced. In fact, she said the competition is no longer a “pageant.” The program, which has perpetuated the objectification of women, is now more “open, transparent, and inclusive to women who may not have felt comfortable participating in our program before.”
Miss America has never been a particularly feminist nor a very progressive enterprise. It’s nothing more than a popularity contest — one that has become toxic. It has promoted eating disorders, sexism, colorism, and a slew of other problems that ultimately hurt women. At the same time, it has provided contestants opportunities they may not have had otherwise. Winners have been granted scholarships, and many participants have used it as a springboard to launch their careers.
While scrapping the swimsuit portion is a huge step forward, do we even need pageants like Miss America? Sure, contestants are no longer forced to don skimpy bikinis and parade around for unforgiving cameras, but they still have to conform to society’s stringent beauty standards. To borrow a term from actress Jameela Jamill, contestants have to be “double agents of patriarchy.” They’re selling a very specific (and damaging) kind of woman — one that is blindingly beautiful, intelligent, and flawless.
With the rise of #MeToo and Time’s Up, there’s no excuse for programs like this to exist. Surely there are better ways to offer women scholarships and career opportunities without scoring them at their most vulnerable and coercing them into fitting impossible beauty standards.
Do you think it’s time to end Miss America? Comment below!
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