Inquirer.net/Asia News Network
Gretchen Carlson at the 2017 Forbes Women's Summit in New York City. The Miss America pageant is dropping the swimsuit and evening gown competition and will no longer judge contestants on their physical appearance, organizers announced on June 5, 2018. (AFP/Angela Weiss)
When you think of pageants, you can easily picture women strutting in their evening gowns and swimsuits in hopes of winning a special prize and the crown at the end. But the Miss America organizers just decided that it’s time to get rid of this lookist criteria in the upcoming pageant.
Gretchen Carlson, chair of the board of trustees for the Miss America Organization, announced on "Good Morning America" that they’ll remove the swimsuit competition. As for the evening gown portion, it’s being updated and it will now encourage contestants to wear what is comfortable for them. “We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition. We will no longer judge candidates on their outward physical appearance,” she declared.
So, what will replace the swimsuit competition? According to reports, it will become an “interactive session with judges” where the contestants will speak about their chosen programs and advocacies. Similar to what Gretchen said in the GMA interview: “It’s going to be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in, when they talk about their social impact initiatives.”
This is a huge change considering that Miss America started out as a swimsuit contest in 1921. But as the swimsuits evolved from conservative one-pieces to revealing bikinis, it was clear that it’s promoting a sexist culture where women are judged based on their appearance and bodies.
Gretchen also made the change to address the fact that it’s become a male gaze competition. Most especially in light of the #MeToo movement, something that Gretchen is familiar since she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes last year. “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,” she said. “I get it.”
The new rule will officially be implemented during Miss America 2018 happening in September. This will slowly roll out in state pageants next year since they’re currently ongoing. Hopefully this continues globally as well.