For the first time in a long time, Miss America and I have something in common! We both won’t be wearing swimsuits in public this summer.
I feel like the whole world must know about the Miss America Organization’s decision to remove the swimsuit and evening gown competitions from the
pageant I mean scholarship competition I mean glorified speech and debate club. However, I have to remember that 70% of my friends on Facebook happen to be pageant people, so I might not be the norm when it comes to an entire feed full of babies, weddings, and pageant girls posting pictures of themselves onstage in swimsuits.
For those of you new to Generation grannY and curious as to why I’d cover this topic, I was Miss New York many moons ago, back when the biggest change to Miss America was that contestants stopped wearing hosiery with their interview suits. The horror!!
Anyway, news flash to the rest of the general public: No more swimsuit or evening gown in the Miss America competition. Instead of swimsuit, contestants will have a live interview with the judges about politics and their personal platform, and instead of gown, contestants will wear “an outfit of their choice that reflects their style.”
Let’s just take a moment to imagine Miss America 2019 being crowned in yoga pants.
[Update: 6/7/18 10:34am: Apparently they aren’t completely getting rid of gown! YAY! Instead, they’re just changing the criteria a bit. The direction is going to be “if you were on the red carpet as Miss America, what would you wear?” That’s actually really cool.]
Despite the update above, I’m still going to keep the rest of the post as-is, because I still believe in what I wrote. Andddd resume:
In case you’re wondering how the residents of Pageant Land are taking this news, need I remind you that this is a group of people who thought that my pal Kira using a red cup that sorta kinda looked like a solo cup during her talent was the end of the universe. Now these sensitive pageant-lovers are losing their sparkly gowns and hair extensions. Send emergency therapists to the south, stat! BLESS THEIR WEARY SOULS.
Listen, I know that we’re trying to make Miss America feel more attainable to the every day woman, but the more “attainable” you make something, the less exciting it is. This is why nobody wants to watch a TV show about my life as a slightly unkept mother whose idea of a good time is a few loops around Hobby Lobby. Attainable? Yep. Aspirational? Debatable.
Miss America was always “aspirational” in the sense that they were trying to find a woman who encompasses all of the qualities that are considered admirable: Intelligence (interview), poise (gown), healthiness (swimsuit), and the capability to withstand challenging situations (spray tans).
That made it fun to watch, but also fun to compete in. If becoming Miss America means just doing what comes naturally to you, then what’s the point? If you don’t have to work hard in an area of your life that is a natural weakness (because we all have them), where’s the satisfaction of self-improvement?
These are generalizations, but women who were naturally great in swimsuit tended to need to work harder at talent or interview. Women who were great at interview often needed to challenge themselves in swimsuit. Basically every area of competition was a strength for one person or a weakness for someone else. EVERY girl had to work incredibly hard to be the best version of herself.
When you take away two areas of competition, you’re eliminating the challenge to be the most well-rounded version of yourself you can be. The pageant won’t draw women whose strengths are fitness and poise because those women will figure they no longer bring anything to the table up front. Therefore, those women won’t have the opportunity to push themselves to become better speakers than they ever thought possible.
And the women who love the speaking and talent portions will never have to push themselves to get into great shape or work hard to exude power in their own skin when the spotlight is on them (gown). Instead, they’ll lean on their natural abilities (which are great, don’t get me wrong), and miss out on how it feels to accomplish something that at first seemed daunting.
Sadly, I do not think winners will feel the same satisfaction as in the past, because pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is what makes winning feel so great. You worked HARD.
This isn’t to say that women won’t work hard in the new format– nor is it to say that it’s all about winning– but Miss America 2.0 will only draw women who are inclined to compete in two areas (talent and interview) instead of a woman who is willing to work hard in FOUR areas. That’s a huge difference.
I get that to the *naked* eye, a swimsuit competition feels like we’re placing importance on a certain body type, or perhaps hyper-sexualizing women. But no– the swimsuit competition is about challenging women to reach a level of fitness AND CONFIDENCE they’d never reach otherwise. It shows who is dedicated, who is willing to push herself. Who will wake her butt up at 6am every day to take care of her body and achieve a goal before she ever even sets foot on a stage.
Here’s the deal, though. You don’t need to wear a swimsuit to prove that you’ve worked hard to be your healthiest self. Why aren’t we replacing swimsuit with activewear, or like– a quick sprint down the runway and whoever reaches the crown first wins.
The MAO board’s reasoning for eliminating swimsuit is to do away with the idea of judging someone based on looks, but fitness doesn’t have anything to do with subjective beauty. Either ya gotsta muscles, or ya don’t gotsta muscles. And yes– that is important when you’re trying to find a woman who is a role model in every area of her life. Health is not a dirty six-letter word, people.
So that’s my take on the swimsuit thing. Not mad about the lack of bikinis, but a little disenchanted with the whole “who cares if you’re in shape” attitude. As a former, I can tell you that I LOVED learning what my body could do, and wouldn’t know half as much as I do about health and nutrition if it weren’t for the swimsuit competition.
Note to self: Implement what you learned, Shannon, so that your can get your postpartum baby bod back into your clothes. PUT DOWN THE WAFFLES.
Now onto gown. Eliminating gown makes NO sense to me. None. What is so wrong with wearing a beautiful gown? It feels like we’re afraid to celebrate femininity in the traditional sense of the word. If you’re not the kind of woman who enjoys wearing a gown…then you’re probably not the kind of gal who wants to be Miss America. And THAT IS OKAY. I don’t want to be a professional cage fighter, but if some women feel empowered doing that, I totally support them! You ninja kick your way to the top, girlfriend!
So if some women feel empowered by getting glammed up, why are there so many haters? I believe this is called #glamshaming, for you Bachelor fans out there.
Why does there have to be one definition for everything? If a woman feels empowered by playing a sport, let her play a sport. If a woman feels empowered by running for office, let her run for office. If a woman feels empowered by Beyonce-walking across a stage in an awesome gown, let her Beyonce-walk across that stage, gosh darn it! And if she wants to do all three, yaasss kween– do it!
The fact that we’re defining what is acceptable for a woman to enjoy is frustrating. My stance has always been that women can be glamorous and brilliant and strong and talented and healthy and eloquent all at the same time.
Basically, we’re telling the world that you can either feel pretty OR feel smart. You can’t feel both– and you shouldn’t.
Well that’s wrong. Feeling pretty means you love yourself. That you’re confident. That you can handle thousands of eyes on you because you feel great. I think that’s pretty empowered, and empowering.
Of course I need to put in a disclaimer that some contestants have been unhealthy in their pursuit of a swimsuit award or that the pageant world has fed insecurities instead of encouraging confidence, but the VAST majority of my fellow Miss America former titleholders will tell you that the swimsuit and gown competitions helped them become stronger women.
By the way, no one is banning ballet or modeling or red carpet events or a thousand other events/activities that require or encourage health and/or glam…sooo…
I am FULLY behind the *intentions* of this decision, and truly hope the best for the Miss America Org, but sadly, I think this is the beginning of the end. Sorry to say it, but without swimsuit and gown, they’ll lose tons of viewers. And if people don’t watch the pageant, how will it be a) truly relevant or b) maintain its sponsors and supporters? And then who will pay for Miss America to do her job? How will they afford scholarships? It alllllll runs together.
There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m sure I did a terrible job, but my baby needs me to sacrifice my body to appease his hunger and maybe serve as a chew toy for his new teeth, so that’s all I’ve got time for today, folks.
I’ll be watching in September. I sure hope I’m wrong about this being a death sentence for Miss America– truly, I do.