Hot bikinis gone cold

So, after nearly a century, women competing in the Miss America pageant will no longer be allowed to strut their stuff in bikinis. Nup. “Not empowering!” “Not inclusive!” Shriek the women who don’t wear bikinis.

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. The executives of the Miss America board of directors who announced the swimwear ban are all pageant winners and all rocked bikinis to win their titles. Gretchen Carlson (Miss America 1989) is chairwoman; Regina Hopper, (former Miss Arkansas 1983) is the new CEO; and Marjorie Vincent-Tripp (Miss America 1991) chairs the board of trustees.

“We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition. We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organisation and join this empowerment movement.”

It doesn’t end there.

The word pageant has been replaced by ‘competition’ and evening gowns are off the catwalk, with contestants encouraged to wear what they want instead. (Having no idea glamour was offensive, I can’t wait to see the trackpants and hoodies parading down the Oscars red carpet. How divine!)

Replacing the swimsuit contest will be a live, interactive session with the judges where the individual’s achievements and goals will be assessed, along with her talents, passion and ambition. The board members explained it freed the women from worrying about whether they were pretty enough, with the focus instead on what comes out of their mouths.

But why can’t we have a pageant that is all about beauty and good old-fashioned loveliness? There are plenty of other platforms where women can be judged on their intellect and ambition. University randomly springs to mind.

Of course, feminists have howled about beauty pageants for decades. We know the swimsuit parade is eye candy, a chance to ogle pretty young women in their bathers. But the section also took into account walk, posture, poise and grace, sense of confidence and comfort and contributed just 10% to the overall scoring. It showcased buoyant young women happy in their skin, courageous, bold and positive.

And what about the annual beefcake parades around the world? Mr Physique? Bachelor of the Year? Mr World? Not to mention male exotic dancers. Trust me, women aren’t seeking intellect when they’re stuffing dollar bills down jocks at a Manpower event.

Carlson is a very smart cookie. She’s an accomplished violinist (she used her musical talent to impress in the Miss America pageant), university educated, and used her title to springboard into a successful television career. Recently, she settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, a bolshie thing to do. Hopper, a former correspondent for CBS news, is regarded as one of the country’s top CEOs, while Vincent-Tripp, also a journalist, was an assistant attorney-general in Florida.

I fail to see where they have been disempowered by sporting fabulous bikini bodies in a beauty pageant.

It’s all a bit confusing when these powerful and successful women have a lot to say about bagging the bikini, but remain mute when it comes to the burqa.
Maybe that’s the solution.

Cover all our women from head-to-toe in a Miss America competition so they can speak from behind a veil. No distractions.

No empowerment either.


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