‘Bye-Bye Bikini’: Miss America Nixes Swimsuit Competition

Written by Joseph Darius Jaafari

The organization is taking the #MeToo lessons to heart.

If you were hoping to see women clad in bikinis and slinky evening gowns parade onstage at next year’s Miss America pageant, you’ll be disappointed.

That’s because the nearly 100-year-old contest as we have all come to know it is no more. In its place: a more body-inclusive, #MeToo-friendly display in which contestants won’t be judged on their physical appearance.

In fact, it isn’t even a pageant anymore, says Gretchen Carlson, who won the title in 1989 and now chairs the Miss America Organization’s board of trustees.

“We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition,” Carlson announced today on Good Morning America. “We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program, but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit.’ So guess what? You don’t have to do that anymore.”

In an era where the #MeToo movement has given more power to women’s voices, the shift from a largely looks-based pageant to a competition centered on women’s talents and achievements is long overdue.

In 1968, amid the backdrop of the country’s cultural wars, the women’s rights movement was on the forefront of protesting the Miss America pageant for not only its racial politics but also for the overt way it exploited and sexualized women.

“Has anything changed since 1968, when hundreds of feminists gathered on the [Atlantic City] boardwalk to protest the Miss America pageant?,” asked Blain Roberts in an op-ed for The New York Times. “Yes and no.”

It wasn’t until this year that Miss America announced that the organization would be led by an all-female team, after the Huffington Post reported that prominent male executives and board members, including the pageant’s CEO, were demoralizing women in emails.

Now, with an all-women board made up of former winners, the organization is enacting dramatic changes.

Even the organization’s website is getting an overhaul with the site promoting the upcoming “Miss America 2.0” and pushing the hashtag #ByeByeBikini.

“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,” Carlson said, in response to how the #MeToo movement has helped the organization restructure itself. “Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.” The news has sparked a debate online, with people on both sides weighing in: 

This post originally appeared on NationSwell.

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Photo Credit: Fort Meade/Flickr

53 comments

Ciaron D
Ciaron Dabout an hour ago

The Swimwear competion has always had the charm of a meat market and really was a humilating experience for the contestants on so many levels.

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Amanda M
Amanda M19 hours ago

I for one applauded the decision to get rid of the swimsuit competition. Women should be measured by our intelligence and our attitude towards others, not superficial BS like how good we look in a too-skimpy bikini! We're more than just "boobs and butts"-we're BRAINS and personality too, and it's high time we were recognized for that! And for the record, my husband started whining about the end of the swimsuit competition. Needless to say, I gave him a Gibbs slap and told him to join the 21st century already since he's married to a feminist.

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Angela J
Angela J4 days ago

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo C4 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 days ago

I betcha the sponsors are not so generous now. Oh the irony if it all comes to an end

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 days ago

If I had my way, grid girls and cheer leaders would be a thing of the past too

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Liliana Garcia
Liliana G5 days ago

Good riddance. BTW wasn't there a Mr. America or Mr. Universe?

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Vincent T
Vincent T5 days ago

Good.

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Dave f
Dave f5 days ago

TFS

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no M
no M5 days ago

If they're going to pander to "feminists" by getting rid of the swimsuit competition (and never forget, women spend their lives selling their physical appearance--just look at the size of the space devoted to cosmetics, hair products, Clothing, jewelry, etc. devoted to women in any department store--and then deny that that's exactly what they're doing), then they'd better make sure that the contestants aren't all physically attractive, slender, etc. This is just more "feminist" lip service--but pandering to women is not feminism--it's hypocritical sexism.

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