Miss America pageant organisers have announced that they have decided to scrap swimsuit competition from this year on. The decision to do away with the popular yet notorious round is the pageant’s way of stepping into the new era of women empowerment. As per ABC news, Miss America contestants will now take part in a live interactive session with the judges in place of the swimwear round. But that’s not all. The organisers are also getting rid of the evening gown portion of the competition. From now on, the contestants would be asked to wear attire that makes them feel confident and expresses their personal style instead.

Gretchen Carlson, the first former Miss America to be named chair of the Board of Trustees of the Miss America Organization said in an interview to ABC, “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. Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul.”

Maybe it’s time that other beauty pageants take a cue from Miss America and shift focus to their talent and intellect, from their toned bodies.

The swimwear round may have started off with an intent to add glamour and assess physical fitness but it soon cascaded into crowds leering at women parading in glamorous two-piece bikinis, wearing heels.

All major beauty pageants have a swimsuit round in their format, like Miss America, and perhaps this is what turns off the modern feminist crowd away from them. The swimwear round not only objectifies women, it embodies false beauty standards. It endorses a flat abdomen and heavy breasts and curvaceous bottoms. A body shape most women in the world cannot attain without making extreme dietary changes or surgeries.

So for most young women, the ideal figure of these contestants degrades their self-worth and pushes them towards strict diet regimes, outlandish workout sessions, and in some cases illnesses like bulimia and anorexia. It gives rise to body dysmorphic disorder in young women, giving rise to depression due to the feeling of being imperfect.

Do we need such degradation of women in 2018? Do we still need the focus to be on physical perfection? Rather than talent and achievements in the age of feminism? Certainly not.

Most beauty pageants have become redundant in the last decade. They are a celebration of women’s bodies rather than their personalities. Perhaps declining viewership and increasing criticism from the current audience should also prove the point. Miss Universe and Miss World contests have lost much of their sheen. This is because we can now see through their superficial standards. We have seen through their affiliation for perfect smiles, identical hand waves and figures which looked more manufactured than natural.

So if these competitions want to stay relevant in the new era, they must follow the lead of Miss America. They have to shift the focus from physical beauty. There is a lot more to being the best woman in the Universe or World than being able to trot around in heels wearing a bikini. Hopefully, the audience will also embrace Miss America pageant’s decision and learn to look at beauty from their empowered and liberal perspective.

Photo Credit: tigerdroppings.com

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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