Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 7:09 AM

No More Swimsuit Competition for Miss America? WTF!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I feel obliged to begin with this prevailing disclosure about beauty pageants:

It’s dismaying enough that women are still blithely competing in beauty pageants that should only appeal to 1950s male chauvinist pigs. But it’s downright pitiful that they are perpetuating the notion that the only woman worth crowning is a beauty who pretends she has no brains.

(“Want to ‘Win’ Miss USA? Make a Fool of Yourself…,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 20, 2013)

In other words, these pageants have always been too much about beauty and not enough about brains. But the remedy is not to make them too much about brains and not enough about beauty, which abolishing the swimsuit competition would do. Frankly, pledging to judge Miss America based on “inner beauty” is as patently disingenuous as claiming to watch porn for artistic purposes.

Organizers should either abolish beauty pageants or include features that prize beauty and brains in equal measure. And swimsuit competitions (sans stilettos) would be entirely consistent with that progressive change.

That said, I have been among far too few men championing the #MeToo movement. I’ve done so in many commentaries, including “This Hurricane Harvey Harassed Hollywood Hotties for Decades,” October 6, 2017, “USA Gymnastics Sex-Abuse Shame: Gabby Victim-Blames Aly and Outrages Simone,” November 20, 2017, “The Golden Globes (Oprah and MeToo),” January 8, 2018, and “New York AG Schneiderman, #MeToo Crusader, Facing Reckoning Too,” May 8, 2018.

Therefore, I hope this gives me standing to caution against conflating women who sign up for pageants, which include swimsuit competitions, with those who are victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Because I suspect that is precisely what is afoot.

Nothing betrays this quite like the fact that the woman spearheading this “overhaul” of the Miss America pageant competition is none other than Gretchen Carlson, the slayer of boss hog Roger Ailes and doyenne of the #MeToo movement.

The Miss America pageant will no longer feature a swimsuit competition, ending a tradition widely criticized as misogynistic as the event tries to move toward more inclusion.

‘We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance’ … Gretchen Carlson, the new chair of the Miss America Organization, announced Tuesday.

(Huffington Post, June 5, 2018)

As it happens, I have also been among far too few men decrying the way women willfully objectify themselves with stilettos functioning as shoes. I’ve done so in many commentaries, including “No Heels for ‘Wonder Woman,’ Thank You Very Much!” June 15, 2017, and “Burning Bras, Still Wearing Heels. Feminism’s Unfinished Work,” January 15, 2014, which includes this observation:

I hope it’s not betraying some unwritten man code of secrecy to inform women that, far from enhancing their beauty, sophistication, style, and grace, high heels only make them look like teetering sex objects. …

It’s a reflection of the addictive high women get on heels that – even when they’re barefoot (or wearing flats) – they invariably perch themselves on the balls of their feet to simulate those missing high heels, especially when taking photos. How brainwashed is that?

And so I agree, there’s no need for women to parade around on stage in bikinis and high heels. But why throw out the baby with the bath water? As indicated above, just throw out the heels!

After all, if you’re not judging women on their “outward appearance” … as well, then you’re just presenting a self-righteous version of other talent competitions like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or … Jeopardy. Besides the fact that only women (and transgenders?) would be eligible to compete in this new Miss America, what would be the difference?

This contest presumes to crown a woman who is not just beautiful but also talented and intelligent. The beauty of that, of course, is that the winner might not be the most beautiful, the most talented, or the most intelligent woman. But she would be the fairest representation of the well-rounded person all women should aspire to be.

What, pray tell, is misogynistic about that?

Meanwhile, this overhaul overlooks the bias inherent in thinking that excluding the swimsuit competition will make Miss America more inclusive. It seems Miss America’s new “all-female leadership team” is just trying to skirt chauvinistic stereotypes of what beautiful women in swimsuits should look like.

Alas, the irony seems completely lost on them. Because they seem unaware that models like Ashley Graham and Hunter McGrady have been making a mockery of those stereotypes for years – even while wearing body paint masquerading as swimsuits. And, if encouraged/invited, I’m sure curvaceous women like them would be happy to compete for the title of Miss America.

Of course, the irony of ironies is that today’s most liberated and influential women make millions posing in just swimsuits (or less) on social media. For example, it pains me to acknowledge that more women want to be like Kim Kardashian than Michelle Obama.

As fate would have it, Kim herself remarked on the absurdity of her crowning achievement at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards just last night. Here is the refreshingly self-deprecating joke she made while accepting her CFDA “top influencer” award:

I am surprised that I am winning a fashion award when I am naked most of the time.

(Vanity Fair, June 5, 2018)

Yet the Miss America organization thinks canceling its swimsuit competition will have an empowering impact on the tens of millions of young girls Kim influences every day. Ha!

But, if they must, the “progressive” fuddy-duddies who now run the show should replace that competition with their version of Top Chef or The Great British Bake Off. After all, cooking and baking competitions are almost as popular on TV these days as sporting events. (LOL)

In any event, I say – with curvy beauties like Ashley and Hunter firmly in mind –

There she is, Miss America…

Related commentaries:
disclosure pageants
Hurricane Harvey
USA gymnastics
Gretchen Carlson
Burning bras
Wonder Woman
Kim prison reform

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 5:22 p.m.

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