Blog Post

Good Riddance to Miss America’s Swimsuit Competition

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The new all-woman leadership of the Miss America pageant has decided to draw more attention to the beauty of authentic femininity rather than women’s body parts by axing the swimsuit competition and doing away with the concept of judging contestants based on their physical appearance. What could be wrong with that?

ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) broke the news earlier this week with guest Gretchen Carlson, the first former Miss America to be named chair of the Board of Trustees of the Miss America Organization.

“We are no longer a pageant,” Carlson said. “We are a competition.”

She went on to say that the organization heard from a lot of young women who wanted to be a part of the Miss America program but not if they had to wear high heels and a swimsuit.

"So guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore," Carlson said. "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. . . . That’s what we’re judging them on now."

Instead of the swimsuit portion of the competition, contestants will take part in a live session with judges where they will be asked to demonstrate their passion, intelligence, and overall understanding of the job of Miss America.

The evening gown portion of the show is also getting the ax and contestants will be asked to wear attire that “makes them feel confidence and expresses their personal style,” ABC reports.

Contestants will also be asked to state how they plan to advance their chosen cause if chosen as Miss America.

The changes are aimed at making the Miss America Organization more inclusive and empowering for all women – not just those who look good in a skimpy bikini and stilettos.

"We are now open, inclusive and transparent and I want to inspire thousands of young people across this country to come and be a part of our program," Carlson told GMA. "We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships."

Although these changes should seem like a relief to most modern women who are tired of seeing themselves dehumanized through the constant stream of objectifying media and entertainment, there are a few holdouts who are still clinging to the mistaken feminist belief that flaunting our girlie parts is somehow empowering.

For example, according to the Daily Mail, former Miss America Ericka Dunlap argues that “you can be a feminist in a swimsuit” and thinks abolishing the feature was ridiculous because “every day is a beauty pageant.”

Seriously? In other words, I don’t dare step out of my door every morning unless I'm  dressed to the nines in my size two skirt with perfect hair and makeup because, guess what, I'm on stage, and not because of who I am, but because of what I look like.

Maybe that’s supposed to make me feel empowered but it doesn’t. It makes me want to hide in the bathroom.

What Dunlap tweeted next is where the typical feminist logic becomes nothing more than a mouthful of garbled contradiction. “Beyond personality or clothing, Miss America is an exceptionally disciplined, talented, intelligent and aware modern woman.”

If she really believes that, then why all the emphasis on how we look in a bikini? If we really want to be noticed for who we are, don’t we need to get beyond all that?

Having been formed from the mold of the original feminists of the 1970s, I can tell you that there’s a good reason why so many of us ditched that way of thinking. We found out the hard way that feminism’s idea of flaunting our sexuality as liberating was a mistake waiting to happen and, for most of us, it did - in the form of sexual abuse, abandonment, broken marriages, skyrocketing abortion rates and a contraceptive culture that left most of us drowning in synthetic hormones.

No thanks. Been there. Done that. Survived (thanks be to God). Moved on.

Dunlap and those like her need to understand that even if though a woman has a right to a beautiful body, she exists in a #MeToo world and, whether she likes it or not, strutting around half naked on a world stage is not the way to draw attention to her real beauty. Let's be honest. Right or wrong, it's hard to notice a woman's feminine genius when all she’s wearing is a string bikini.

Carlson’s idea is more like it. Let's do away with the distraction of perfect body types that only .0025 of the female population will ever achieve and let the world have a look at the feminine splendor that lies within.

As Johnnette Benkovic teaches in Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life, a woman’s true beauty is not on the surface. “Her body, her psyche, and her soul equip her to be a nurturing influence in family life, in professional life, through her religious vocation, and in the world at large.”

Now that's true female beauty.

All I can say is "good riddens" to the swimsuit competition. Maybe now that this part of the competition is gone, more people will get a look at what a liberated and empowered woman really looks like.

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®

Tired of being objectified? Gather together some of your friends and discover what it means to be authentically feminine. Click here for more information.