Today the Miss America pageant announced that the bathing suit segment of the competition would no longer be part of their annual event. In the era of #MeToo, and a time when using a hashtag implies you care beyond the tweet or meme, contestants no longer have to jiggle onstage in a bikini before pontificating on world peace. The evening gown competition isn’t part of the show either anymore, and there’s a claim that size will no longer be a defining factor. The times, they are a changing- or at least that’s what the pageant directors would like for us to think.
“We are not going to judge you on your outward appearance,” said Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989, who is currently chairwoman of the Miss America Organization. Carlson also said on Good Morning America “We are moving it forward and evolving it in this cultural revolution.” Wait a minute, just a few weeks back millions of us watched breathlessly as a so-called commoner wed a prince. We oohed, we aahed, we watched as a formerly somewhat successful actress’s entire body of work was subsumed by her new life as the spouse of a royal. Goodbye Meghan Markle, hello protocol and archaic – though frequently fashionable with impressive bling– dress and life code.
Dancing legend Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except as the famous quote goes, she did it all while backwards and in high heels. A beauty pageant that used to have a mere nod to intellect is now attempting to rebrand and relaunch as an empowerment tool for young women. Could it work? Maybe. But the people watching beauty pageants tend to tune in for the beauty most of all.