• Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
Miss Teen USA Pageant

Darren Decker

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. This isn't a blanket ban across all franchises, but still, it's a promising start.

The Miss Universe Organization announced Wednesday that it was doing away with the swimsuit competition, a staple of beauty pageants for almost 100 years, at the next Miss Teen USA pageant.

Which makes sense, considering the stated purpose of the contest is to award scholarship money and, as MTUSA just noted on Twitter, "[celebrate] young women who lead active, purposeful lives."

Besides, with an age group ranging from 14- to 19-year-olds... Wait, they've been having a swimsuit competition?!

Not that all the participants were required to wear bikinis or anything, but doesn't that seem a little...weird?

Then again, maybe it's no more uncomfortable (though it is) than women of any age being required to wear bathing suits on a stage and let a group of judges—and millions of other people—take a good look.

Miss Teen USA Pageant

Darren Decker

What has that ever proved? And doesn't society already have a daily swimsuit competition called the beach? That one can be grueling enough.

And yet year after year, contestants for Miss USA, Miss Universe, Miss America and countless other pageants at every level (city, county, state, country, etc.) have featured dozens of women wearing what amounts to hydrophilic underwear parading around.

It's widely accepted because it's just the way that it's always been done, the first Miss America pageant in 1921 being advertised as a "bathers revue," but Miss America also used to require "that contestants must be of good health and of the white race." So, you know what? Change is good!

Sure, there's a Mr. America (it's a bodybuilding contest), and one can argue that there are male beauty pageants and, oh, isn't it a hoot when the guys strip down to their skivvies on shows like The Bachelorette, where there just may be a daily ab-count to make sure the suitors are up to snuff.

But if it's not being played for wolf whistles and laughs, most man-centric contests are enthusiastically all about the body. Since Miss America, et al. vehemently insist that they're all about education, female empowerment and sisterhood...why not just treat the ladies to a beach field trip or a tropical vacation and get back to the business of talent, current events and sportsmanship on stage?

Like we said, we've become numb to the swimsuit competition. Inured, if you will. It happens, no one's the worse for wear if you're into pageants and other contests where physical appearance comes into play.

If you stop to really think about it, though...What is this, when 51 women (or in Miss Teen USA's case, girls) strut around in mostly bikinis and the world gets all excited if one of them happens to look slightly more curvaceous than all the rest?! Though at least we've come that far.

Then again, there are plenty, inside the pageant world and probably plenty outside too, who never saw anything wrong with the swimsuit competition, which Miss Teen USA is replacing with an athletic-wear competition.

Zoey Deschanel Eye Roll

Fox

"Believe me, the swimsuit competition is not held because of measurements," Miss America Sharlene Wells told reporters in 1985 as her the end of her reign neared. "It's to show the physical fitness of the contestants."

And the party line has held for decades, though Miss World dropped the swimsuit portion in 2014, largely out of respect for contestants from countries where such things are frowned upon. ("It's not just a beauty contest, it's 'beauty with a purpose'. There didn't seem to be a purpose to have the swimsuit," Chris Wilmer, the national director of Miss World America/Miss United States organization, told ABC News at the time.)

"The swimsuit competition hasn't ever been about being sexy," former Miss USA Shanna Moakler told E! News today. "It's about showcasing your dedication to your health and fitness and how you exude confidence. These girls work hard."

And their commitment to health and fitness will presumably still be on full display in the athletic wear. As for the more grownup installments of the franchise, the swimsuits stay for now.

"For Miss Universe and Miss USA, that's a very important part of the competition and will continue to be an important part of the competition," Michael Antinoro, head of original content at IMG, which bought the Miss Universe Organization from Donald Trump last year, told The New York Times.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was a fan of the swimsuit competition while he was involved with the organization, telling Fox & Friends in 2013 in response to what was then just a report that Miss World might end the practice, "Well, I own Miss Universe, so I'm actually very happy about it—because if [Miss World] doesn't have bikinis their ratings go right down the tubes."