On Tuesday, June 5, Gretchen Carlson, chairwoman of the Miss America Organization announced during an interview with "Good Morning America" that the competition will be eliminating the swimsuit portion of the competition starting with its upcoming showcase of "American Beauty" on September 9.
It is hoped that what will replace the swimsuit portion will be an amplified focus on "the contestants' talents, intelligence, and ideas," as a New York Times article reported.
Writing this piece as a young woman who is a feminist who cares about social problems plaguing societies, I am interested to see how this move could have rippling effects.
I also should be clear that my opinion on the Miss America pageant is coming from the limited perspective of only having watched the television broadcast. As I have never competed in a pageant I am unable to speak to and fully understand the deeper intricacies the women who compete in pageants such as Miss America know so well and invest their time and energy to.
As someone who merely casually watches the Miss America pageant, I see the competition in the following way. The pageant recognizes one woman as the representation of American womanhood based on her appearance, talents, and an extremely brief response to a single question. After the field of over 50 women has been whittled down to one crown winner, this woman spends a year traveling around the country to be a notable figure at various public engagements.
This is all I get to see on the limited television broadcast that is shown. This is what causes misconceptions to be had about the work and effort that goes into holding the title of Miss America and competing in pageants that are a part of the Miss America organization. The greater American public does not see the full picture.
In trying to gain more perspective on the competition I went to the Miss America organization website that indicates there are three nights of preliminary competition before the television broadcast is presented to millions of Americans watching. It was hard for me to find a description of what goes on during these three nights of preliminary competition though.
I hope that in substitution for the swimsuit competition, the Miss America organization would spend that time showing viewers what goes into being a competitor in this pageant. I would love to know more about the platforms each woman advocates for and how she hopes to use the title of Miss. America to further advance those platforms.
In a follow-up article on the news from Tuesday, the New York Times heard from title winners on their perspective on the change and it was insightful for me to read in order to learn more about what these pageants are like.
I think where my frustration comes is that we have commercialized the televised portion of the competition to the point where it overshadows the core values of the Miss America organization. Every little girl and young woman should be able to look up to Miss America because the woman who wears that crown has some impressive accomplishments on her resume that should not be overlooked.
Right now, I think these accomplishments are being overlooked. Before sitting down to write this article I was not aware that the current Miss America, Cara Mund is an honors graduate of Brown University and has been recognized by former President Obama for her charitable efforts working with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
In trying to learn more about Miss America and the organization, this platform has the ability to provide promising young women with the opportunity to be prominent social advocates who are breaking the glass ceilings through various forms of leadership.
I think one former Miss America who is doing a great job of this is Nicole Johnson who has used the title she once held to help her gain a footing as an avid supporter of Type One diabetes through her work with the Students with Diabetes Program and JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).
Overall, every single little girl and young woman should be able to see Miss. America as a figure they can look up to, regardless of whether they even know what a beauty pageant is and be inspired by these women to become social advocates.