Earlier this week, it was announced that Miss Teen USA will no longer include a swimsuit competition. Instead, they’re opting for a more modern, healthy approach with an athletic wear competition. It’s brand new and sure to draw attention to the competition taking place in July. Breaking away from a traditional part of these pageants is a bold move, but is it a good one?
The Miss USA competitions have been increasingly modernizing in recent years, with Miss District of Columbia Deshauna Barber being the first military service member to take the crown, and Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty competing this year as the first openly gay contestant. The elimination of the swimsuit competition is one of the subtle movements towards representing a modern era in the pageants, and while the swimsuit competition has always been very popular, the athletic wear competition is expected to promote a healthier lifestyle for young girls.
Miss Universe president Paula Shugart wrote in a statement: “This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same… Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.” From this standpoint, it seems that the purpose of this decision was to promote the idea that living a fit and active lifestyle is more important and empowering than being judged on how good you look in a bikini- and I think that’s awesome. Many people could agree that this portion of the pageant is demeaning and objectifying to women, and seeing it being replaced with something that symbolizes strength and empowerment is a big push towards the female empowerment these pageants should see more of.
While the swimsuit competition is still a major component of most pageants, hopefully this decision will be a push for other competitions to move in the same direction. With all of the viewers that look up to Miss Teen USA- and even its participants- it’s important to show them that women are strong and capable, and that while looking good in your bikini is definitely a plus, you can’t be judged on it. So props to the Miss Universe organization for realizing that it’s 2016 and that it’s time to emphasize confidence and beauty in more constructive ways.