The “Miss America” pageant has succumbed to political correctness with its decision, announced Tuesday, to remove aspects of the contestants’ physical appearance from consideration.
Heaven forbid that contestants in a pageant, in which beauty has long played a part, be judged for the way they look -- even contestants such as the 51 annual state titleholders (plus Miss District of Columbia) who are pageant veterans who have worked hard for half their lives to maintain their looks and their physical fitness.
What are they to do now? Let themselves go? Wear sweatpants and flip-flops to the pageant, like out-of-town tourists at a Broadway show?
With this decision, the pageant’s governing body known as the Miss America Organization wishes to signal that they have seen the light. Never again will a female contestant in the “Miss America Pageant” have to withstand the agony or the intense scrutiny of being judged, at least in part, on the basis of their bodies or their beauty. Judge someone based on her looks? Not at this beauty pageant!
Superficial considerations such as a contestant’s “outward physical appearance” are outmoded, and therefore out. Specifically, this means no more swimsuits -- which was the part of the announcement that drew the most attention when the news broke on Tuesday.
So what's in? “Evening attire” of each contestant’s “own choosing,” said the announcement from The Miss America Organization and ABC, which will air this year's pageant on Sunday, September 9. So now, when it comes to evening wear, anything goes.
The pageant will still be live from Atlantic City, but the word “pageant” has been dropped. Now the title of the show is “The 2019 Miss America Competition,” although the press release had another name as well -- “Miss America 2.0 2019.” Which is it? Who knows?
Here is what the news release said:
“The board of trustees of the Miss America Organization announced today groundbreaking changes for the ‘The 2019 Miss America Competition,’ effective this September, by declaring that the 51 women representing their home states and the District of Columbia will no longer be judged on outward physical appearance,” read the lead sentence.
“This change in format signals the end of the swimsuit portion of the competition. In its place, each candidate will participate in a live interactive session with the judges, where she will highlight her achievements and goals in life, and how she will use her talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America,” the release continued.
“The former evening gown competition will now give participants the freedom to outwardly express their self-confidence in evening attire of their choosing while discussing how they will advance their social impact initiatives. Talent, which has always been a distinguishing element of Miss America, will remain a highlight of the competition,” it said.
It then went on to the “prepared statement” section -- one from Gretchen Carlson, current chairperson of the organization's board of trustees, and then another from President and CEO Regina Hopper.
Gretchen Carlson is the former Fox News Channel anchorwoman who blew the sex-harassment whistle on Roger Ailes. She was also 1989's Miss America (competing as Miss Minnesota), and presumably had no problem at the time meeting the challenges presented by having to maintain her outward appearance in order to compete in the swimsuit competition and win the crown. Well, 2018 is not 1989, apparently.
Although this announcement came out of the ABC publicity department, there were no prepared statements from any ABC brass in the release. Maybe the network is adopting a policy of neutrality on the swimsuit issue, preferring to wait and see if the lack of swimsuits results in ratings declines. If that happens, look for the swimsuits to suddenly reappear in 2020.
Many people are no doubt applauding the Miss America Organization for this new approach to crowning its annual champion, based on considerations that have nothing to do with looks.
But in adopting this new point of view, the organization would have us think that the swimsuit competition was nothing more than a parade of pin-up girls that was staged for American men to ogle on TV.
That was not the case, however. I am sure the contestants themselves (such as last year's Miss New Jersey, Kaitlyn Schoeffel, seen in the 2017 pageant photo above) would disagree.
If asked, they might make the case that physical fitness, along with the health benefits that go along with it, is the goal of their hard work, and something more Americans should strive for, particularly in an era when levels of obesity and the illnesses that go with it are at record highs in this country.
Moreover, they might point out that leadership, scholarship, social impact and empowerment -- all buzzwords of the new “Miss America Competition” -- are all goals that are made even more achievable when one is healthy in both mind and body.
While we are at it, why don't we prohibit swimsuits in all other parts of American life as well, particularly on the nation's beaches? As for the concept of beauty pageants generally, let's just give everybody a trophy and call it a day.