#byebyebikini #MissAmerica2019
June 5, 2018 10:40 PM   Subscribe

Miss America will no longer have a swimsuit competition. Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the board, said, "We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance." She also said the new Miss America competition will be more inclusive to women of "all shapes and sizes."

Harper's Bazaar: The pageant revamp fittingly arrives in the #MeToo movement, which Carlson visibly became a part of after filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes.

Big Think: It’s possible the rebranding will earn new fans who appreciate the move away from objectifying women. It’s also possible the changes will render the event too unfocused to attract a wide TV audience.

Instagram comments: Living a healthy (not skinniest) lifestyle should still be an important quality in a Miss America. I don’t understand the elimination of evening gown at all.

Slate: The remaining components of the pageant—talent, interview, on-stage questions, and the new conversation with judges about life goals—don’t lend themselves to a cohesive vision of best-ness any better than they did when evening gowns and swimsuits were part of the rubric.

Alexandra Petri: I, a Reasonable Man, am devastated to learn there is no longer a swimsuit portion in the Miss America competition! And the evening-wear portion is now whatever the contestants want to wear, which could be anything at all, and which might be a bulky and functional tarpaulin that would delight my eyes not one whit!
posted by ErisLordFreedom (76 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Suggestion: Adopt the costume contest from the Miss Universe pagent. We need the Cosplay of States, damnit.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:51 PM on June 5 [90 favorites]


"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance."

So they're still going to be judging

judging female candidates

who are competing to be...

the best woman?
posted by clockzero at 10:55 PM on June 5 [56 favorites]


It’s possible the rebranding will earn new fans who appreciate the move away from objectifying women.

I am skeptical.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:18 PM on June 5 [20 favorites]


who are competing to be...
the best woman?
posted by clockzero

Australia seems to lately have had a fascination with both cooking and home renovation reality shows. I'm sure interest in them will wane eventually but at present I would find a Miss America or Miss World competition rather more riveting if the contestants were judged on their ability to lay timber flooring and bathroom pipework, their eye for interior design, and then proficiency at cooking a Michelin star meal.
posted by xdvesper at 11:40 PM on June 5 [38 favorites]


Longest fart (2 categories)
1: continuous
2: rat-a-tat-tat
posted by biffa at 11:51 PM on June 5 [123 favorites]


Put me down for a contender in the continuous category, biffa
posted by nikaspark at 12:37 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Sounds like it is turning into the Rose of Tralee, which has never been a beauty contest but always that much more nebulous thing, a personality contest. Though somehow they are all pretty.

(Also known as the Lovely Ladies contest from Father Ted.)
posted by hfnuala at 12:57 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]




I appreciated this well reasoned comment on the Instagram link: " As per the usual women always destroy every civilization with their cultural Marxist touch."

(Not linking because there's worse).
posted by lollusc at 2:15 AM on June 6 [6 favorites]


It’s been my observation that anyone who uses the phrase ‘cultural Marxism’ has not even the slightest skerrick of an idea what Marxism or culture even are.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:40 AM on June 6 [52 favorites]


I was going to say I don't know anyone under the age of 50 who cares about this, much less watches it live, but then realized I don't know ANYONE at any age who fits either bill. It's a good move in general, I guess.
posted by codacorolla at 3:43 AM on June 6 [9 favorites]


Since they are eschewing judgements of appearance, I assume they're also moving to a radio format.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:58 AM on June 6 [30 favorites]


Yeah, you can’t really have a “Miss America” contest that’s good for women, so...

This will not appeal to people who are not terrible, and it will piss off people who are terrible. I do not think it will be a commercial success.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:22 AM on June 6 [13 favorites]


So, this is obviously a good move—anything that objectifies women less is a step in the right direction, anyway. How big of a step is unclear, but I appreciate the sentiment. However, I can't help but think that this will also reduce interest in the Miss America pageant, since honestly I feel like it's pretty obvious that the overwhelming reason people care about it is because of the judging of female bodies and the competition to be "the prettiest." That's what people are there to see, so without that I would expect interest to drop off sharply.

Really though, I think that would just go to show how inherently awful and insane the entire beauty pageant concept is at its core, and if "judging female bodies to find the prettiest" is all they have to offer, we're probably all just better off without them. So if interest wanes, I can't see how that's a loss for anyone besides the people who run beauty pageants.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:33 AM on June 6 [10 favorites]


About the only time these contests ever make the news is when one of the contestants badly screws up the answer to a question. That's not judging them on their appearance, I guess, but still hardly positive.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:35 AM on June 6


"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance."

Right.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:40 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Ugh. Can't we skip straight to a Eurovision-style contest between the states already?
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 4:55 AM on June 6 [49 favorites]


Perhaps they could try a Miss America(n) Gladiators competition, wherein the contestants participate in activities such as running, jumping, and shooting tennis balls at one another.
posted by 4ster at 4:59 AM on June 6 [25 favorites]


Just like when Maeby Fünke lost the Miss Inner Beauty Pageants because the winners always had it "conventionally going on."
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:05 AM on June 6


The very existence of the competition, its utter essence, is objectification. Nothing will change that.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:05 AM on June 6 [20 favorites]


My husband and I were talking about this the other day and a point he made, with which I think I agree, is that this won't really make any sense or be a cohesive pageant which is probably a step on the path to acknowledging that there's really no non-sexist way to do pageants at all.

I think it's great that they're getting rid of the bathing suit competition and I think the evening gown competition created a higher barrier to entry for a lot of contestants because they're so expensive so I'm glad that's gone even if as a kid I liked looking at the fancy dresses but I don't think the pageant has much of an identity without them and I don't think there's enough acceptable substance to this kind of pageant to reshape into something that isn't sexist. I have fond memories of watching with my dad who loved the Miss America pageant (he went in person twice) but I don't think there's enough salvageable material to build something out of that's still recognizably Miss America.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:17 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


But just think about it, if it weren't for beauty pageants these contestants would never survive on their own in the wild, so at least they have a chance at life.
posted by waving at 5:24 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


First they ruined Thunderdome, now, this. What's next, Nerf Rollerball??
posted by Chitownfats at 5:24 AM on June 6


I don't care what they wear, as long as the combat includes a lirpa (or a bat'leth, for you luddites). There still is going to be the combat section, right?
posted by Gorgik at 5:28 AM on June 6 [6 favorites]


I mean. I think a Miss America pageant that involved personal combat and like target shooting on an obstacle course would be far more on brand, country-wise, but I don’t really want to encourage the inevitable competing Miss Real America pageant, featuring its distinctive bikini machine gun target shooting competition and judged by those creepy Duck guys with the beards.

God they’re already having a conference call about that aren’t they
posted by schadenfrau at 5:29 AM on June 6 [13 favorites]


"As per the usual women always destroy every civilization with their cultural Marxist touch."

As per usual, ignorance advertises itself in flashing neon lights but it's okay because White Dude.

Can't destroy civilizations with a cultural Marxist touch if the civilizations existed before roundabouts the 1840s*, now, can we.

* roundabouts date of Marx's first published works, BUT YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT, YOU WITCH**, DIDN'T YOU
** if you didn't know when Marx's first works were published, you are not a witch and may assume women were destroying civilization with cultural Marxism even in pre-Christian times because you couldn't possibly know any better, not being a witch and all
*** the first Miss America pageant was held in 1921 so is post-Marxist SO MAYBE IT ALREADY HELD THE CULTURAL MARXIST SEEDS OF ITS OWN DEMISE hmmm ponder that, workers of the world

posted by fraula at 5:41 AM on June 6 [13 favorites]


It’s been my observation that anyone who uses the phrase ‘cultural Marxism’ has not even the slightest skerrick of an idea what Marxism or culture even are.

Or indeed, in many cases, what a woman is.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:42 AM on June 6 [14 favorites]


I want to see a Ms America contest. For the early history portion, everyone has to dress as a first-wave feminist, reveal her sexy booted ankles, describe which first-wave feminist she most admires and why, and then catch a runaway racehorse. For the later history portion, everyone has to dress as a second wave feminist and sing "I Am Woman" to a gaggle of aghast conservative men. Contestants are judged (oh, are they judged) for the bushiness of their armpits and legs. For the contemporary portion, everyone has to wear business heels and suit while trying to bounce on a trampoline high enough and hard enough to break through a glass ceiling. Without dropping the baby. (Babies provided by Orphan Annie's Land of Abandoned Babies. Because you were too selfish to have one yourself.TM)
posted by pracowity at 5:57 AM on June 6 [55 favorites]


I think this is pretty stupid. They could have reframed the pageant around the premise that big women and disabled and trans women were beautiful and could win a beauty pageant. But now I don’t even know what the contest is about anymore. Just shut it down, it was always a bad idea
posted by dis_integration at 6:01 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


Ugh. Can't we skip straight to a Eurovision-style contest between the states already?

I didn't know I needed this, but I need this.

What on earth would Wyoming do
posted by middleclasstool at 6:06 AM on June 6 [18 favorites]


I appreciated this well reasoned comment on the Instagram link: " As per the usual women always destroy every civilization with their cultural Marxist touch."

JORDAN PETERSON WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP SO LATE?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:07 AM on June 6 [20 favorites]


Without the parade of T&A, what is really left? Maybe they will add in more talent show pieces to compete with those popular singing competition shows, but pagents are so entwined with gross objectification that it is hard to see this change working coherently.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


The Rose of Tralee is just baffling.
posted by Damienmce at 6:20 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


What on earth would Wyoming do

I'm sure the six people who live there could come up with something.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:27 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I think the rebrand should be a bit further to, "Miss America?" Send representatives from all 50 states to far-off lands and check in on them from time to time, asking them, "Excuse me, do you miss America?"

The ones who do can come home whenever. Those who don't can settle down nicely where they are.
posted by xingcat at 6:34 AM on June 6 [17 favorites]


There is a lot more to this than just eliminating swimsuits and gowns. All pages on the Miss America website currently redirect to a pages that says, "Miss America 2.0 2019 [the September event chooses Miss America 2019, not 2018] Coming soon: New website. New show. New experience."

So this appears to point to a pretty complete reinvention of the business model, not just a few format updates. In an age of wall-to-wall reality shows, I would expect that Miss America would try to become an uber-reality event, kind of the Superbowl of talent competitions.
posted by beagle at 6:38 AM on June 6


What on earth would Wyoming do

They'd have Kanye, obviously.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:39 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Stop. Just fucking stop. It's 2018, we don't this anymore.
posted by tommasz at 6:43 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Suggestion: eliminate the Miss America pageant, expand American Ninja Warrior.
posted by Foosnark at 6:45 AM on June 6 [14 favorites]


I support the elimination of the swimsuit pageant portion but I do have a soft spot in my heart for evening gowns, and also feel kind of like the “we welcome women of all sizes, but also we aren’t competing on beauty anymore” kiiiiind of has the effect of not being as empowering as they think.
posted by corb at 7:11 AM on June 6 [15 favorites]


Without the parade of T&A, what is really left?

... says a newly-installed plaque on the Resolute Desk, according to sources familiar with Oval Office decor.
posted by The Bellman at 7:14 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


We already have Drag Race and American Ninja Warrior, and both of those are contests of skill. I don't think we need Miss America at all.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:21 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


I think the only reason I'd watch Miss America is if they combined Drag Race and American Ninja Warrior, and called it that.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:27 AM on June 6 [11 favorites]


We have a whole pageant pyramid in the USA, where Little Miss Scrawny Holler can aspire to become Miss Mingo County, then Miss West Virginia, then Miss America, and at all the lower levels, the young women are judged on their appearance, perfect dental hygiene, and ability to walk in heels. Either the Miss America contest is not really going to change, or those contestants are going to find somewhere else to go.

It would be great if Miss America come up with something radically, weirdly different, unlikely as that is, but the pageant pipeline will be around for a while longer no matter what. This is going to have to change from the bottom up, not the top down.
posted by adamrice at 7:32 AM on June 6 [13 favorites]


"What on earth would Wyoming do"

"They'd have Kanye, obviously."


If Kanye's not available, they do have Teenage Bottlerocket and they are bigger than Kiss.
posted by remo at 7:41 AM on June 6


We have a whole pageant pyramid in the USA

I'd completely forgotten that! I'm now interested - if Miss America is no longer being judged on her swimsuit and evening gown appearance, is the Miss California pageant going to change its standards to push for a contestant who has a better chance of winning the MA crown?

(Agree with others who said this isn't nearly the feminist change the board seems to think it is, and they'd need an amazing and cohesive new plan to make it compelling enough to save their ratings.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:43 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Perhaps we could move to a Battle Royale/Most Dangerous Game model, where the last survivor is crowned the winner?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:18 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


I have always thought that a multi-day paintball tournament would be a pretty good reality show. And potentially a pretty good replacement for the bikini and evening gown portion of the show.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:25 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Perhaps we could move to a Battle Royale/Most Dangerous Game model, where the last survivor is crowned the winner?

Holy crap, Fortnite: Miss America Edition? Imagine the new demographic!
posted by The Bellman at 8:25 AM on June 6


I think they've gone for the other meaning of the word "miss".
posted by Burn_IT at 8:27 AM on June 6


Oh please let Trump tweet his opinion on this oh please oh please
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:41 AM on June 6 [10 favorites]


The less insulting they make Miss America, the more insulting they'll make "Donald Trump Presents America's Hottest Real American Women of America Brought To You By Trump Hotels and Casinos" when he leaves office (or before). There will be bikini golf at a Trump course, bikini mud wrestling, a bikini-wearing bikini design competition hosted by Donald and his bikini-wearing daughter, and a wet "Make America Great Again" t-shirt and bikini bottom contest. And 40 percent of Americans will watch it, so they'll start "Well, Pardon Me! Donald Trump Presents America's Up-and-Coming Bikini Models of America Brought To You By Trump Hotels and Casinos" bikini modeling and golf school for pretty girls under 16.
posted by pracowity at 8:44 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


This will easily double the amount of Pageants I watch. 2X0=0.
posted by Splunge at 8:52 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance.

I don't expect the Miss America Class of 2019 to deviate much from the Miss America Class of 2018 in terms of how much they conform to society's mean standard of physical beauty. Should I be wrong, I'll be pleasantly surprised.
posted by WCityMike at 9:33 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


It would be great if Miss America come up with something radically, weirdly different, unlikely as that is, but the pageant pipeline will be around for a while longer no matter what. This is going to have to change from the bottom up, not the top down.

The flip side of the pyramid though is that it gives Miss America a lot of power. If they were really interested in leadership, they could say that effective, say, 2020 they will no longer accept entrants from states if their pageants have swimwear or evening gown competition. And effective 2022 they will no longer accept entrants from states who haven't pushed this rule down the line to the local pageants.

Yeah, there's all the state and thousands of local pageants, but they derive a lot of their power from feeding up to the big title; I suspect interest in being, say, Miss Oklahoma would be reduced without the chance to also be Miss America.

And in searching Miss Oklahoma randomly, not only do three former Miss Americas from Oklahoma support the move, apparently as of next year all state competitions will follow the national lead.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:37 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Looks like one of those things a dying organization does when it flails around desperately trying to remain relevant.

When you strip away all the cutsie BS all beauty pageants have been a place to judge the fuckability of the contestants. That's their point and purpose, line up a bunch of women and ask men "which of these females would you most like to fuck?" They are inherently and unavoidably misogynist and have sexism built into every single facet of their existence. They are fractallly sexist.

You can't make a beauty pageant less sexist, they are distilled sexism.

Which is why they're also declining in popularity. We've got the internet now, anyone who wants porn can have access to it 24/7 right on their phone. There's no need to wait, drooling in anticipation, for the swimsuit contest to give you the closest thing to nudity that network TV censors will permit.

So faced with declining viewership, a social environment less welcoming to the sort of naked sexism that the show was built on, the owners are looking for that one magic hook that will let them keep on doing basically what they've been doing but still get those sweet ad dollars that used to roll in.

But there's no one weird trick that will save them. Like Playboy's brief decision to go non-nude, the Miss America contest will attract a brief flicker of memory ("what, are they still around?") among most people, the experiment will flop, and they'll bring back the bikinis in a couple of years shortly before the entire enterprise fails completely and goes bankrupt.
posted by sotonohito at 10:07 AM on June 6 [15 favorites]


I'll admit I was genuinely surprised to see that Miss America was still a thing. I'd have sworn I had a vague memory of the contest ending a few years ago, clearly I was wrong, but I doubt I'm alone in being surprised that it still exists.

I think I thought that was why Trump was doing that whole Miss World, or Miss Universe or whatever thing in Russia, I'd thought Miss America had died out due to lack of interest and society moving past that sort of open sexism so Trump and the other people still obsessed with beauty pageants had to go abroad to satisfy their desire.
posted by sotonohito at 10:11 AM on June 6


A beauty competition with no beauty component. There's no there there. What's the point? Just end it. Or make it actually about something else, something specific.
posted by windykites at 10:13 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I don't have anything to say about the pageant, but Gretchen Carlson should have been on last year's TIME Person of the Year cover. She was out there on her own before Harvey Weinstein was exposed and #MeToo was a thing. Megyn Kelly was interviewed in that issue, which makes it an even bigger oversight.
posted by riruro at 10:30 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


They played the theme on NPR today when talking about it, and I've had "There he is, your Komodo dragon" stuck in my head for hours.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:47 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Just a quick geography check: "Miss America" includes contestants from both Puerto Rico and District of Columbia. And it used to include the US Virgin Islands. So, it's at least 52 contestants from states, territories, and federal districts of the USA.

Which I think is important to mention because Puerto Rico is a part of the US.
posted by FJT at 12:52 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Big Think: It’s possible the rebranding will earn new fans who appreciate the move away from objectifying women.

Yeah, that'll totally happen.

It's a funny way for the event organizers to announce they're shutting it down, but I guess that's why they make the big bucks.
posted by jpe at 1:10 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


That really is the definition of polishing a turd.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 2:19 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


... if interest wanes, I can't see how that's a loss for anyone besides the people who run beauty pageants.

I'm just spitballing here, but if these contests lost popularity and were phased out, maybe the people who win beauty pageants would feel a bit of a sting? They're the ones awarded the kind of scholarships that paid for Carlson (1989's winner) to attend Stanford. It's unlikely another entity is going to step in to fill even part of that funding niche.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:30 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


My spouse is getting ready to cover the Miss North Dakota pageant taking place through this weekend in our town. Unfortunately, it *will* still include a swimsuit portion, as this announcement was made so recently there was “no time to change the format”. My grousing about live theatre being ready to respond to anything made no impact.

Spouse did point out that the reason swimsuits were included in the first place was because the national pageant, hosted in Atlantic City, wanted to draw attention to and promote its seaside location. What better way than with swimwear? This made me feel marginally less disgusted with the origins of the practice.

Spouse also said that Miss ND (and perhaps Miss America?) is officially branding itself as a “scholarship competition”. Spouse stated that the winner of Miss America receives nearly $300k in scholarships? I asked spouse how much the average contestant had invested to that point.
posted by epj at 2:47 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


> if these contests lost popularity and were phased out, maybe the people who win beauty pageants would feel a bit of a sting

Where does the money for the scholarships come from? If it's from, say, Big Makeup Corp, Inc, they might still want to give the money away for advertising (and tax benefits?).
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:14 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance."

Good! Good. Okay, let's judge them on their brains instead. (Yes, I know it's Miss Teen USA, not Miss America, but you get the idea)

Since they are eschewing judgements of appearance, I assume they're also moving to a radio format.

That would be the only way to ensure physical appearance did not factor into the evaluation.
posted by Snowflake at 3:22 PM on June 6


Never did understand the need for this sort of thing. Is there a similar Mr. America contest?
posted by kinnakeet at 6:40 PM on June 6


As for them being a “scholarship contest,” John Oliver did a show about that a couple of years ago. Unless things have changed since then (doubt it) their scholarship claims are highly exaggerated.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:52 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Is there a similar Mr. America contest?

There is. It's a bodybuilding contest. I bet they're not going to give up appearance-judging.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:31 AM on June 7


Weeping_angel, that's in the second link in my comment. The article name-checks Oliver, notes the lack of transparency and the probable discrepancies, and still: Even at that level, Miss America remains a top provider of college scholarships to women. The Society of Women Engineers, for example, provides about $700,000 a year in academic funding, while the Jeannette Rankin Foundation reported $174,000 in awards last year.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:51 AM on June 7


I suspect the Society for Women Engineers will find other recipients for their scholarships. They do work with Girl Scouts and put on great workshops for free; maybe they can slide even more resources our way.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:18 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


As for them being a “scholarship contest,” John Oliver did a show about that yt a couple of years ago.

cw: reminds you of when Obama was president and trump was a punch line of a washed-up game show host.
posted by stet at 4:24 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who's glad to hear about the changes specifically because it's clearly the beginning of the end of this pageant, after years and years of falling ratings and being shuffled from channel to channel? The complaining is even coming from people who have to pretend they watched it. Also, couldn't the girls who are funneled from small town pageant to state pageants with the old standards and rules in place could just go to Miss USA?
posted by Selena777 at 9:56 AM on June 8


I suspect the Society for Women Engineers will find other recipients for their scholarships. They do work with Girl Scouts and put on great workshops for free; maybe they can slide even more resources our way.

It wasn't my understanding of that article that the SWE is disbursing money through Miss America - just that the minimum $2 million that Miss America awards is much larger than other scholarship pools for women.
posted by mosst at 11:50 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Ah, that makes mores sense.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:38 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


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