Even without swimsuits, Miss America will still be about how women look

By Michael d’Oliveira

Gretchen Carlson told Good Morning America last month that Miss America would no longer have a swimsuit competition.

“We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition,” said Carlson, a former Fox News commentator and the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors.

On The View, Carslon said Miss America would also be more open to women with body types who haven’t been included

Meghan McCain said she’d be fine with a swimsuit competition if “plus size girls” were also a part of it. “I one hundred percent agree with you,” responded Carlson.

But despite this move to make Miss America less about “outward physical appearance,” it’s not exactly going to be the revolution Carlson is promising.

All the announced candidates for Miss America 2019 [now posted on the organization’s website]
are stunningly beautiful – just like every year before. As for the “plus size” candidates, they’re also all beautiful and they’re also within that socially acceptable definition of “plus size.”

No one in this competition is going to be seriously overweight. No one is going to have less than perfect teeth, less than perfectly clear skin or less than perfect hair. They’re all going to fit the traditional standard of beauty as in years past.

These women may not be parading themselves around in heels and skimpy bathing suits, but Miss America is still going to be entirely based on outward physical appearance.

What Carlson really means is that all the gorgeous women judged during the actual event are going to be judged based on what they say or do. In that respect, she’s right – Miss America will be about brains and talent.

But, in reality, only women with a certain type of outward physical appearance are actually allowed into the Miss America event. You can’t call yourself inclusive if you don’t actually include everyone.

But not including everyone is okay. This is a private organization and it has the right to decide the standard by which people are admitted. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially since there’s nothing racist or bigoted about Miss America. Women of multiple ethnic and racial backgrounds are a part of the event.

But let’s be honest about what this change means. If someone wants to trumpet this as a moment of progress for women, go ahead. Just don’t pretend like superficiality isn’t still a big part of Miss America.