By Kylie Hargrave
Elm Staff Writer
The swimsuit round in beauty pageants has long been the scorn of feminist groups and a contributing factor to the negative stereotypes surrounding these organizations. These stereotypes have been challenged, and debate has been stirred up with the Miss World pageant deciding to cut their swimsuit portion after 63 years when it was established an important part of the competition.
To comment on the decision, the Chairwoman of Miss World Julia Morley said, “I don’t need to see women just walking up and down in bikinis. It doesn’t do anything for the woman, and it doesn’t do anything for any of us.”
She emphasized that the slight differences in the women’s physical attractiveness that the swimsuit round could reveal aren’t really that important because the pageant is only really “listening to her speak.” “People” magazine featured an article on the topic as well, and in it they included screen shots of Tweets on the topic. The opinions on the change seemed to follow a similar path; most people were in support, some even congratulating the change. One woman even said, “Now maybe I have a smidgen of respect for beauty pageants.”
It seems that the public and the leaders of the organization are in agreement that this is an improvement that takes some focus off the women’s bodies. What’s interesting is how it seems that the concern isn’t shared strongly by the contestants. In The Pageant Planet’s question of the day for Feb. 5, the site asked girls involved in pageants whether they would remove the swimsuit portion if they could. The answers of the five girls were largely unanimous: keep it. Some suggested that it should be an optional portion of the contest that doesn’t directly affect the girls scores. Other than that, the others generally believed it is a time to show off all their long hours at the gym and their dedication to eating well, both of which they’re proud. One of the girls said, “What the swimsuit competition represents to me is discipline.”
However, even if the girls involved in pageants support the swimsuit portion the message it sends out to the world and, more specifically, to women should be considered. The swimsuit is a sexualizing piece of clothing in its very nature, and it’s this sexualizing of women that is ever increasingly being scorned in all types of media in our world today. Even without the swimsuit portion these beauty pageants still convey a type of body and person that women are expected to fit into, and perhaps we should be careful with body image. This is an important implication to consider, but overall I think this change is a positive one, for it shows respect on the organization’s side for women and how they are viewed.