A Change in MAO: The elimination of swimsuit aka Lifestyle and Fitness

Ooh look I’m back after an insanely long break and I am tackling a controversial topic right off the bat! I promise I will make a post about what I have been up to in the upcoming weeks but for now let us talk about some breaking news: The Miss America Organization is eliminating the well known and quite controversial swimsuit portion of competition. So here is a bit of my opinion:

There are pros and cons in my opinion to this change. The Miss America Organization did start as a ‘bathing beauties’ competition in the 1920s to extend the tourism season in Atlantic City. However, I was NEVER a fan of the swimsuit competition for a handful of reasons. First, I barely enjoy wearing a swimsuit on the beach so I definitely hated wearing it on stage. I also didn’t think it was a good judge of how fit you actually are. I could have slaved in a gym building the perfect swimsuit body or I could do things I enjoyed like hiking, dancing and swimming and be in the best shape of my life but unless I was eating a certain way and exercising a certain way, it wasn’t going to show on stage.

The main reason I love this change is because I think it will encourage more girls to enter and it will also be a blessing for many, like me, who entered despite struggling with body image issues and disordered eating in the past. In high school, I had a horrible relationship with food. Because of that, the type of prep most girls do for swimsuit in MAO is nearly impossible for me. Protecting my mental health was always my main priority while competing and I refused to reduce calories and spend 10-15 hours per week in the gym just to look “good” in a swimsuit. There are also some women who genetically will never look like some of the current Miss A contestants and that is fine. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have the chance to win scholarship money or work to empower others or be empowered

Also, there has been a common reoccurring theme when I ask younger girls (seniors in high school/freshman in college) about competing. In fact, it came up in a conversation with a teen I know just the other night. When I suggest competing, many times the response is “I would but I am not comfortable doing swimsuit just yet”. So by eliminating swimsuit, you are encouraging young women who may have missed competing as a teen to get involved earlier on (or you are encouraging teens to make the direct transition to miss)

I understand why people are upset. For many, it was about empowerment. But I do believe there are better ways to feel empowered on stage other than being in a swimsuit. I would have even been okay with eliminating the bikini aspect and making it more of a modeling in fitness wear or a one-piece. I just think it is better for a lot of girls to eliminate it.

And I know I will likely get backlash from this so let me clear a few things up: Yes, I know there are contestants and titleholders of many shapes and sizes already who may love swimsuit. I am sure there are also many of the opposite as well. I know the history of the pageant and while it does make me sad to see this part of history being eliminated, there are always aspects of history that do not need to be carried with us.

I think if the organization wants to put an emphasis on empowerment, they need to empower women of all shapes, sizes and appearances. You should not watch the Miss America competition and feel like you can’t look a certain way because everyone else does. You should see a true representation of the diversity that is in this country. Young girls shouldn’t feel like they need to look a specific way to be successful or to be Miss America. They should be encouraged to be themselves, embrace who they truly are inside and use their brains and their hearts to excel. And I truly hope that the current changes to MAO will represent just that.

 

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