Bring Back the Bikini

Okay. Are you still reading posts about the MAO change?

Can we talk about it through the lens of recovery, and how it can still be useful even if women have, and will continue to, struggle with body image?

Yes? Awesome.

So, here's the deal. You know pretty much where I stand on diets, trendy lifestyle changes, bullshit food rules, and in general, disordered behaviors that are mainstream.

Blanket statement: they all suck.

You also know where I stand on pageant prep. I've done it. I've done it ways that "work" and ways that don't. I've done it while being "healthy" and while being unhealthy. By and large, I look at it as training for a specific purpose, with the right resources, and a firm end date, I do actually believe it is possible to train for a pageant/competition/whatthehellever and still remain a normal human with normal habits.

That being said...

There is a grey area in everything. This swimsuit change, and the reasoning behind it - and the truth that lies in the struggles of getting to that moment on stage, and what happens after - all have grey in them.

So, let's start with the act of removing the Lifestyle & Fitness portion of the competition based on the notion of female empowerment, and not judging contestants "on their outward physical appearance."

Okay, we're just all going to agree that your outward physical appearance is still present and relevant in literally every phase of competition, right?

I don't know about you, but I sure as heck did my hair and makeup just as diligently for interview, OSQ, talent, and evening gown as I did for swim. I understand the notion that in no other part of competition is a judge looking a my body for the sake of judging me on that presentation. Sure.

But let's be clear, the judgment of what those contestants look like is not going away.

And while we are talking about what those contestants look like, I'll have to ask someone to remind me how that has anything to do with being, or not being, empowered?

You know I'm Team #MeToo.

However, you also know I'm Team Share Whatever Story You Want Because Your Validity Doesn't Hinge on Your Willingness to Bear Your Soul.

And on top of that at what point did we decide that female empowerment couldn't mean walking on stage in a swimsuit?

Are we really about to make MAO the banner for, "well, we care about women's brains and what is on the inside, so obviously that means they shouldn't also wear swimsuits on stage?" Because that is not real. Someone tell me that is not real.


This female empowerment/outward appearance argument falls really short in one fell swoop. Because the thing is, they don't need the swimsuit to show how empowered they are, or that they are physically beautiful, but the kicker is that the swimsuit doesn't negate anything that they are, or have accomplished, or wish to do.

The swimsuit doesn't take away from the woman and her brain.


So then there is the argument of how the girl managed to get to that point. The point where she is on stage - in this case, a national stage - in a swimsuit, in what we like to assume is "the best shape of her life."

Okay. This argument has more merit, I'll admit.

But still, we need to look at this logically.

Because not every single girl that goes on stage at a local, state, or national level is going to do so from a place of disordered eating or behaviors. But to have even one girl feel that way is one girl too many.

So is removing the swimsuit the best option?

Or do we need to be asking more of our current titleholders, of our boards, and of our fitness sponsors?

Shouldn't we be looking at having conversations about what health actually looks like instead of asking them to wing it?

I know that there are a lot of things that can go wrong between deciding to compete, and getting that 45 seconds on stage in swimsuit.

But I know that a lot of things can fall into place as well.

I know that girls will tell you they learned to love vegetables, the value of a nutrient, the ability to lift weights, and what it means to be someone who works towards a goal.

Personally? I eat far better than I ever would've without the swift kick in the behind that was signing up for my first round of Miss Vermont. I learned to run. I learned to lift. I learned the kind of macro-nutrients my body wants and needs. I learned what fuel is, and what doesn't work for me.

And yes, totally, along the way I found a lot of dark spots that brought along some unhealthy habits.

But again, do we think that removing swimsuit is going to help that problem?

I don't. I really don't.

There is the grey area.

These women are truly the best of the best. They have worked their butts off to get to the stage (local, state, and national. Let's recognize.) And I do not believe that they are going stop working their butts off because there is no longer a Lifestyle & Fitness portion of the competition. But I do think that, as an organization, we have just been knocked down a couple of pegs.

At the end of the day, Miss America started as a swimsuit competition, yes. But it has evolved to shape the lives of tens of thousands of women by providing a platform that allows them to say, I am smart, I am strong, I am willing to serve, and hell yes, I'll do it in a pair of falsies. 

I will continue to support the amazing women that bravely dream of their day on that Miss America stage. Because, of course I will. But no, I don't think we fixed anything by removing swim.

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