When the Quest for Equality Compromises Your True Image

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I may be six years removed from the last time I competed in the Miss America system, but I am speaking out, as this *scholarship program* was the impetus for me learning how to use my voice.

The #byebyebikini branding for Miss America 2019 is trying to get a similar rise, as it piggybacks off the #metoo movement. Being almost a century-old pageant, Miss America has fought to remain relevant in an ever-changing society by choosing a versatile, well-rounded young woman to represent.

However, I am confused by the organization including Gretchen Carlson’s stance. They say the “new” Miss America won’t be judged by her physical appearance—eliminating both the swimsuit and evening gown portions—to allow more women to compete for scholarship who would’ve shied away because of walking in heels in a bikini. But what happened to a real competition that involves challenge, facing fears, incentivizing personal goals that would’ve never been reached if it weren’t for this kind of competition?

It has never been a pageant because no other “pageant” offers scholarship to women ages 18-24 like Miss America [insert Gracie Lou Freebush “It’s a scholarship program!” – Miss Congeniality]. Not only that, it encourages community service and a platform, which not only is life-changing for the competitor, but for those whom she served as their advocate.

So back to the #metoo movement – you’re telling me that we have to eliminate the physical appearance “competition” to be heard and respected? Why can’t women have a voice AND be feminine? Why do we have to take away being admired for beauty to be heard?

Honestly, I don’t want to think that my physical appearance—whether admirable or not—has to be omitted, so I can be taken seriously. I liked the evening gown and swimsuit competitions because I did get to express myself in the beautiful parts of being a woman and the hard work to respect my body and health. I loved that there was a program that I could challenge myself in ALL areas—physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Sadly, this is just a talent competition with women who can eloquently speak about political issues.

All I can say is that Gretchen Carlson’s “True North” has gone “Way South.” I thought we wanted to empower women’s voices—not take away their femininity.