Watching women parade across a stage in bikinis can feel outdated

Heralding the end of women strutting their stuff with their baps out may take more time

Nia Temple Sanchez alongside with Donald Trump, was Miss USA in 2014.  Trump has since  sold the franchise

Nia Temple Sanchez alongside with Donald Trump, was Miss USA in 2014. Trump has since sold the franchise

 

So it’s bye, bye, Miss American Pie, or at least it is bye, bye to the swimsuit section in Miss Teen USA. Finally cottoning on to the fact that making underage girls parade in front of adult judges in just their bikinis is not good, the organisers of Ms Teen USA announced last week that the girls could now cover up a bit.

Pouring cold water on the notion of a bit of harmless fun, the beauty pageant for underage girls even mentioned the F word. No, not that one. Feminism. Of course.

“In a society that increasingly prioritises feminism and equality, watching women parade across a stage in bikinis can feel outdated,” pageant organisers said.

Seeing teenage girls parade before you in their scanties is just plain wrong. I think we can all agree in that. Heralding the end of grown women strutting their stuff with their baps out may take more time. It is 2016, but the female beauty contest is still going strong.

US presidential candidate Donald Trump sold his stake in the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants last year. Was Trump becoming an anti-sexism warrior? Or was it because he had accused Mexico of sending its criminals and “rapists” to the US, causing broadcaster NBC to refuse to air the pageant?

“When I bought [Miss Universe], the bathing suits got smaller, the heels got higher and the ratings went up,” said the thrice-married Trump. Anti-sexist warrior? May be not.

Young girls may need razor-sharp abs and perilously little flesh under their crop tops for the re-packaged Ms Teen USA, but beauty contests are still going strong.

So has Ms Teen USA fired the opening salvo in what the organisers called an “important cultural shift.”

Earlier this month, Erin O’Flahery (23) was crowned Miss Missouri. Erin may be the stereotypically slim, white woman so loved by US beauty pageants, but she is also a proud, out lesbian. Yes, we know some may point out that Ireland got there first, but, last time we looked, Maria Walsh, winner of the 2014 Rose of Tralee competition, was not required to wear a swimsuit. Acknowledging her trailblazing, O’Flaherty said that it is “pretty unheard of to be a gay woman in the Miss America system”.

“I do think it is a big deal to come into Miss America being open, because the visibility for the LGBT community is what we need right now. I’m just hoping I can be a voice to speak [on that].”

With an openly gay woman coming up trumps in a beauty contest, maybe they are becoming more inclusive and diverse.

There were cries of hypocrisy, not “feminism and equality” recently, though, when Miss Great Britain Zara Holland was stripped of her title after she had sex with another contestant on the reality television show Love Island. “I’ve done nothing wrong. All the things Miss GB claims to stand for have been used against me,” Holland said after her dethroning.

Love Island host Caroline Flack tweeted: “What even is ‘Miss GB’? Are we living in the dark ages?”

That is a good question.

Some people may think the beauty contest has died a death, but it hasn’t. This year Mirella Paz became the first plus-sized contestant to reach the finals of Miss Peru. She was overjoyed. But did she win? No she didn’t. Although Paz says she was so pleased to get that far, that she will celebrate by going on a diet.

Beauty contests really can help some women, it is argued – and not just by Donald Trump and Miss Teen USA’s “physical fitness” promoters.

According to website Legal Cheek, some British lawyers have secret (and no-so-secret) lives as beauty queens.

Olivia Green, who is going to study law at the University of Nottingham this year, won Miss Nottingham 2016 in January. The runner-up in the same competition was Vicky Marriott, a second-year Nottingham Trent law student who is also treasurer of her university’s law society.

This month, law student Stephanie Wyatt won Miss Dorset, and will now represent her county at the Miss England final. The website is perplexed by the whole thing. “Law firm life demands professional dress and appearance, but discourages showy over-dressing (a beauty pageant staple),” wrote Katie King.

Not all of the pageant-entering lawyers concur.

Miss Teen Great Britain finalist Ashleigh Wild, an 18-year-old law student and aspiring solicitor from Blackpool, said: “I do think my law studies and my participation in pageants link. They both require motivation, resilience, attention to detail, leadership, commercial awareness and communication skills.”

Wild’s point may be easily contested, but few of us can afford the costs.

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