The Miss America pageant debuted in 1921 as a swimsuit competition. Throughout the years, the pageant has evolved along with society. The 2020 competition is set for December 20, 2019, and will be held at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. The biggest change over the last few years is that the event is now officially called a competition and no longer referred to as a pageant. As the event continues to change, many people question if the new changes are working to empower women.
As more women have entered the workforce, the Miss America event has seen a definitive shift toward a more intellectual approach. By emphasizing the social impact that the contestants have on their communities, the organization is sending the message that women have the power to truly make a difference. The winner of the competition receives significant scholarships that she can use to further her education. The official role of the winner is to serve as an empowerment and leadership mentor, lending weight to the message that the event has shifted toward an intellectual and character emphasis.
Beginning last year, the organization completely removed the swimsuit portion of the competition. While this had been the iconic competition of the event since its inception, taking it out clearly signaled the shift away from an emphasis on beauty in a manner that objectified the women. The removal of the swimsuit portion of the competition received the greatest media attention. It’s a sign that although the shift towards a more female empowered mindset is occurring, we still have a long way to go in shifting the general viewpoint regarding women.
The talent portion of the competition is now weighed more heavily than ever before. By giving more credence to this part of the event, the Miss America organization is showing that they value what their candidates bring to the table with their skills. Unlike its counterpart, Miss USA, the Miss America competition puts its candidates through a live interactive session with the judges. This shift toward a more intrinsic emphasis is a significant change in how the organization operates and demonstrates its commitment to empowering women.
While these changes to the pageant were largely lauded by feminists, society still has more to do when it comes to empowering women. Taking the emphasis off of physical beauty and placing it more on brains and talent is certainly a good start.