The Miss America pageant will no longer feature a swimsuit competition, ending a tradition widely criticized as misogynistic as the event tries to move toward more inclusion.
“We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition,” Gretchen Carlson, the new chair of the Miss America Organization, announced Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Miss America, Carlson added, will be a “competition,” not a “pageant,” and will strive to change its public perception by emphasizing its role in providing scholarships to young women and honoring talent.
“We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit,’” Carlson said. “So guess what? You don’t have to do that anymore. You’re welcome. Please come join us.”
Carlson, a former Fox News host who won Miss America in 1989, has become a prominent advocate against sexual harassment since settling a lawsuit against executives at the cable news giant in 2016.
Miss America has undergone a major overhaul in response to the Me Too movement. Carlson became chair after emails uncovered last year revealed sexist and misogynistic comments among its leadership. The competition’s leadership teams now all are headed by women, including former Miss America winners.
The organization also will overhaul the evening gown portion of the contest, according to Carlson.
Neither the swimsuit nor the gown competitions were the highest-rated parts of the program, Carlson said, and the changes got little resistance within the organization.
Miss America, she added, hopes “to be open, transparent, inclusive to women who may not have felt comfortable participating in our program before.”
The changes will go into effect for this year’s contest, scheduled for Sept. 9.