Miss Teen USA replaces swimsuits with “athleisure”
The people behind the Miss Teen USA pageant just made a big announcement: instead of judging girls based on how their bodies look in a bikini, they’re going to start judging them in yoga pants. That’s right, the pageant is eliminating the swimsuit portion of the evening and replacing it with an athletic wear competition — or, as they’re calling it, “athleisure.”
In a memo provided to USA Today, Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe Organization, which owns Miss Teen USA, said the change is meant to “celebrate women’s strength, confidence and beauty” in more “constructive” ways — more constructive than this, at least:
“This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same,” Shugart wrote in her memo. “Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.”
If you’re wondering what the hell “athleisure” is, this is what Miss Teen USA posted on Twitter as an example:
— Miss Teen USA (@MissTeenUSA) June 29, 2016
I’m not sure skintight leggings and a sports bra is really that much better than a swimsuit, but hey, it’s a first step, right? Golf claps all around.
The Miss Teen USA pageant brands itself as a way for young women ages 14-19 to win scholarship money. The organization behind the pageant is using a lot of girl power buzzwords like “empowerment” to describe their move away from the swimsuit competition, but let’s not forget they’ve had teen girls in bikinis getting ogled by judges for the past 33 years. When you think of it that way, it kind of makes their shift to athletic wear seem like the very least they could do — and, even then, it’s still a little creepy.
Young women should be celebrated for their accomplishments and their abilities, rather than for how good they can look in skimpy clothes, and reigning Miss Teen USA Katherine Haik seems to think “athleisure” is a step in that direction. “I have been an athlete my entire life,” she told USA Today. “As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear. This new direction… is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”
Athletic wear might not be a huge departure from swimsuits, but it seems the contestants at least feel like it’s more representative of their strengths, interests, and abilities. Obviously a beauty pageant is never going to completely shift its focus away from judging girls and women based on their appearances, but if athletic wear can at least get people thinking about what these teen contestants can do, rather than just parading them around like slabs of meat in neon string bikinis, that’s a teeny, tiny change we can (sort of) get behind.