Miss America is rebranding for the modern era that's less tolerant of outright objectification of women. Last year, the organization was rocked after sexist emails sent by Miss America officials denigrating former contestants' looks and intelligence were leaked. CEO Sam Haskell and several other high-level executives and board members resigned, and former Miss America Gretchen Carlson — the TV journalist whose lawsuit against her former workplace Fox News exposed rampant sexual harassment that led to the ouster of founder Roger Ailes and top broadcaster Bill O'Reilly — became the new chairperson, with a mandate to change the organization, starting with installing an all-female leadership team.
Carlson's reforms to the program itself are now coming out. On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Carlson announced sweeping revisions to Miss America to change it from being about looks to being about character. One, the word "pageant" will no longer be used, since it's not about external beauty.
"We are no longer a pageant," Carlson said. "We are a competition."
Two, there will no longer be a swimsuit competition or an evening gown requirement. Instead, contestants can wear whatever makes them feel comfortable as they talk about their goals and accomplishments.
"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,' so guess what, you don't have to do that anymore," Carlson said. "Who doesn't want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul? That's what we're judging them on now."
"Miss America's new mission statement is: 'To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women,'" said Regina Hopper, the group's president and CEO. "We want more young women to see this program as a platform upon which they can advance their desire to make a real difference and to provide them with the necessary skills and resources for them to succeed in any career path they choose."
Even the branding signals the change — this is Miss America 2.0.
Some people — mostly conservative middle-aged men — think the rebranding is silly.
BREAKING: Miss America scraps swimsuit competition & will now only judge contestants on their brains & charity work, not their beauty. This is not a joke. pic.twitter.com/IVVXaYwDw3— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 5, 2018
Miss America will no longer judge contestants based on their physical appearance. They are eliminating swimsuit and evening gown competitions in favor of judging women based on their confidence & self-esteem. I swear to God. This is a real story. https://t.co/cG7xzjUwVV— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) June 5, 2018
BREAKING: Miss America has canceled the swimsuit portion of the contest, and won't judge on physical appearance anymore. It's a sad day for the USA. https://t.co/Vhdng2rKpj— David Hookstead (@dhookstead) June 5, 2018
But conservative middle-aged men are the most easily trolled people on the internet, and so most responses were making fun of them while praising Miss America 2.0.
If you're upset that Miss America is dropping its swimsuit competition, wait until you hear about the 4,600 Americans that were left to die by their government without power or health care or clean water after decades of racist, colonialist neglect.— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) June 5, 2018
Sorry, but I'm just not comfortable with my child sharing a public restroom with anyone upset about Miss America eliminating its swimsuit competition.— OhNoSheTwitnt 🌈 (@OhNoSheTwitnt) June 5, 2018
Can't stand these hypocrites who are upset that there won't be a swimsuit competition in the Miss America pageant, but were totally silent when they removed it from the Nobel Peace Prize process.— joey alison sayers (@joeyalison) June 5, 2018
Miss America is ending the swimsuit part of the competition this year and judging not on outward appearance but on talent and what the contestants have to say. This is amazing.— Pey 💀 (@peytonhenshaw) June 5, 2018
The 2019 Miss America Competition airs live from Atlantic City Sunday, Sept. 9, at 9/8c on ABC.