Kit Steinkellner
December 19, 2014 11:25 am

Beauty pageants have gotten better over the years. Contestants have become more diverse, the representing ladies almost always have a cause they’re championing, categories like “talent” and “interview” now count for a whoa-ton of points, all things that point to pageants celebrating the inner beauty of their contestants.

But there’s still the swimsuit competition. Or the “Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuits” competition as Miss America tries to spin it, as if adding “lifestyle” and “fitness” in front of “swimsuit” makes this segment of the program totally fine and acceptable thing as opposed to the true weirdness that is a bunch of teenage and twenty-something girls walking around a stage in bikinis and high heels vying for college scholarships. The reason that sentence sounds weird is because swimsuit competitions ARE weird. How you look in a bikini should not effect how much money you get for college. It’s 2014, it’s ALMOST 2015, we should be in a place where the only thing a “beauty competition” celebrates is how straight-up gorgeous your brain and your heart are.

We’re not there yet, but progress is (sort of) being made. Recently, the Miss World competition decided to cancel the swimsuit portion of its competition. Since the competition began in 1951, girls have gotten in their skivvies to compete for the crown. Now, 63 years later, the organization is changing things up and getting with the times.

“The organization has decided to take itself out of the swimsuit world because it isn’t the path they’re trying to take,” Chris Wilmer, National Director of Miss World explained to ABC News. “It’s not just a beauty contest, it’s ‘beauty with a purpose’. There didn’t seem to be a purpose to have the swimsuit.”

This is a pretty smart move on the competition’s part. Even though it’s still a beauty contest, Miss World at least separates itself from the pack by eliminating the most cringe-worthy part of most mainstream pageants. It’s a step in the right direction and shows that even pageant organizers are paying attention to the changing way we perceive women, if only a teensy, weensy little bit.

“Miss World should be a spokesperson who can help a community,” Wilmer told ABC News. “She’s more of an ambassador, not a beauty queen. It’s more about the outreach and what a woman could do with a title like Miss World.”

So what is the competition going to do now that they have a bikini-shaped hole in their program schedule? Much as I would like to say that they’re replacing this category with “science fair” or “spoken word competition,” they’re actually just going to replace bikinis with a “beachwear” category. As Wilmer explains “It’ll be more of a fashion competition than a bikini show.”

OK, we still have a LOOOOOONG way to go. This may be more of a PR move than a major change in the culture of beauty contests, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this slight adjustment—and all the hoopla surrounding it—will have a larger impact in the pageant world.

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