Miss USA 2015's Swimsuit Competition Wasn't All That Body Positive And Here's Why
There's definitely some controversy and discussion about who is "allowed" to be body positive and drive the body positivity discussion — and certainly many people would probably argue that beauty queens are the last people who need body positivity. Well, the Miss USA 2015 swimsuit competition was definitely in need of a healthy dose of body posi magic.
The competition itself I found to be relatively neutral: Not positive, not negative, just sort of happening. The women theatrically whipped off red, white, and blue (obvi) sarongs to reveal their matching sequined bikinis. While they cruised across the stage to a cover band, the host spoke about their accomplishments. It was a little awkward and uncomfortable to hear about their charity work and awards, especially when so many of them were talking about their work with children, but it was also pretty cool to serve as a reminder that these women are not just their bodies. You can be sexy, show off your bod, and be a good role model. That was basically an anti-slut-shaming message and I'm into it. Thumbs up, Miss USA!
However, this discourse around the swimsuit competition was enough to make me cringe, yell, and throw things. The way that the swimsuit portion of the event was talked about, from the very beginning of the show, set up the swimsuit competition as a daring and super terrifying thing, and there was a totally creepy "ick" factor to it.
"The swimsuit competition is where a lot of fans at home pick their favorites, I know it's where I pick mine," said host Todd Newton. EW, dude. We were also reminded of the male gaze when the show had one of the singers serenade the women with "Want To Want You" by Jason Derulo: A song about wanting to "get up next to" them. OK, dudes; settle down — let us have 10 minutes where everything isn't about you.
Throughout the show, the hosts took many opportunities to remind us that being in a bikini is so terrifying, even calling being on stage in front of thousands of people in a swimsuit "everyone's worst nightmare." Yes, for some women, wearing your bathing suit in public is still considered brave. I get it. Even for the most confident and conventionally attractive woman, there are going to be critics and people nagging about your body. In the comments section of the live stream, I saw so many comments accusing contestants of plastic surgery, having fake breasts, calling them "skinny bitches," or saying that they didn't find them attractive.
However, the tone of the comments about the swimsuit competition being nerve-wracking didn't seem to have to do with society's harsh standards for beauty. Comments like, "You obviously worked hard for your bodies and you look amazing," and noting that a contestant "danced for 12 years and it definitely shows," made it very obvious that the hosts thought that not having a toned body should be the cause for concern.
While the swimsuit portion itself was actually pretty body posi itself, it was completely eclipsed by the fact that it was sandwiched between terrible, body negative commentary and reminders that women are only attractive for the sake of men. Sigh. So close, but so far, Miss USA.
Images: Reelz; Giphy