The Miss Teen USA pageant is ditching swimsuits for leisurewear — though not all may be as #empowering as it seems.
The Miss Universe franchise announced the change for the competition Wednesday. “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,” Miss Universe president Paula Shugart said in a memo, as reported by USA Today. “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.”
While it’s a great first step in moving away from the sexualization of young girls, trading a bikini for a pair of leggings and tank top still carries the notion of objectification. And the idea of normalizing the oggling of teens dressed non-provactively for sport doesn’t exactly scream empowerment.
Reigning Miss Teen USA Katherine Haik, who noted that she “spends a lot of time in athletic wear,” said the move “is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”
Haik was crowned last year at the age of 15, making her the youngest Miss Teen USA in the competition’s history. Competitors range in age from 14 to 19 years old.
The 2016 Miss Teen USA will be held on July 30.