Miss Namibia drops swimsuit category
IN December 2014, Miss World pageant owners re-wrote pageant history after they announced that the swimwear category would be scratched from the official programme from 2015.
At the time, Chris Wilmer, national director of Miss World America/Miss United States said: “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.
“Miss World should be a spokesperson who can help a community. She’s more of an ambassador, not a beauty queen.”
Instead of focusing on taut abs and sexy swimsuit bods, Wilmer said Miss World planned to feature a beachwear round. “It’ll be more of a fashion competition than a bikini show,” Wilmer said.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of bikinis on the Miss World stage. The pageant will now include a “beachwear” round, though Wilmer explains that “it’ll be more of a fashion competition than a bikini show.”
Seven months later, Miss Namibia national director Conny Maritz has revealed that this year’s pageant will follow suit.
Maritz told The Namibian last week said the move may encourage more young Namibian beauties to enter the pageant, although she pointed out that they should bear in mind that they will still be judged in bikinis during the preliminary rounds.
“They still have to go through body assessment and they will be photographed in swimsuits but in the proper surroundings,” she said. The Miss Universe pageant has not scraped the swimsuit category and any Namibian title holder who gets funding to take part in that pageant will have to adhere to its procedures and rules.
Beauty pageants have come under fire from critics who feel the contests are based on the idea that women are to be valued primarily for their physical appearance. As such, the swimsuit category has long been controversial.
The first Miss World pageant in 1951 was originally started as the Festival Bikini Contest in Britain after the Swedish winner was crowned in a bikini. The event has attempted to select winners who embody equal parts of beauty, grace, and brains, meaning the crowned victor was supposed to be the complete package – so they said. It was finally realized this year, however, that said “perfect package,” should not be judged by how they look in a bikini, but rather how they represent their country on a larger scale – thus calling for the end of the swimsuit element.
The pope condemned the crowning and the pageant later faced similar backlash from religious figures, social activists and feminists. Critics of beauty contests argue that such contests reinforce the idea that girls and women are primarily valued for their physical appearance, and that this puts tremendous pressure on women to conform to conventional beauty standards by spending time and money on fashion, cosmetics, hair styling and even cosmetic surgery. It depletes their bodies of nutrients, energy and even water at the end and expresses a totally unrealistic and unsustainable lifestyle, centred purely around how little fat and how much spray tan they have on. This pursuit of physical beauty even encourages some women to diet to the point of harming themselves.
The situation in Namibia is no different. “We did get criticism and the young women did get criticism on their bodies,” said Maritz. “We always make sure that the swimsuit category is done as tastefully as possible and make sure that the finalists are not left to the vultures,” she adds. “We make sure it’s respectful for viewers and as comfortable for the girls as possible.”
Well-known activist Namibian Rosa Namises is in favour of the move by international and national pageants. “The move is good in the sense that this whole thing of beautifying our women and putting them on a pedestal may look attractive but in the long run, it objectifies and degrades women.”
Namises said she was not advocating for the end of beauty pageants but stressed the importance of finding new ways to present the young women who enter them. “By removing the bikini section and starting to dress the women, you are showing that you don’t want to see them naked any more … This is a way of showing respect to the body of a woman and I support and applaud this step.” – The Namibian/ABC