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Miss Universe Australia's Bikini Parade Is A Scandal That Needs Covering Up

Surely this part of the competition is an antiquated reminder of exactly what we don’t want for women.

10/07/2017 10:50 AM AEST | Updated 10/07/2017 10:50 AM AEST
Eddie Jim
"It's odd that in an Australia that has given us a female Prime Minister, Governor General and Chief Justice of Australia, the organisers of the Miss Universe competition can’t bring themselves to discard something as clearly chauvinistic and retrograde as the one-piece swimsuit and bikini components. "

Many of you won't have heard of Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, also known as Lord Montgomerie. He was a staunch Tory politician and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Apart from winning one of the top prizes in the genetic lottery of life, being born into the British aristocracy, history records that the height of William's political career was that he became chief whip in the House of Lords.

William will also go down in history as having organised the first recorded beauty pageant, held during the Eglinton Tournament of 1839. For the record, the first beauty pageant was won by Georgiana Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, the wife of Edward Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset, who was proclaimed as the "Queen of Beauty". Even though there are no photos, I'm guessing there was no swimsuit section or mentions of world peace.

Does this component of the event not send a message to women that they should be valued and prized only for their physical appearance? Isn't it promoting an obsession with body image and a physical ideal that 99 percent of women can never achieve?

I'm not sure if Georgiana or William would have been pleased to know that, 178 years later, 32 women gathered in Melbourne, Australia, to continue a tradition that they started, on this occasion to become Miss Universe Australia -- a competition that purports to provide "a platform for the country's most beautiful, talented, educated and confident young women".

For the uninitiated, Miss Universe is actually quite a big deal, an annual international beauty pageant organised by the Miss Universe Organization and held in more than 190 countries worldwide and seen by more than half a billion people annually.

It is hard to argue with the fact that for some participants, the competition opens up amazing opportunities to cultivate their personal career goals, advocate for humanitarian issues and be a voice to affect positive change in the world.

There is no doubt that winning this competition enables participants to go on to high-profile careers in government, business, finance, broadcasting, as well as film and television. Jennifer Hawkins, who was crowned Miss Universe Australia in 2004 and went on to win Miss Universe in the same year, is currently the host of 'Australia's Next Top Model', the face of Myer, Lovable Intimates, Mount Franklin Lightly Sparkling and Range Rover. She is the founder and CEO of two successful brands, Cozi by Jennifer Hawkins swimwear and Jbronze tanning line, and manages an ever-growing property portfolio.

To their credit, the Miss Universe Organization places priority on the importance of getting involved and giving back by providing a dedicated international platform of charitable partnerships. The contestants work to affect positive change through volunteering, fundraising and advocacy. During their reign, the winners are given the tools to personally and professionally enrich others' lives by dedicating themselves to raising awareness and much-needed funds for philanthropic endeavours.

But can anyone explain to me why was it is necessary to include not one but two segments of the competition where these contestants are judged practically naked? It actually beggars belief that in 2017, a pageant still exists that parades women around in bikinis for the honour of winning a sash and tiara.

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Recently there was a bikini section and a one-piece section in this competition, despite the fact that in 2014, Miss World and Miss Teen USA both banned the bikini after 63 years, replacing it with active wear.

Does this component of the event not send a message to women that they should be valued and prized only for their physical appearance? Isn't it promoting an obsession with body image and a physical ideal that 99 percent of women can never achieve?

Even though I regard beauty pageants as glorified displays of idealised beauty presented in a cavalcade of genetically blessed, faultless bodies, perfect teeth, and sumptuous hair, it is not for me or anyone else, for that matter, to stand in the way of any young woman who elects to compete in Miss Universe. However, surely this part of the competition is an antiquated reminder of exactly what we don't want for women, and as such should have no place in its future.

If Georgiana Seymour, winner of the first pageant were still with us, I imagine she'd find it odd that in an Australia that has given us a female Prime Minister, Governor General and Chief Justice of Australia, the organisers of the Miss Universe competition can't bring themselves to discard something as clearly chauvinistic and retrograde as the one-piece swimsuit and bikini components.

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Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is a Child and Adolescent Psychologist, author, social commentator on 3AW, co-host of Good Thinking, on MRN's Talking Lifestyle.

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