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Miss World pageant sheds its swimsuit

The Miss World competition is eliminating its swimsuit round begun in 1951, according to news reports, and will place more emphasis on the community service accomplishments of contestants.

“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, the national director of Miss World America/Miss United States organization, said in a statement reported by 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.”

Wilmer added: “Miss World should be a spokesperson who can help a community. 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.”

Julia Morley, the chairman of the pageant, first announced the decision to members of the Miss World board of directors during the competition last week in London.

The decision is a bit risky, as the swimsuit competition is popular with TV audiences if not with feminists and others who see it, and beauty pageants generally, as unseemly — bad role-modeling and a throwback to the days dramatized in “Mad Men.”

Little known fact: Feminist disgust with the Miss America pageant and a famous protest at the 1968 contest in Atlantic City gave rise to the generally derogatory phrase “bra burners.”

Lesser known fact: No bras were burned at the protest.

Carol Hanisch, described the event in a 2003 interview commemorating the protest:

There were more than 100 picketers there, we picketed all afternoon. We did some street theatre which included throwing ‘instruments of female torture’ as we called them, into a freedom trash can. This is where the bra-burner myth started, by the way, but we weren’t allowed to burn anything, including bras. We did throw in some bras, and we also threw in high heels, nylons, girdles, corsets, garter belts, hair-curlers, false eyelashes, makeup and Playboy and Good Housekeeping magazines. And that evening some of us went inside to disrupt the pageant and we hung a large banner over the balcony and we yelled things like “Women’s Liberation!” and “No More Miss America!” and that started to bring some change in the uncomfortable dress codes that were in place then, and it also let the world know that a women’s liberation movement was underway.

It was Morley’s husband, Eric, who started the swimsuit tradition after World War II, Elle reported, by parading 26 women in bathing suits on a barge on the Thames River. It was, Elle said, an “attempt to raise both money and morale following the devastation of World War II. When the press heard that the most beautiful women in the world had gathered in their swimwear — something completely unheard of at that time in England — they flocked to witness such an extravaganza and the Miss World competition was born.”

Julia Morley says she’s not nostalgic for those days. “I don’t need to see women just walking up and down in bikinis,” she told Elle. “It doesn’t do anything for the woman. And it doesn’t do anything for any of us. … I don’t care if someone has a bottom two inches bigger than someone else’s. We are really not looking at her bottom. We are really listening to her speak.”

Donald Trump has announced no plans to eliminate the swimsuit competition in the Miss USA pageant he runs.