Miss America, Body Image, and Shorts in the Summertime

By Leanne Shear

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The impending summer season always reminds me that I have never once in my adult life publicly worn a pair of shorts, even though I have always really, really wanted to wear them.

Yes, you’re reading that right: as a lifelong athlete, not to mention during New York’s 90-degree+ summers, I have never donned a pair of shorts even to walk down the street to get an iced tea from my neighborhood coffee shop.

I have never felt comfortable in shorts (clearly): I think my legs are too big and bulky, I have too much cellulite, and far too many of those red spider veins. I’d be so embarrassed and self-conscious that people were only focusing on my physical flaws on my legs that I wouldn’t even be able to take a step, much less think about anything else at all.

But then some news came out the other day, which was that the Miss America contest is doing away with the swimsuit portion of their event.

Obviously, it’s about freaking time. I applaud this organization for focusing on the merits, talents, and intelligence of the contestants over their physical bodies (which are, it should be noted, still various shades of societally supreme).

I admittedly still get squirmy when I think of the contest, and others like it, in general, as it continues to feel to me like some archaic arm of the patriarchal machine, mechanically pushing women onto the stage and having them perform like circus animals. But the fact that they don’t have to do it barely clothed anymore is, indeed, some sort of progress.

Anyway, you would think that hearing this announcement would actually offer me ANOTHER reason to cover up and continue to avoid wearing shorts, right? Fuck the patriarchy.

But, actually, the commitment by the Miss America organization to take out the swimsuit competition has actually forged in me a commitment…to put on shorts this summer and more importantly, wear them outside my apartment.

Let’s set Miss America aside for a moment, and think about what we espouse at Uplift every day: body positivity—i.e., feeling good in your own skin, which we believe starts with feeling good on the INSIDE—no matter what you look like on the outside.

In every single other way, I feel pretty great in my own skin. And maybe as a result of a LOT of things going on around us these days, especially with regard to the advancement of women, I’m starting to understand that perhaps I don’t need to focus anymore on what the rest of the world thinks about the minor flaws in my legs, and instead focus on doing something (a.k.a. wearing shorts) that I really do want but have been held back from doing by society, by myself.

We women have always been taught to shrink, but lately we’ve been collectively embracing an expansion: of our voices, of our power, and of our bodies. Taking up both space, both literal and figurative.

Our Uplift brand of female empowerment, then, applauds all of the Miss Americas for covering up, but it also applauds women who don’t cover up. And when I throw on the adorable frayed jean shorts I envision wearing with my “Strong Women Uplift Each Other” t-shirt, you can applaud me, too.


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