miss usa rima fakih tala raassi Dar Be Dar purple studded swimsuit

Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih poses for the judges in a Dar Be Dar bikini. Photo: AFP/ Getty Images

For some, beauty pageant swimsuit competitions are a sexist tradition that reduce women to pieces of meat. In fact, as we've previously reported, the Miss England pageant replaced its swimsuit contest with a sports challenge.

But try telling that to fashion designer Tala Raassi, whose Dar Be Dar swimwear will be worn by contestants from all over the world in the Miss Universe 2010 pageant on Aug. 23.

For Raassi, who was persecuted nearly 10 years ago for wearing a miniskirt once in her native Iran, the swimsuit represents female empowerment, according to the pageant's "Swimsuits for Freedom" video.

"I am so thrilled to be involved with an organization that really empowers women all over the world," the designer says in a statement.

"I strive for my designs to embody the soul of the woman, and my aim is nothing short of putting the female body on the pedestal where it belongs, setting women around the world free to express beauty, style, and equality while being true to themselves."

Raassi was celebrating her 16th birthday at a house party when she and her friends were arrested for "wearing something wrong." The girls spent five nights in jail and were given 40 lashes as punishment, she explains.

"Living in a place where I couldn't wear what I wanted, I wanted to start a clothing line to empower women to wear what they desired," Raassi says.

"Being able to wear what you want is a form of freedom and it was quite liberating," seconds Miss Australia Jesinta Campbell, who sparked controversy with her unusual national costume choice, in the video.

"It's totally taken the focus off me now and it's like, okay, I'm showing this to the world. I'm proud to wear it."

Do you agree? Is the swimsuit competition empowering to women? Leave a comment!

Meanwhile, check out the pageant's racy semi-nude body paint photos.