As you've probably seen (everywhere) Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, offered a less than eloquent response to a question on the wage gap and female heads of households at the 2013 Miss USA pageant.
[Transcript of her answer below the cut]
Far be it from me to think that Miss USA contestants and the pageant world are beyond criticism. But when this type of response (nothing offensive or controversial, just a really garbled answer) goes viral after the pageant, I can't help but feel for the woman.
As Linda Holmes said in a "slight defense" of Powell, these questions aren't designed to get at really hard hitting thoughts or views. They're about looking calm under pressure.
...the last thing I'd use to guess at whether she's smart is whether she can answer this kind of question "correctly." Because "correctly" here just means smoothly, expertly, without hesitation or stammering. Had she said, "What it says is that we live in the greatest country in the world, and every day I get up and thank my lucky stars that I live in the United States of America," she would not be in the news, despite having given just as irrelevant a non-answer. Had she said, "What it says is that family is the most important thing in the world, and we need to figure out how to help all families be happy families because it's the most important thing in the world," she would not be in the news.But beyond this, what is our collective fascination with watching pageant contestants crash and burn? Why do so many people take so much joy in laughing and ridiculing women like Powell when they can't produce a coherent answer to a really strange and ass backwards question?
I suspect that the short answer is: misogyny. I mean, if the Twittersphere is indicative of trends in public opinion, there's definitely a level of, "haha stupid pageant queen is only good for her looks!" It's classic bullying and people seem to be getting high on the idea that in some way they are better than Powell. (As if they've faced the same situation.)
I know that as a feminist this is where I'm supposed to stand firm in my principles against pageantry and make some statements about the dangers of reducing of women to their looks and the promotion of a very narrow, specific beauty ideal. And trust me, I do hold those feelings.
But ultimately, right now, I'm feeling more sympathy for this one particular woman than I am rage at pageants. I'm just perturbed that society has created these systems which put women on display, hold them up for public scrutiny/admiration/ogling, considers them frivolous, and then openly mocks them when they are frivolous. Where the hell is there a comparable system for men? Rather than scorn Powell and women like her for their participation in this; I scorn the patriarchy for creating it.
Marissa Powell isn't running for office or in charge of a fortune 500 company. She's the current reigning Miss Utah. Let her be.
She said, "I think we can relate this back to education, and how we are … continuing to try to strive to ... ... ... figure out how to create jobs right now. That is the biggest problem. And I think, especially the men are … um … seen as the leaders of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to create education better so we can solve this problem. Thank you."
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