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Why I Won't Laugh at Miss Utah (Well, not too hard.)

Posted by Scott Kearnan  June 18, 2013 12:39 PM

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At Sunday night's Miss USA pageant, Miss Utah Marissa Powell, who will never Google her own name again, gave the latest flubbed response to an "interview" question. (These seem to have become more common ever since YouTube was invented.) The question, posed by Real Housewife and brave feminist crusader NeNe Leakes, was: "A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?" Here's Powell's response:

“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 seen as the leaders of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to create education better so that we can solve this problem.” - Miss Utah Marissa Powell, who can we agree is foxy in a vicious kind of way? She sort of resembles Megan Fox, if Megan Fox ate Megan Fox.

There's a lot of commentary about this. I think my favorite response was this halting defense from Linda Holmes, who reminds us these questions are moronic to begin with, and that the only "correct" answer would be something like: "That's an unfocused question about a complex social issue that can't be properly explained within the time constraints of a verbal tweet, especially while I'm unnaturally self-conscious about whether I seem likable and if my gums are showing." That honesty doesn't get you Miss Congeniality. But I won't talk about whether she could have given a smarter, more articulate answer. She could have. Duh.

But if there’s one thing women don’t need, it’s people assuming that they must be idiots if they’re pretty. Miss Utah may not have helped their case, but neither are many people laughing at her. Not if they're laughing, as I'm coming to sense many are, out of sadistic satisfaction that an attractive and/or looks-conscious woman was "caught out," with some kind of coulda-seen-this-coming predictability, as being dim.

Ironically, many armchair hecklers fancy themselves feminists because, hey, they think beauty pageants are bad. Now, there’s a whole separate conversation to be had about whether these shows are outmoded and dehumanizing. There’s certainly an argument to be made that contests like Miss USA are dog shows with baton twirling: evaluating actual humans by the luster of their coat, whiteness of their teeth, and refinement of their skeletal structure as though they are prized Collies. I have complicated feelings about them, and I certainly think you can have meaningful, important debates about whether they are on some level anti-woman.

But it’s not exactly pro-woman to relish, like it's some revenge-on-the-cheerleaders dream come true, being proven “correct” that some beautiful women are not very bright. (Guess what? Neither are some unattractive women, attractive men, and unattractive men.) I’m not saying, don’t laugh. Laugh. I did. It’s funny to watch anyone vomit a word jumble of refrigerator magnet poetry blended with the sleepy-time murmurings of someone running for public office.

I’m just saying, don’t get on a high horse about the chauvinism of beauty pageants if you’re also primarily getting your hoots from the tired stereotype that when it comes to women, pretty must mean dumb. That’s not progressivism. That’s also sexist, and not even self-aware.

Like, such as the Iraq. World peace.

Thank you.


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About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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