Everything to Everyone

by kim on June 17, 2013 · 10 comments

in gender and being a woman

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If you haven’t seen or heard it by now, let me just throw it at you and get it out of the way.  Miss Utah USA (part of the Miss USA pageant, which as someone who is friends with a former Miss Michigan can tell you is different than the Miss America pageant circuit…I know way too much) was questioned about gender pay equity during the Miss USA Pageant this weekend.  I find this ironic since Donald Trump owns the pageant and really would rather issues like pay equity just disappear.  Anyhow, the question was simple:

 “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?”

You could answer this question any number of ways that avoids giving an answer that’s too political for the pageant circuit (though, I’d applaud any woman who took this and ran with it) and that gives enough of an answer to move on.  Instead, Miss Utah USA gave the following answer:

“I think we can relate this back to education, and how we are … continuing to try to strive to [epic pause] 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 educate better so we can solve this problem. Thank you.”

Say what now?  This makes the maps answer from Miss Teen USA back in 2007 look relatively cogent. At least she talked about maps and the question mentioned maps.

I get that these women are being put on the spot.  But this is nothing new to them.  To get to Miss USA you have been put on the spot at pretty much every turn. So having to answer a loaded question in an evening gown and high heels is something you signed up for and should be able to handle at that level.  And really, all you had to say was “it’s an issue we need to work on.”  Bam. Done and done.

Instead, the lack of an answer gives me two points for fodder:

1.  Pageants are antiquated and should probably go away.

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I love Miss Congeniality more than any one person should.  And I think women that do pageants should be celebrated just as much as women who are athletes, activists and more.  But despite knowing someone that I respect that was in the pageant circuit, I am really not a fan of the whole thing.  I can think of far better ways to spend our time and money than fancy dresses, spray tans and swimsuit competitions.  Hell, even Hawaiian Tropic got rid of their competition since the times they-are-a-changin.

It all goes back to the princess culture.  Women are taught as girls that they have a dual role to play: one based on appearances and the other based on keeping up with men in society.  The fact that the very question at issue dealt with this does not surprise me one bit.  We devalue women’s roles as mothers, caregivers, and traditionally female professions such as nursing and teaching.  At the same time, we tell them that they can do anything they want–while we demonize those who do.  Just ask Hillary Clinton what it’s liked to be followed by hecklers asking her to iron their shirts and make her a sandwich…bitch, she’s out there making policy.  Hell, as much as I despise Sarah Palin, she was demonized for being an advocate for mothers.  Both women were constantly ridiculed about appearances in a way that we would think of as idiotic…if we were talking about men.

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Pageants take all of these things that keep women working twice as hard for half as much and roll them into one.  You want to make change and be a leader? Great…what do you look like in an evening gown and swimsuit?  The problem isn’t the women involved, its’ the structure that reinforces the idea that women have to be everything at all times, but first and foremost things to look at.

So yeah, a pageant contestant gives a shitty answer and we shouldn’t be surprised.

2.  Here we go bashing women again…

This was a shitty loaded question for a pageant. There is no soundbite that can capture what pay inequity means about society.  This poor woman was set up for failure from the jump.  Speak too forcefully about how it is a bad thing? Feminazi.  Speak too softly?  Conservative whackjob.

There is no appropriate response to this question at a fucking beauty pageant.  I’m sorry.  Let’s all be honest here.  Call it a scholarship competition. Call it a pageant.  Call it a cattle call. Hell, call it Kathmandu.  I don’t care.  There is no possible scenario where this poor woman could have won.  The fact that she’s from Utah and represents some of the most conservatively-minded people when it comes to pay equity and women’s role in society should not be unnoticed here either.  I mean, if your “constituents” are largely Later Day Saints, then yeah…you’re going to have a problem finding the right words to describe societal issues involving pay equity.  I ain’t even mad at this chick for messing up the answer. I just cannot be.

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What I’m mad about is the fact that this is even still a damn question…being asked at a pageant no less.

I’m left to wonder if we’re just using this as another way to go LOOK AT THE DUMB GIRL OVER THERE.  I honestly feel bad for this woman.  She probably has a much better answer than that in her head and it wasn’t exactly a great question for the crowd that just loves to hear “WORLD PEACE” over and over again while simultaneously (and in contradictory fashion) thinking “USA! USA!”

Do we really love seeing women twist out there in the wind so much that we’re willing to put them in this spot and then laugh about it the next day?  I mean, gladiator games were brutal in ancient Rome, but in the modern day in age this is just as brutal if not more so.  Good luck finding a job when this is all said and done, Miss Utah USA.

And the fact that this was asked by a woman that is featured on a show that has at it’s heart the portrayal of women in a horrible fucking light…well, duh…just duh.

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All in all, it’s still a tough spot to be put in and this poor woman just got thrown out there like a sacrificial lamb for not giving a succinct but in depth answer about an issue that we can’t even agree is an issue as a nation, let alone one for which we can propose solutions.  Sorry if I don’t want to bash her and run away.

And, of course, once again, Donald Trump’s contribution to the world is in the form of asinine things.

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