By JAMILA RIZVI
The world’s eyes are on American beauty pageants. Again.
And this time we’re covering our mouths to stifle giggles after a contestant from Utah completely and utterly embarrassed herself. In response to a question about the gender pay gap, 21-year-old Marissa Powell, gave the following incomprehensible answer:
Cue: Laughter. Fun-poking. Stupid-girl-shaming. Twitter disdain. Cruel memes. Viral hilarity.
There goes Miss Utah, being all dumb and pretty again. What. An. Idiot.
She’s probably never bothered to think deeply about anything at all. She clearly doesn’t understand the causative factors of the gender pay gap and its far reaching societal consequences. She probably can’t even SPELL hetero-normative patriarchy. AMIRRIGHT PEOPLE?
[Insert retrospective sarcasm font].
Is it just me or have we completely divorced this young woman and her inelegant answer from the context in which they exist? Marissa is not a politician responsible for implementing microeconomic reform that will better support opportunities for women. Nor is Marissa a feminist rights academic, who has studied the impact of gender stereotyping on women’s ongoing dominance in the domestic and child rearing sphere.
Marissa is a beauty queen. Not Hillary Clinton. She doesn’t present herself as having all the answers to the world’s problems. So why should she be expected to speak eloquently about them?
Marissa is an attractive woman, who wants to do some charity work and hopefully win the illustrious honour of wearing a plastic tiara. Now that might not be my aim or your aim, but that doesn’t mean we get to bathe gleefully in her internet humiliation, pointing and laughing at her for being ‘stupid’.
Marissa may have struggled to answer for any number of reasons.
She may have struggled to answer because being on stage in front of thousands of people can be extremely scary. She may have been expecting one question and got another, leaving her tongue tied and a little muddled. She may have been distracted because the lights were really bright and her dress was too tight (entirely possible).
OR she may have struggled to answer because the question itself DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.
“A recent report shows that in 40 per cent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?” Marissa was asked.
What a clumsily worded inquiry.
Primary earner means the sole parent or the parent in the couple who earns the most income. So in such a family as described in the question, the woman isn’t earning less than the man, she’s earning more.
The point appears to be that on average men earn more than women, when not accounting for family status. The confusion of the coupled example with the singular income based comparison makes for a very difficult to understand query.
Furthermore, as Linda Holmes of NPR points out, why not ask a far more relevant or interesting question about the gender pay gap than “What does this say about society?”, such as “What kinds of help do families need to make ends meet?”
Miss Utah’s error was not that she gave an absurd and nonsensical answer – it was that she failed to make-like-she-was-on-Q-and-A, completely ignore the question and say some bullshit that was entirely unrelated to what she was asked.
Had Marissa smiled confidently down the barrel of the camera and crapped on about the American dream and how we need to value the precious children as our only means to achieving WORLD PEACE – she would have been fine. In fact, she’d probably be at home stroking her satin winner’s sash and wondering what to wear on the float tomorrow.
Personally, beauty pageants are not my cup of tea. The interest and allure of these events is lost on me; the dresses are generally ugly and nothing much seems to happen. I am deeply frustrated that these archaic competitions, which value women wholly for how their appearance, continue to exist. To quote the delightful Jessa from Girls, Miss Universe and Miss World are concepts that are simply ‘not of this time’.
But while beauty pageants DO continue, it seems disingenuous to force the women who compete in them to pretend to be something they’re not. Because you don’t fight against the outdated gender stereotypes that underlie these competitions by belittling and humiliating the women involved. You do so by illustrating the absurdity of the competitions themselves.
While beauty queens may come in only a single size and shape – their brains do not. Like any group of human beings there will be super intelligent beauty queens, there will be unintelligent beauty queens and everybody in between.
It takes all types to make a world. And it takes all types to make world peace.
How’s that for an answer, eh? Now, where’s my sash….