Now that my initial visceral reaction has receded a bit, I want to revisit Miss California with something more substantive than a crass invitation.
Again, when asked about gay marriage, this was her response:
“I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“No offense to anyone out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman.”
I object to this on three fronts: form, substance, and context.
As for form, and as others have pointed out, she contradicts herself. She says she thinks it's great Americans can choose, but in her country she thinks she believes it should be between a man and a woman. It seems like she may have switched midstream what she was going to say, but there's no telling. To be fair, and as was also pointed out, it's got to be tough being asked a question under bright lights, on national TV, no less, knowing the answer may well influence the outcome of the pageant. And it did seem a bit out of the blue; I am not a connoisseur of Miss USA or similar pageants, but I always got the impression that the questions are usually a little less edgy. I recognize that while winning Miss USA is not important to me, nor does it register on my radar of the top million things I would aspire to do before I die, it is clearly very important to the contestants. However, she has since said that not only was she ready for the question, she is proud of how she answered it.
On to substance. It is unclear to me from her answer what she means by "country," "land," or "Americans." Only small minority of people in the United States are free to marry whomever they choose. Perhaps by "America," she meant Vermont, and by "land" she meant Massachusetts. But when she mentions her "country," she may well be speaking of the state she's representing, which passed the now-infamous Proposition 8 in November. Of course she is entitled to an opinion and she was, indeed, asked for it. She is welcome never to marry a woman. She is welcome to boycott weddings of friends, family, and loved ones because they are contrary to her values. She is not welcome, however, to impose her beliefs on me or my family. Not even when she, as she later told Matt Lauer, is speaking for God. I'm going to spare you all a rant here about religious moral authority, even though it's been stomping around the back of my brain for months.
Finally, context. And I am going to restrain myself from going all Andrea Dworkin here, but beauty pageants uphold an unrealistic standard for women and girls. They set unreasonable and unrealistic expectations for men. They set forth the offensive notion that beauty is tall, skinny, and has long hair, long nails, and perfect teeth. I am sick to death of beating my whole imperfect self against this standard every day. And we celebrate it, put it on TV for judges and the world, and call them Miss USA or Miss America. You may be surprised to learn this because you've never seen me wearing an American flag lapel pin, but I love my country. And I loathe that we value women based on how they look in a bathing suit or a ball gown. These values do real harm.
I'm screening comments.