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 done.

I'm screening comments.

From: [identity profile] motherwell.livejournal.com

Not to Mention...


...the fact that beauty pagents, in general, derive from the once-vital practice of selecting the most beautiful women to "represent" their town or city in the head-of-state's bed, as either a wife or a concubine. In other words, the perfect forum to speak up in defence of "traditional marriage."

From: [identity profile] starcat-jewel.livejournal.com

Re: Not to Mention...


Seriously? I've never heard any reference to that before, and (possibly because of that) it pings my "urban legend" alarm. If you have some reference links to hand, I'd be very interested in looking at them.

From: [identity profile] meval.livejournal.com

Re: Not to Mention...


I believe that these contests started to sell bathing suits to women at beach resorts. Did a fine job of that. The questions came later as a response to complaints about valuing women for their appearance, as did the other stuff talent and gowns.

From: [identity profile] scrog.livejournal.com


Is it surprising that someone seeking validation through objectification would adopt other norms of the patriarchy?

Also, god told me he totally told her not to say anything and he SO not going to her birthday party at the roller rink next week.


From: [identity profile] mazzie.livejournal.com


Not surprising at all. Although it's a little surprising that she is proud of what she said.

From: [identity profile] chesther.livejournal.com


Well said.

Here's a possible spin on her being proud of her answer: what if her pride comes from the fact that she gave an answer that she knew could cost her the prize, but held true to her personal religious convictions?


From: [identity profile] mazzie.livejournal.com


You're right; I hadn't thought of it that way. Being pedantic sometimes gets me looking at the trees and not the forest.

Thank you.

From: [identity profile] chesther.livejournal.com


Actually, I have to credit my lovely and brilliant wife with that particular insight.

From: [identity profile] chiba.livejournal.com


Doesn't that particular religion consider pride to be one of its "seven deadly sins"?

Would seem to be ironic then, to hold onto pride in the face of one's religious convictions in that situation.

From: [identity profile] chesther.livejournal.com


Well, 'pride' really has two senses. One the one hand, it refers to feeling good about doing something right or something like that. On the other hand, it refers to hubris or conceit. It is the latter that is considered the greatest of the deadly sins, and the former that I think our contestant was feeling.

That, and the seven deadly sins aren't in the Bible. They were cooked up by the early Church as a tool for teaching the heathen masses what's right and what's wrong. So whether this persons particular denomination of Christianity really worries about the big seven is something I can't really answer without knowing which denomination she follows.

From: [identity profile] solar-diablo.livejournal.com


I find myself interested in all controversy surrounding this, particularly because I've never seen the point of beauty pageants. But clearly, they DO matter to some people, so here we go.

As someone above pointed out, it's not terribly surprising to hear an opinion like that given the venue, both of which are structured to reaffirm a patriarchal, heteronormative cultural standard. But apparently it WAS surprising to many, given the negative backlash, and her predictable beatification by the anti-gay marriage faction. I suppose there's something to be said for her speaking her mind (however inarticulately) in that situation, although I suspect she didn't really think of it that way at the time - her answer sounded like someone scrambling for an appropriate response. Likewise, the way the question was presented did seem as though the judge was trying to railroad someone. I know contestants are asked questions about society and culture, but some subjects carry serious emotional/political baggage at any given point in time. It's a bit like asking a beauty contestant whether abortion should be legal - I suspect even a contestant with superior poise would have to stop and think of the most diplomatic "nonanswer", like any good politician.

If she lost the contest because of her answer, I would hope it was more for her lack of poise than for her beliefs, however much I may disagree with them.

From: [identity profile] passaddhi.livejournal.com


I agree completely. And didn't know about the God comment later on, thanks for posting about that. Whole new way to view the exclusivity of the answer.
.