By Olivia Marconi
After a serious TV binge Sunday, I experienced my first, and likely last, Miss America pageant. I know what you’re thinking: a feminist magazine writing about a beauty pageant… You’re expecting me to rant about how Miss America is exploitative and pits mostly white women against each other and how the women can only continue to the second round if they look hot enough in a bikini. This is all true, but isn’t my gripe with Miss America 2016.
I was ecstatic when it was time for the talent and question rounds. This was the time when the contestants had a chance to show off something other than their boobs and booties. Miss Florida had some sweet dance moves, Miss Tennessee crushed the piano, and Miss Georgia had some incredible pipes, but what really had me excited was the question round. I quickly noticed that my preconceived opinions were results of mainstream movies and too much YouTube. I was prepared to hear every woman answer their question by confidently nodding their head and crying, “World peace!” Maybe I’ve seen the video of Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 preaching, “Like such as Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as” too many times.
The Miss America 2016 judges were asking some awesome, thought-provoking questions – questions that I was hoping would bring attention to some serious issues viewers wouldn’t have previously considered. The judges asked about gun control; Planned Parenthood funding; a Kentucky County clerk’s refusal to license same-sex marriage; and the Black Lives Matter movement. Every contestant deserves a thumbs-up for giving an opinion, on the spot, in an impossible 20 seconds. I even felt myself get fired up with Miss Alabama when she firmly began to respond to a question regarding why Donald Trump is leading the Republican polls, claiming, “Donald Trump is an entertainer.”
But it’s time to mention the question that ruined my newly formed relationship with beauty pageants. Miss Georgia approached the microphone and prepared to answer her question. The judge read, “New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for his part in the so-called Deflategate Scandal, then reinstated by the courts. Legalities aside, did Tom Brady cheat?” Miss Georgia responded with a confused, pensive look and asked the judge to repeat the question. I shared Miss Georgia’s perplexed expression. If my general attitude towards beauty pageants isn’t enough to prove that I’m not pageant material, understand that if I were on that stage, I would’ve impatiently responded, “Who the fuck cares?”
She managed to give a completely answerless, vague answer, “Did he cheat? Um… That’s a really good question. I’m not sure. I think I’d have to be there to see the ball and um… feel it and see if it’s deflated or not deflated, but if there’s any question there, then yes, I think he cheated.” How does this question match up to the others? Do Americans believe that whether or not Tom Brady gets to play football is of equal importance to issues of racism and sexism and homophobia? Apparently.
I was appalled when I came across an article that was posted on Twitter titled, “A Communist Whore From Georgia Just Won Miss America By Saying Tom Brady Definitely Cheated.” The article was posted on an online publication Barstool Sports, a satirical site that has repeatedly received criticism for normalizing rape culture and promoting other misogynistic ideologies. The article opens with some beautiful prose: “What a fucking whore! What a fucking bitch! Who is this cunt! How the hell did she win?” The author continues, “Does this chick know we’re talking about footballs and not testicles? Probably not you whore… Most un-American answer of all time… Get out of my country whore!” Although the website claims to be satirical, it is hard to find humor in the authors exceptionally misogynistic tone. Although I was fuming after reading this, I calmed myself down enough to recognize that the author is just a horrible person, but it didn’t stop there. People were upset about Miss America’s response all around me.
I turned on my TV Monday morning to two news anchors discussing how the new Miss America hates Tom Brady, and later, I found myself reading an article titled, “Miss America Takes Crown Thanks to Declaring That Tom Brady ‘Definitely Cheated’”. The article failed to mention that she had one of the most incredible singing voices in Miss America history. Is it such an impossible idea that she took the crown because she has immense talent?
This is the first time I’ve seen the world mention Miss America contestants without discussing their flawless physiques, but I wasn’t hoping this was going to be the reason. What about the contestant who explained why we shouldn’t defund Planned Parenthood or the contestant who insisted that homophobic clerk Kim Davis was in the wrong? Why isn’t anyone talking about these contestants? America will always give their attention to the easy questions.
Olivia is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying writing. See more from this month’s issue here.