Miss Utah Said Something Really Dumb. Is It OK to Laugh at Her?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 17 2013 12:11 PM

Miss Utah Said Something Really Dumb. Is It OK to Laugh at Her?

Amanda Marcotte Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

The ritual of sitting down at night to watch a nationally televised beauty pageant is becoming a relic in American culture, usurped by the ritual of sitting down the morning after to watch the video of the pageant contestant who gave the dumbest answer the night before. This year's Miss USA winner of the unofficial Derpiest Beauty Queen prize goes to Miss Utah, who metaphorically face-planted when asked to register an opinion about the coming lady apocalypse of female breadwinners.

Judge NeNe Leakes asked Miss Utah, whose real name is Marissa Powell, "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?"* Powell answered:


I think we can relate this back to education, and how we are … continuing to try to strive to ... ... ... 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 education better so we can solve this problem. Thank you.

This ritualized rooting out of the biggest bimbo at the beauty pageant is tough to reconcile. On one hand, it's kind of a cultural protest against the fact that beauty pageants, which feminists famously protested more than 40 years ago, continue to stick around in all their sexist glory. On the other hand, cackling at bimbos is not exactly progressive either. Hard to say which urge any random person is expressing when they pass along these videos. 

Of course, the real problem here is that the question-and-answer period at beauty pageants is set up so the contestants really can't win. As ever, pageant contestants know they have to project an image of bland inoffensiveness, which precludes having political opinions beyond a moderate support for sunshine and, in this case, education. (At least until conservatives manage to make the latter controversial, too.) Powell was put in an untenable situation here. On one hand, she really can't go full Fox News and denounce those evil salary-earning women without both offending large numbers of people and also causing the audience to wonder if she aspires for nothing more than trophy-wife status. On the other hand, if she applauds sisters doing it for themselves, the relatively conservative audience for beauty pageants will turn on her. You try coming up with a coherent 30-second sound bite while your brain frantically processes the no-win situation you're in. It's harder than it looks. 

Then again, all that empathy just went out to a woman who participates and supports the beauty pageant industry, so maybe it's misplaced. What a dilemma! Clearly, the only solution here is to bring an end to this sordid practice of both beauty pageants and the Monday morning stupidity quarterbacking of them. Try forwarding a cat video instead. No one cares if it does something stupid. 

Correction, June 17, 2013: This post originally misspelled NeNe Leakes' first name.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.