Out of the mouths of total babes, as someone is probably saying.
My favorite part of pageant season every year is the part where they pose hot-button topical questions to people in evening gowns. So, what SHOULD we feel about Bowe Bergdahl? (“I am glad that we got our guy back. However, I do not feel it is right that we subject ourself to these acts of terrorism. I do agree with our guy being back but, however, I do not think that we should subject ourselves,” said Miss Louisiana.)
Depending on where I am on the scale of Feminist Dudgeon, I either toss a large item at the television and bellow, “AND ISN’T THAT JUST TYPICAL OF SOCIETY, DEMANDING THAT WOMEN FIRST WALK AROUND IN BIKINIS BEFORE WE EVINCE ANY INTEREST WHATEVER IN THEIR OPINIONS ON BOWE BERGDAHL? IN FACT, ISN’T THIS JUST ANOTHER SIDE OF THE IMPULSE-COIN THAT MAKES US CLICK TO INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE TWITTER THUMBNAIL IMAGE OF ANY LADY WRITING THINGS ON THE INTERNET, BECAUSE SOMEHOW BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER INTO HER THOUGHTS IT IS SALIENT WHETHER SHE’S ATTRACTIVE OR NOT?” or throw only an item of moderate size while grumbling, “remember how impeccably Michele Bachmann had to dress, just in order for people to not take her seriously as a presidential candidate?”
Success, here, means “not saying something so mind-bogglingly asinine that the majority of Americans can tell it’s mind-bogglingly asinine.” (“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to [find the US on a map] because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps.”) Saying anything this stupid generally takes real effort. Have you met the majority of Americans? We are idiots. To take one example, fewer than half of us knew June 6 is the D-Day anniversary.
You can draw a couple of conclusions from this strange annual spectacle. “Never expect anyone in a nice outfit to say anything insightful, ever” is too broad. “When someone is famous for one thing (or trying to be), don’t suddenly demand that he or she be an expert on anything else, because you will invariably disappointed” might be nearer to the truth. Every so often a celebrity will surprise you with an insightful and comprehensive statement about something. But don’t count on it. People with glossy hair who can walk around in heels and not fall over have a power I don’t understand and could never have. Why do they have to be policy experts, too? What are we getting out of this, apart from additional publicity for Donald Trump?
It’s so ludicrous. We aren’t actually expecting serious responses. The whole goal here is for someone to produce a couple of bland, vaguely coherent sentences, without her eye makeup suddenly springing a leak. “My daddy is my hero and I’m all for world peace,” as my seventh-grade history teacher used to paraphrase it.
Then again, on a scale of general coherence from 1 to the Idaho gubernatorial debate, with the midpoint being GOP Primary Debate 16, the pageant Q&A session ranked a solid 8.
The contestants mainly dodged the grenades here. Miss Georgia got 30 seconds to say anything she wanted to our political leaders (because that was both (a) not completely vague and (b) entirely a reasonable amount of time to say something meaningful). “I say that we should lead our country by faith. For me, I know that when I go to bed at night I pray for my family as well as the leaders of the country. I think if we pull together and work together, we are able to make more of a difference than setting ourselves apart. That’s what I would say,” she said.
So, how about this epidemic of narcissism? one judge asked Miss Iowa. Are America’s youth today are turning into a “hyper-entitled, self-absorbed generation,” as the New York Times fears?
“I actually do agree with that,” Miss Iowa noted. “I think social media and technology has allowed the youth to post pictures of themselves and videos of themselves. That kinda, to me, seems narcissistic.” Sure, okay. No worse than any Time cover story on millennials.
Miss Nevada, the ultimate winner, was asked about the epidemic of sexual assault on campuses. Rumer Willis inquired why colleges have “swept it under the rug.”
This is actually a serious question.
“I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don’t want that to come out into the public,”Nia Sanchez said. “But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.”
This is not a bad answer, although the problem of prevention isn’t a simple question of confident women learning self-defense techniques against Stranger Danger (Sanchez’s professed specialty). For one, it usually isn’t a stranger. For another, the onus shouldn’t have to be on women to become self-defense experts. It’s on everyone to establish a baseline of consent.
But the question of colleges’ flawed process for dealing with sexual assault is a more complicated one. With the impetus from the current administration to take sexual assault cases more seriously come increased stakes for universities. And in many cases they seem poorly equipped to handle the situation — consider reports of accusatory questioning of victims and failure to pursue anything more than a slap on the wrist for perpetrators, on the one hand, or reports of accused perpetrators who felt they had not been accorded due process, on the other. It would be nice if new guidelines were enough to transform administrative bodies accustomed to dealing with plagiarism and cheating into ones equipped to handle rape cases in a way that balances sensitivity to victims with guarantees that the accused will receive a fair hearing. This seems unlikely, however. If we’re serious about keeping sexual assault on campus from being swept under the rug, we’ll need more transparency than there has been in the past — as well as, perhaps, a system like Slate’s Emily Bazelon suggests, with a higher burden of proof but also stiffer penalties.
Of course, that’s hard to say in 30 seconds. In an evening gown or not.