Apr 20, 2009

(Not Quite) Miss USA

I know I'm usually quick to point out the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness coming from religious conservatives when it comes to the subject of gay marriage. But this round is going to be a little different.

In the final of the Miss USA pageant, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was asked by blogger Perez Hilton:

"Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?"

Prejean responded:

"Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. Um, we live in a land that you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and in, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there. But that's how I was raised and that's how I think that it should be between a man and a woman."

OK, forget the "um" and her airheadish choice of words. She answered the question that was asked of her. She is entitled to her own opinions. The question was worded, "Do you think...?" That signifies to me that Hilton was asking for her opinion. And he got it.

Now, I probably know as much about the judging rules of the Miss USA pageant as Miss Arizona knew about universal health care, but I thought that the purpose of those questions is to see how the contestants handle and express themselves when faced with spontaneous and (sometimes difficult) questions under pressure. Since when is there a "right" or "wrong" answer to any of these questions?

So I'm not sure who I feel more sorry for: Miss California, for being judged on her personal opinions as opposed to her ability to (at least somewhat) coherently anwer a question, or Miss North Carolina, for knowing that the crown was hers because, as Hilton himself openly admitted, Miss California's opinion "lost her the crown, without a doubt!"

Maybe the Miss USA pageant really should be all about looks.


Lisa said...

You know, I agree.

I hated her answer. Partly because because she couldn't speak much better than that one girl some time ago. You know. The girl that went off about maps and Iraq and whateverthehellelse she was talking about. That was weird.

While I hated Miss California's answer, she's entitled to it. It was a baited question, and she probably knew it. So you have to give her kudos for answering it honestly in such a heated atmosphere. I don't know that I would've been able to say I believed that if I did (but only because I am convinced there's absolutely no defense for it). Either way, point for her.

I feel so dirty defending that, but this is for Miss USA, the country known for freedom of speech. We're entitled to our own opinion. Much as I want my right to voice mine, she should have the right and feel safe to voice hers.

Again, kudos to her. Now if we could help her see...ugh. Nevermind.

Papa D said...

Yeah, my immediate response was, "Great, now we have a political litmus test for beauty pageants - and every contestant from now on got the message loud and clear. It's now, 'Lie about any belief that is controversial, or kiss your chance to win good-bye.'"

This was disgusting, and the amazing part to me is that the judge would admit it so openly and brazenly - and not see anything wrong with the decision. That's just sad.

I don't want a conservative Republican to be the automatic winner in Utah; I don't want a Protestant to be the automatic winner in Alabama; I don't want a liberal Democrat to be the automatic winner in Massachusetts; etc. This is a beauty pageant, for heaven's sake - where the contestants parade around in a skimpy bikini and an expensive gown for the bulk of their points. It's not like it's the epitome of progressive ideology.

Laura said...

I think the problem lies in the question he asked. I think it was irresponsible and completely unfair to ask a question that has been so politically divisive among Americans. When you have people who are so passionate on both sides of the issue (and he is obviously passionate about it), either way she chooses to answer the question, she's screwed. In other words, her answer will inevitably piss someone off.

I seem to remember Barack Obama having said something very similar to her answer, and yet he was not scrutinized for it. He just said it a little more clearly without all the "ums."

T.J. Shelby said...

I'll be the dissenting voice here...

While the question was leading (asked by a gay man from California), they are entitled to judge the content of her opinion and not just her ability to give an opinion.

Should she have won, she would have represented the Miss USA pageant for the next year going around the country doing charity work and getting media attention as Miss USA.

If they chose to not pick a contestant who does not believe in "equality-for-all" as their representative to the nation, that is also within their right.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I see what TJ is saying, but, as Laura pointed out, it was a very loaded question. The subject of gay marriage is very divisive and in the state that she represented, it's about as divisive as it gets. It's almost right down the middle. So if a contestant gets up there and expresses an opinion that is legitimately held by roughly half of the population (at least in CA), and then is virtually disqualified for that opinion, then I think it's wrong. Strangely enough, the subject of universal health care is also an extremely loaded question in the US (I should know, since I've spent so much time arguing about it with conservative Americans :) but if Miss Arizona had actually answered the question about whether Americans should be entitled to health care and said either "yes" or "no," should she have been disqualified for an honest answer? If she had answered, "No, I don't believe that Americans should be entitled to have universal health care because health care should be privatized," then of course I, personally, would have completely disagreed with her on that. But if I were a judge, how could I say that she's not entitled to have that opinion and be Miss USA when so many Americans agree with her completely? One of the other contestants got a question about whether she thought tax payer money should go towards funding certain programmes. She said yes. So maybe she's a socialist? Should she have been disqualified for that?

Now, I know that some of you reading this will probably object to my even suggesting that someone can legitimately share Miss CA's opinion on gay marriage. But I recognize that people can have legitimate opinions without having to agree with them.

I don't want to turn this into another Prop 8 discussion. Y'all know how I feel on the issue. If not, you can read back in my archives. The purpose of this post was not to debate whether gay marriage is right or wrong. I don't know whether it is or it isn't. The point I was trying to make was that it seemed wrong to me that judges should fish for a personal opinion to a very controversial question and use that as seemingly the only grounds for disqualification. If anything, Hilton's actions only strengthen the paranoia of religious conservatives, who fear discrimination for their views on the matter. Personally, I think that Hilton did a lot more damage for the gay marriage cause than Miss CA would have done if she had been crowned Miss USA.

So I thought about what I would have answered had I been Miss CA. I think it would go something like this:

"Well, to me personally, marriage is between a man and a woman. That's how it's always been and I personally don't believe that we need to redefine marriage. However, I realize that it's not all about what I want. We are blessed to live in a democratic society where we believe in the separation of Church and State and so, if a society such as a state in the union decides that gay marriage is what it wants and needs, then the laws should reflect the will of the people as long as they are constitutionally admissable. If I lived in a state where gay marriage is allowed, I may not necessarily agree with it, but I would respect it and be grateful for the fact that the voice of the people has been heard and that my gay friends are allowed to marry as they wish."OK, so there's my answer. But I've thought a lot about this issue and I'm 31. Considering that Miss is CA is probably somewhere around 10 years younger than me and probably hasn't devoted as much thought to the issue, I don't think her answer was horrendous. In fact, underneath all those "ums" and such, she seemed to express appreciation for the fact that "Americans are able to choose," (well, at least in some states), as well as expressing that she meant "no offense to anybody out there."

natalie said...

I agree with you. While I obviously don't agree with Miss Cali's views (especially since she's from Cali! augh!), it seems silly to ask for an opinion then punish someone for giving it.

Would it have been fair for someone to win just because their answer to that question corresponded to the judges?

The Faithful Dissident said...

I hate to have to even partially agree with anyone who calls those who are opposed to gay marriage as being "ill-informed" or "brainwashed by religion," but aside from such insulting narrow-mindedness, this blogger from the Huffington Post brings up some very good points.

Soxy Pirate said...

I think she lost because of her answer to the SECOND part of the question: why or why not?

She is entitled to her opinion, i.e., that she doesn't think other states should follow the lead of Vermont et al., but the assault on reason that followed was reminiscent of Miss Teen South Carolina's "and the Iraq and the Asian South African countries."

"Because I was raised that way so that's how I feel" just doesn't cut it.

Soxy Pirate said...

BTW, no complaints from this fellow ECU grad.

Go Pirates!!! Aaarrrgh!

Mormon Heretic said...

Did anybody see Perez Hilton's interview on the Today Show? How do you rate his interview? I wasn't impressed. Regardless of your feelings, he didn't present his position very well either, IMO.


derekstaff said...

While I can see and agree with your point, I have a hard time being anything but completely apathetic about the Miss America or any other pageant. Until I see a woman involved who weighs more than 90 lbs, it is nothing more than a superficial beauty contest IMO, and I really don't care at all about beauty pageants. I frankly had no idea that the event had occurred.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks for sharing that link, MH. I hadn't seen it before.

I found it particularly interesting when they compared her statement with Obama's. Obama has said that he personally believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that he disagreed with Prop 8, (which is how I feel, since I'm not comfortable with the way that Prop 8 was carried out).

From what I gather, Perez is saying that Miss USA shouldn't express any of her personal opinions, that she should just appease everyone and keep politics out of it, and yet be "politically savvy," as he said. Perez and that other judge basically said that the contestants should downright lie and avoid the real questions by giving a fake answer. Why? Because she represents all of America. Well, Obama represents all of America as well, and he actually has power. But Miss CA gets called a b**** and a c*** by Perez for saying basically the same thing that Obama has written in his book and said out loud. Why? Probably because of her "ums" and blonde hair. When someone like expresses her views on gay marriage, it's just assumed that she's just a ditzy, brainwashed Christian girl.

I think I prefer Paris Hilton to Perez Hilton. What an idiot.

RoguePhilosopher said...

I don't know how I feel about the whole Miss California controversy, but I do have a strong opinion on why Gay Marriage is such a tough issue: it's both a Government institution and a Church institution.

The problem isn't whether men can marry men or whether women can marry women. It's about who really is in charge of marriage, the Church or the State? Frankly, any route you take leads you back to the Church; Government acknowledges marriages and sets up benefits for wedded couples but it was the Church who originally provided the wedding service and was in charge (centuries ago).

The gay marriage debate is really the internal rumbling as America struggles to define the state/church dividing line. Unfortunately, this proves extremely difficult in practice because there is no reason for marriage to exist from a naturalist standpoint. That's because it's an institution of religion. The only reason Government is involved at all is because the Government's responsibility is to its citizens: citizens who almost universally recognize that a marriage institution is needed/wanted. Those who support gay marriage are frustrated at how the Church's definition of marriage excludes them and their definition of marriage.

The Church, the institution originally in charge of marriage, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Government saw that this was how things were and set up benefits and procedures for married couples because the citizens wanted it. Now some of the citizens want to redefine marriage because some citizens enter into relationships that do not fit the Church's original view. But these citizens petition Government instead of the Church for change, even though it is the Church who defined marriage. So now we argue and we fight over what marriage currently means. The only way for it to end is for the Government to set up a new institution for marriage: a Government created version. This version of marriage (or whatever else you want to call it) can be defined however the citizens of Government want it to be defined, because it is "for the people and by the people."

I think that humans find perverse pleasure in drawing up battle lines. We're hard wired to take an issue, split it into only two views, and then label everyone we see as supporters of one view or the other. Sometimes we need to use our rationality and examine the issue instead of the opposing views.

kuri said...

I think Perez Hilton is a jerk, and I think pageant judges in general shouldn't ask questions regarding political issues about which they have strong personal feelings, but I don't have any problem with Miss California losing over her answer.

"Free speech" doesn't mean "speech is free from consequences." She could have given an innocuous, inoffensive answer. She chose instead to give her real opinion. The consequence of her choice is that she lost. That's life.

It hasn't exactly hurt her, anyway. Far more people know that she lost than know who won. And I'm sure she'll be milking this for all it's worth in evangelical and conservative circles. She'll make out better than she would have if she'd won.

Anonymous said...

I might have a really weird view when it comes to this issue but I think that the decision should be left to the states and not something that is national.

Such as if lets say 5 states allow for it so let them all move there. Same with Polygamy. I might not agree with both those issues but if we are given a choice to live in a state that represents the values we do I think that's just a heck of a lot better.

It's sort of like marijuana where is "legal" in california but "illegal" by the federal govenment. Makes no sense at all.

I'm sure I'm not making much sense but to me it seems simple. We have to give states more power to control their own territory. if they make the laws then it has to be.

I felt bad for her because it's like if you speak your mind now when asked it's held against you. Almost putting people in a position to now feel like they should lie.