Miss America Pageant Has Platform To Educate On Domestic Violence, Chooses Victim-Blaming Instead

Given the dismal state of international headlines these past few weeks, the Miss America pageant had a whole host of issues to draw from when putting together the question and answer portion of the competition. The question judge Kathy Ireland asked Miss Florida during the Sunday night competition started off with an impactful topic — Ray Rice’s dismissal from the NFL for beating up then-fiancee Janay Rice (nee Palmer) last February. Things could’ve gone in a powerful direction from there and the pageant could have served as a platform to raise awareness about domestic violence. Instead, Ireland asked the most useless question of all:

“We were all rocked by the video of football star Ray Rice punching his wife Janay. She’s standing by him. As a woman, what do you think of her decision?”

Ugh.

As if asking this in the first place wasn’t bad enough, Miss Florida was then given only 20 seconds to discuss a topic so complex and situation-specific that people could write a damn dissertation on it and still have more to say. This is all kinds of off-base. For one thing, is Miss Florida supposed to speak for all womankind just because she’s female herself? Why is this question implying that women are supposed to have a different opinion of domestic abuse than men? Is it worth reminding Kathy Ireland that men experience abuse too? Miss Florida answered with a (very polite) takedown of Janay’s personal choices which elicited an eruption of “You go girl!” applause from the audience. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because the pageant industry is simply living up to an age-old stereotype by encouraging women to throw one another under the bus for their own personal gain. That makes me so bummed, because even though the concept of pageants is dated and sexist, they have the potential to do a whole lot better than that for the accomplished women who compete in them.

Ultimately, this question (nay, accusation of Janay) is a pointless dead end. Ray Rice is the only one responsible for getting fired and the only one responsible for hitting his wife, and criticizing Janay on a public stage certainly isn’t doing her any favors. A few days ago, I heard a conversation on NPR about whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell resign after handling Rice’s punishment poorly. A female caller rang in to express that she had zero sympathy for Janay and went on to say “Ladies, if you don’t want to get hit, don’t start the argument like that.” (“Ladies,” it is never your fault no matter how you start an argument!) It was utterly disturbing. This is the exact kind of useless attitude we are breeding by asking victim-blaming questions in public settings like the Miss America pageant, and it’s contagious. Pageant folks, please, please do something more useful with your airtime when you plan next year’s Q&A. [Huffington Post]