Why It Doesn’t Matter if Miss USA Is a Feminist

Turns out the annual Miss USA pageant is still happening and people are still watching it. In fact, a new winner, Kára McCullough, was just crowned last night.

And right now, people are pissed off that Kára doesn’t identify as a feminist. A beauty queen having retro politics is not exactly a surprise, but for some reason, Twitter is shook.

“As a woman scientist in the government, I’d like to transpose the word feminism to equalism,” she said during the pageant last night. “I try not to consider myself this diehard, like, I don’t really care about men.”

Ouch. Kára is clearly misinformed about the definition of feminism. Feminism is not about disliking or not caring about men, it’s about equality. And as a successful “woman scientist in the government,” she owes a lot to the feminists who came before her, whether she realizes it or not.

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But guess what’s an even bigger example of cognitive dissonance? People believing that a pageant queen would automatically self-identify as a feminist.

It blows my mind that people would assume the women who go up onstage to compete for the title of who’s prettiest would also actively identify as feminists. It would be nice if they did, but why is anyone surprised when they don’t?

Whether or not Miss USA identifies as a feminist is pretty irrelevant, and there are two reasons why.

1. Beauty pageants are never going to be bastions of feminism

Beauty pageants are a complete product of the patriarchy. They were created to evaluate which women are most pleasing to the male gaze. Sorry, it’s just true.

That doesn’t mean feminists can’t enjoy them or participate in them. But it’s confusing that anyone would expect them to become feminist institutions out of nowhere.

Like seriously, why were so many people who care about feminism even paying attention to last night’s Miss USA broadcast? Was there a Netflix outage? Was “The Handmaid’s Tale” failing to load on all these gender studies scholars’ Apple TVs? Why would so many staunch feminists watch something as outdated as a televised beauty pageant in hopes of it suddenly becoming feminist?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging people who compete in or watch beauty pageants. I’ve spent my time taking in much dumber forms of entertainment. It’s only human.

But beauty pageants are inherently anti-feminist. You can pretend they’re about scholarship contests and being a good role model all you want, but come on.

If you’re socially liberal and a beauty pageant enthusiast, it might be a nice bonus for you if the reigning Miss USA shares those views. But if she doesn’t, how the hell could you be surprised?! She’s literally competing to be named the prettiest woman in a contest that used to be owned by Donald Trump. Where did anyone get the idea that this would be empowering or woke?

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2. Kára McCullough is doing good work either way

Kára McCullough is confused about the definition of feminism. There’s no doubt about that.

But she’s also a nuclear scientist who has succeeded in a male-dominated field, not only as a woman but as a woman of color. She’s already beat the odds — and she’s been able to do that because of activists who came before her.

The fact that she doesn’t identify as a feminist is kind of embarrassing for her, but it’s also her right.

And besides, what’s more valuable to the feminist movement: a female nuclear scientist, or a hundred people on Twitter yelling at that female nuclear scientist for not self-identifying as a feminist?

Of course it would be great if Kára counted herself as a feminist. But the truth is, she’s a feminist success story whether she likes it or not. And scolding people who are still confused about feminism is not the path to equality.

In fact, it’s more likely that it does the opposite. If we want to keep up the stereotype that feminists are humorless sticklers who care more about calling people out than actually building a movement, getting mad at Kára is a great way to do it.

By being a woman of color in a male-dominated field and encouraging young girls to follow her lead, Kára McCullough is doing more to advance women than the people who sit on Twitter and call her out for one misguided comment about feminism. Kára is inherently feminist for doing what she does, so it really doesn’t matter if she’s confused about the definition of feminism.

Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg gave a “better” response to the feminism question, and people seem to think this means she should have won. But Miss USA is not a contest for who’s the most attractive feminist. Wouldn’t that be even worse than what it is — a contest for who’s the most attractive woman?

The judges who pick Miss USA have clearly shown time and time again that the contest has nothing to do with feminism. They picked a winner last night who made the crowd erupt into cheers when she said she wasn’t a feminist. How many more clues do viewers need that if they’re looking for feminism, the Miss USA pageant is not where they’re going to find it?

So let’s all get back to fighting against what actually matters — the anti-feminist shit our government is pulling on a day-by-day basis — instead of squabbling over one woman’s views on feminism, k?

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