Beauty pageants in reverse

Every so often we go through a national feeding frenzy when some beauty pageant contestant gives a dumb answer, and America gets to snicker about what a stupid thing she said and what a dimwit she was and how much smarter the rest of us are.

Then, the response goes down in history.

We like to pretend beauty pageants are the College Bowl and the Nobel Prize in physics, peace and auto mechanics all rolled into one. This year was no exception.

Miss Connecticut was named Miss USA, and all of us Northeastern elitists suddenly loved beauty pageants as much as the state income tax, but the sacrificial lamb was poor Miss Utah, who during the interview portion of the competition was asked about women being the primary wage earners in 40% of families and still earning less than men.

Unfortunately, Marissa Powell, 21, got a serious case of jitters and gave a rambling response that included the now infamous phrase “create education better.”

OK, so she should have said “create better education.” No big deal. A misplaced adjective and a few peculiar theories. That’s all.

Immediately, the Internet — that transcendent repository of deep thinkers — went crazy and dubbed her reply the “Dumbest Pageant Answer Ever!!!”, “The Worst You’ve Ever Seen,” and “A Painfully Awful Pageant Answer,” among other things.

And there was an avalanche of particularly nasty tweets in Twitterland, where nitwits have turned insulting into a national pastime.

Hindsight is always 20-20, so I offer this alternate response for Miss Utah. She should have said something like, “It tells me that men are creepsters who don’t want to pay women good salaries and who expect their wives to support the family while they’re at home watching beauty pageants.”

Anyone who has ever messed up in a tense public situation has to feel some compassion for Miss Utah. Besides, the girl has heart.

She wants to be an advocate for adoption. Her little brother, who was adopted, was later diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and other medical problems.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should confess I didn’t watch the pageant, largely because I don’t own a TV, which is where most Americans are educated better about issues like wage inequities and adult incontinence.

During my early years, when I watched TV, I always caught a few minutes of the pageant — usually the swimsuit competition — but avoided listening to what Miss New Jersey had to say about negotiating a free trade agreement with China.

So you’re probably wondering what qualifies me to talk about the Miss USA pageant and I have to answer truthfully, “absolutely nothing.”

I should also add that I have absolutely nothing against beauty pageants, just as I have absolutely nothing against the Westminster dog show and those raunchy MTV awards.

We try to intellectualize beauty pageants by asking contestants about the G8 summit, globalization, Supreme Court rulings and honey bee colony collapse, and sometimes it sounds more like the World Economic Forum.

Nevertheless, America wants to cultivate well-rounded young women, literally and figuratively, so we put them through this ordeal, reminiscent of the Romans in the Coliseum, cheering when some poor slob got gobbled up by lions.

Let’s look at the pageant in reverse. What would it be like to have a national competition with thinkers like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Oprah Winfrey, and Sheryl Sandberg debating major issues, including wage inequality — and, as an added threat, include a bikini competition?

One last thing. I can’t understand why Miss Utah’s answer was such big news on a day when there were more important stories of vital interest to Americans — like Kim Kardashian’s new baby.

Joe Pisani can be reached at