Miss Utah a pageant casualty

AP Photo/Jeff Bottari

Host Giuliana Rancic looks on as Miss Utah Marissa Powell answers her question.

Why do we still have beauty pageants?

Apparently it's so we as a nation can point and laugh at perceived stupidity regardless of our gender, race, political affiliation or religion.

This year, Miss Utah gets the South Carolina treatment. You may remember Caitlin Upton, as Miss South Carolina in the teen version of Miss USA, who wowed with her insight into a lack of maps worldwide.

On Sunday at the Miss USA pageant, Marissa Powell was asked about the percentage of women who are the primary earners for their households but don't receive equal pay, and what that says about society.

First of all, let's pause and acknowledge that the Miss USA pageant asked a real question. And one that had to do with the money that women earn, a matter that should be of concern to all the women competing long after the ball gowns are back on the hangers.

But it stumped Miss Utah. Host Giuliana Rancic nodded encouragingly, but Powell responded with a puzzle of half answers to other, unasked questions.

"I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to," and here Powell paused and gave one of those big smiles, "figure out how to create jobs right now. That's the biggest problem and I think, especially the men are, um, seen as the leaders of this and so we need to try to figure out how to create education better so that we can solve this problem. Thank you."

So let's address both the question and the format in one swoop.

Maybe if society didn't value a woman so much for the patina of her lip gloss as it did for her critical thinking skills, such a pay disparity between men and women would be less pronounced. But as long as we dress up young women in bikinis and parade them around, saying they exemplify the qualities we want in an American woman -- well, you see how this can happen.

The real issue is that one of those pageant winners could have solved the mystery of interstellar dark matter on that stage, but we would never have known. We prefer instead to laugh at people who let us feel superior, so thank you Miss Utah. You have united all U.S. Americans.

By the way, does anyone know who won?