On Sunday night, I sat down in front of the TV with a slice of pepperoni pizza as Miss America 2016 started. Typically, I tend to avoid programs like this because I seriously take issue with the homogenized look of every woman up there. This year the parade of skinny, tan, fit, bathing suit-clad women walked along to Worth It by Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink featuring lyrics like “Give it to me, I’m worth it.” I made an instant connection between the song and the swimsuit portion of the competition: the pageant was perpetuating the idea that a woman who fits the Barbie doll mold of Miss America is the kind of woman who is “worth it.”

I even tweeted about it, as I continued watching to see if any other moments would make me shake my angry fist at the screen. Miss America 2016 did not disappoint.


During the on-stage question portion of the night, worth 20 percent of the seven final contestants scores according to missamerica.org, I was actually really pleased. Miss Tennessee, Hannah Robison, answered a question about funding for Planned Parenthood and Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, lovingly nominated Ellen DeGeneres to be the woman alongside Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill.


But then, I was not so pleased.

Country singer and judge Brett Eldredge asked Miss Georgia, Betty Cantrell, who was later crowned as the 95th Miss America, “New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, was suspended for his part in the so-called ‘deflategate’ scandal, then reinstated by the courts. Legalities aside, did he cheat?”

Wait, what? She was confused too, and she asked for the question to be repeated. Here is this woman, who has literally walked across a stage half naked and sung the hell out of Tu Tu Piccolo Iddio from Madame Butterfly and now you want her to weigh in on an impossible question about football rather than show off her smarts with a question about politics or culture?

Her response was a bit frantic and rushed, but who can blame her? They should have asked her more, rather than rehash whether some footballs were deflated. 


In a post-crowning interview, she said, “I'm not a football player and I really wasn't there to feel that ball. If there was any question as to whether or not he cheated and somebody else felt the ball and decided that it was deflated, then yes, I guess he did cheat.”

Twitter users responded with criticisms of Cantrell’s answer...




...opinions about deflategate...

...and actual common sense.  

For everyone saying that her answer was horrible, I would like to just point out that the question was horrible. Sure, she could have said “screw this question” and talked about domestic abuse (a much more complex issue pertaining to the NFL), but I would ask every person who has said, “How did she win?” to imagine themselves answering a question about "deflategate" in front of a giant audience, and then while they're at it, attempt to sing opera.

Of course, the pageant system isn't perfect. Like I said before, it perpetuates an unrealistic image of what women look like, and if I had it my way there wouldn't be a swimsuit portion at all. But these are still real women with huge educational and career aspirations, and each one of them deserves an equal chance to answer a question with real cultural or political stake. With Miss America's purpose statement saying that it provides a forum where young women can express their opinions, talent and intelligence, it would be great if they kept stupid questions out of the mix.

Luckily, this ludicrous question (the only one out of all seven, surprisingly), did not keep Cantrell from taking home the crown. Take a look at all of the questions and answers from the evening; Cantrell’s answer starts at 4:50. 

Images via YouTube, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter and Twitter.

GIFs via Giphy and Giphy.

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