It feels like the entire social-political world has cracked open.
FBI Director’s getting fired. Travel bans. Trumpcare. Flaming hot Cheetos going mad on Twitter. The winner of last night’s Miss USA pageant Kara McCullough coming off more like Stacey Dash than the sister and ally we had hoped to find in her.
In theory (and on paper), Kara appears to be an excellent choice. Her win slayed the conventional (read: White) beauty standard that a Black woman’s natural hair is not beautiful. She is a nuclear scientist and the winner of a beauty pageant (hopefully) proving once and for all that beauty and brains can coexist in the same female body.
But if the current wave of our country has taught us anything, it’s this: just because one’s people has historically been oppressed and marginalized doesn’t mean that the individual’s remember what it was like when ‘rights’ have been the only thing to cling on to.
Such is the case with our new Miss USA, whose comments about women’s rights and healthcare could’ve been penned by a Trump speechwriter. On the surface she appeared to err on the side of feminism with her platform “to encourage and inspire women and children in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics” which, semantics aside, is a feminist response to male-dominated culture. Sadly, Kara joins the ranks of women for whom “feminist” is equated with “man-hater” and is a label that died with Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. She said, “As a woman scientist in the government, I’d like to transpose the word feminism to equalism. I try not to consider myself this diehard, like, I don’t really care about men.”
Later, she added: “I don’t want to call myself a feminist. Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.” I think she’s missing the operative word — women “should” be just as equal as men — in that sentence.
For feminists, the issue has nothing to do with the fact that Kara chose to label herself an equalist — we ALL should be able to choose what labels we wear in and out of our bodies. Feminism fights for the right for everyone to self-identify even when that self-identification conflicts with it. The problem is an ideology equating feminism with a blanket hatred of men, which Kara’s does, is as moronic as saying all women are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. The issue is the deductive (and reductive) reasoning behind her claiming of equalist.
And then, there’s her views on healthcare, which she calls a privilege, not a right, and explained her views in the most privileged way possible: “As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs,” McCullough said during the question-and-answer round for the top five finalists.
But what Kara failed to address is that ‘a job’ isn’t necessarily a qualifier for accessing affordable healthcare. What about a high risk work environments? Or the single person who is in that fine line (called the middle class) where they don’t make enough money to afford their company’s insurance buy in but make too much money to claim any deductibles under The Affordable Healthcare Act. Its a privileged space that Kara lives in to not have to take into account the variations that we — the people who see healthcare as a right — live in. The system is fucked up. Not the people who want access to it.
But then again…it’s not Kara’s world being tested in her answer to both feminism and the healthcare question. It’s mine. A queer feminist freelance writer who has multiple jobs but still can’t afford healthcare.
And if the role of Miss USA is to represent our country as it currently is — fractured and confused — at the Miss Universe pageant, then Kara is the right woman for the job.