Questions of income inequality and gender-based differences in the workforce and have tripped up economists and politicians for years, so perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that Miss Utah USA, 21-year-old Marissa Powell, stumbled when she was asked this question during last night's nationally televised pageant:
"A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?"
The question might have come from pageant judge NeNe Leakes, best known as one of the "Real Housewives of Atlanta," but it was no softball. (For that matter, neither was the question posed to the eventual winner of the Miss USA 2013 title, Miss Connecticut Erin Brady, which covered the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding routine DNA swabs of criminal suspects.) Still, Powell's flubbed answer had the Twitterverse in a tizzy and is getting lots of YouTube attention this morning, drawing comparisons to the famous flub by Miss Teen South Carolina about Americans' knowledge of geography." Here's what Miss Utah said:
"I think we can relate this back to education and how we are ... continuing to try to strive ... to ... figure out how to create jobs right now. That is the biggest problem. I think especially the men are ... um ... seen as the leaders of this so we need to try to figure out how to ... create education better ... so we can solve this problem. Thank you."
Yes, it's fun for some to mock this answer, and Miss Teen South Carolina's, as examples of why America really does need to "create education better." These cringe-inducing moments are the only times vast swaths of the country pay attention to pageants, despite Donald Trump's marketing efforts. "If moments like this aren't the reason that the Internet got invented in the first place, then I've been using this damn thing completely wrong," Jenni Maier wrote at Crushable.
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Yet the question was an important one, even if the answer was spectacularly botched. And while the internet delights in watching and rewatching Powell's painful clip, let's also consider for a moment what she could have said.