Congratulations to Alysson Washington of Kenosha, Wi., crowned the new Miss America! Like you even know what I’m talking about. You didn’t watch the pageant Jan. 14, because otherwise you would have noticed the new Miss America is actually Laura Kaeppeler. (She’s really from Kenosha, though.) But you’ve heard of Kate Upton—she of rampant sideboob and strange smooth Photoshopped wasteland stretching from navel to clitoris on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the one whose cell-phone video of her doing “The Dougie” for a gal pal during a Clippers game halftime went viral to the tune of 3 million-plus hits. I’m not immune. She’s cute. She won a certain kind of genetic lottery, and if that’s enough reason to praise her alongside Andre the Giant or Johnny Eck, well, so be it.
The institution of Miss America is such an easy punching bag. It’s a 4-H fair for female flesh, dressed up with “I only read it for the articles” interviews. Its web site defensively sniffs that it’s the “world’s largest provider for scholarship assistance for young women,” as if that’s not supposed to make me depressed. At least Sports Illustrated is honest about the 36-24-$36 million connection—trade it for love or money while you got it, honey. (SI gets credit, though, for publishing a flattering and critical interview with 1974 swimsuit cover model Ann Simonton, who, after making a connection between her modeling work and her rape experience, abandoned what she described as a “glamourized form of prostitution” for a life of feminist activism—a calling that included wearing a proto-Gaga meat dress at the anti-pageant Myth California demonstrations.)
Miss America, SI swimsuit cover girl—these coronations without a king—get blamed for being male fantasies, but the truth is the notion that one woman—the most beautiful, above all others—will win the crown of endless, cherished attention is pure female magical thinking. You can do it Kate Middleton or Kate Upton style, but it’s all the same girlish Cinderella delusion that your beauty is a fail-proof talisman against being discarded by your mate after your fertility runs out. (Please, like a pageant enacting a male fantasy would pick the best to ignore the rest. That pageant would gather the 50—or 500, or 50,000—most beautiful women in one room, and then fuck them all.)
For the record, I’m in favor of women being sexual. But I deeply detest women being objects, whether they’re wearing a bikini on the cover of SI or a head-to-toe burqa. (I wish there was a “free range” label on porn so I could know for certain everyone in it is happy and wants to be there.) But feminists still mad about pageants as dog shows (or swimsuit issue as auction block) are missing the bigger enemy: the idea that the prettiest wins and the rest of us deserve the scraps. This winner-take-all mentality, this if-you’re-not-the-lead-bitch-the-view-never-changes idea, is more destructive than any neotenous blonde teaching me how to Dougie could ever be.
Ladies, I’m gonna shock you with some truth. I’m not the first to say this, but maybe you’ll believe it coming from me instead of some Maxim manchild. I didn’t realize until I started having sex with women that, once you take their clothes off, all women look pretty good. Men, sorry to say, go from fuckable to fugly with only a little extra chalupa jiggle around the waist, but women have great leeway in lovely pillows of fat on hips and bellies, on muffintops and beebite breasts, on stretch marks like tiger scratches, in all the things they were led to believe rendered them fit for a lifetime of applauding in that tight-jawed, stiff-fingered, protect-my-manicure way when some prettier girl gets the crown. That Queen of the Hill dogpile just doesn’t exist. All women have good bodies. . . because all women have women’s bodies. So patriarchy, or Bert Parks, or wherever the pageant buck stops, I’m calling your bluff: I don’t buy your Best in Show paradigm. Errbody love me, because we’re all beautiful. You ain’t messing with my dougie.