The pageantry of politics is often annoying, but lately we have become more exercised over the politics of pageantry. Beneath the gaudy tiara of Miss California USA a great deal of activity has been going on, as Carrie Prejean has shown herself to have a mind of her own. She also is prepared to distribute pieces of her mind in directions lately deemed unfashionable.
In truth, the Bible got the beauty pageant advice correct, along with everything else. The only such event covered in Scripture took place in Persia about 2400 years ago, with a real queenship offered as first prize. Mordechai, the wise Jewish refugee, told his niece, Esther, one thing. “Esther did not tell her nationality and her birthplace, because Mordechai instructed her not to tell.” Esther added a little wrinkle of her own: she was the only girl who did not try to tell the king’s beautician how she should be made up, instead graciously bowing to the expert.
She won the contest, not least because she could not be typecast. The deep-seated cultural prejudices were put aside. So much so, the Talmud relates, that “each nationality saw in her similarities to their appearance.” By not trying to be a particular style, and falling back on her natural beauty, she became a canvas upon which each segment of the international population could project their own subjectivity.
Today’s contestants in these polemics of pulchritude have learned this lesson well. Ask them any question at all upon matters profound or superficial and you will receive in reply a polished gem of saccharinity. The answer will be lovely and vapid, offending no one and defending nothing. They never give a wrong response because they have been trained to get it trite.
The same was true of Carrie Prejean as she made her way to the top by wading in her bathing suit through the shallow end of the gene pool. Yet when she was challenged by an impertinent questioner to opine whether marriage is a concept which can be applied to same-sex couplings, she showed off a very pretty backbone. “My belief is that marriage is only between a man and a woman.” Her refusal to shill for the latest fad of the left has led to her shrill denunciation. She was nearly guillotined by the mob, her crown saved only by the intervention of Donald Trump, the pomp-adoring guy with the pompadour. Trump, for reasons best not explored here, actually runs the Miss USA festivities.
Like Queen Esther before her, Carrie knew to abandon her anonymity when a great principle of civilization was being negotiated. This was no time for a miss to con with geniality. At such a moment, the show may no longer go on, and truth must be acknowledged as the fairest of them all.
Beyond applauding Carrie and her steadfastness, I think an important point should be made. Asking a woman in a beauty contest to testify against the sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman is an intrinsically absurd proposition. If her presence in such an event has any point, it is to highlight the gift of womanhood, to proclaim to men that God has prepared for them a perfect partner. To ask a woman engaged in celebrating her femininity to declare that it is fine if a man chooses to refuse this gift is a negation of what she is trying to communicate.
George Gilder magnificently laid out in these pages some two decades ago the case for marriage between man and woman versus sexual activity outside this structure. He showed that every bit of dignity stripped from marriage in our culture is taken from the stature of our women. The less a man has to commit of himself to gain female companionship, the weaker the foundation of respected womanhood in our society. Women have a stake in marriage, a significant stake: matrimony is their patrimony. The idea of marriage between men, marriage without reproduction, marriage without appreciation for otherness, leaves women undermined.
So Carrie Prejean is right not only in terms of the Biblical logic she cited, she is right in the internal logic of the pageant. Her crown is not there to proclaim her as an object of beauty, a diamond, a peacock, a sunset or a butterfly. (I was horrified on a TWA flight back in 1988 to hear Mel Gibson tell Michele Pfeiffer in Tequila Sunrise she was “the most beautiful thing” he had ever laid eyes on.) It is to proclaim her as a human being, one with a special role that bridges past and future. She and only she can meet the man to summon together a new soul to build the world of tomorrow.
(Dedicated to Jen, Julie and Chris of Continental Airlines who treated my family so royally upon our return from Cleveland to Miami.)