Can Miss America Restore America’s Faith in Merit?

Sunday night, while America was watching football, news about this week’s Iowa Caucuses, or the Critics Choice Awards, the Miss America pageant was wrapping up in Orlando, Florida. Madison Marsh, 22, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was crowned Miss America, representing the state of Colorado where she now resides while serving in the Air Force. The Daily Mail headline wrapped it all up: “Miss Colorado makes history as she becomes first serving US soldier EVER to be crowned Miss America: Air Force pilot, 22, training to be Top Gun fighter pilot after graduating from Harvard.”

My first reaction upon reading this was, “Wow. Harvard, Top Gun, and Miss America?? What a hat trick! She’s a triple threat!” But then my cynical, jaundiced brain recovered from this momentary, bounding enthusiasm, and I clicked on the article to investigate whether Miss America has a penis.

That’s kind of how reading the news goes in 2024, and so it’s natural to be cynical about Miss America’s résumé. It is the result of living under the boot of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) regime. News that, once upon a time, would have been cause for the admiration of the American public (after all, who doesn’t want to admire hard earned, prestigious achievements?) has been ruined by the corrosive effects of DEI.

Studying at Harvard? Lieutenant Marsh is a graduate of the Air Force Academy who, apparently, has also done some post-graduate coursework at Harvard. Harvard used to be the most prestigious, selective university in the United States. It admitted only the best and brightest: future leaders who studied their butts off in high school to get perfect SAT scores, took multiple AP classes, earned varsity letters or captained multiple athletic teams, and still found time to volunteer in their communities and win national spelling bees.

Now everyone knows Harvard is a bastion of diversity, anti-Semitism, grade inflation, and discriminatory admission policies. Moreover, it has one of the worst records on free speech and expression in academia. In the wake of testimony before Congress during which she was unable to say that calls for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s code of conduct, the now former president, Claudine Gay, resigned after a plagiarism scandal revealed over 50 instances of her lifting material from other scholars. Harvard is no longer a paragon of excellence but a hedge fund that platforms grifting activists like David Hogg, whose ungrammatical, misspelled X posts confirm his admission came about not because he’s a MENSA member but because he’s the face of America’s anti-Second Amendment narrative.

Once upon a time a Miss America from Harvard unquestionably would have signified brains matching her beauty. Now I’m supposed to believe that Harvard grad Michelle Obama is also one of the most beautiful women in the world. Sorry, Miss America, but Harvard ain’t what it used to be.

But at least Miss America is a Top Gun pilot! Surely that’s an accomplishment one can’t question. Sorry, but DEI has ruined that, too. Under the Biden administration, the military is more concerned with promoting diversity and equity than with finding the best candidates.

Last summer, the White House came out against a provision in the annual defense spending bill requiring the military to base its promotion decisions on qualifications for the job, regardless of race. Instead of having a military focused on the best people to blow things up and kill our enemies, Biden’s military filters promotions through the lens of DEI. The military has also prioritized the feminization of the armed services, giving us pregnancy flight suits and childcare policies. We even have, and have made a big deal about having, a female Secretary of the Army. The military has been so laser-focused on putting women in visible roles of leadership that it’s difficult to believe they got where they because they are best candidates, including in pilot training programs such as Top Gun. Instead, one can’t help but wonder if Lieutenant Marsh won her appointment to this prestigious program because she actually is an elite pilot or because the Biden administration wants more female pilots.

Even the idea of being crowned Miss America somehow feels compromised in 2024. Is it still permissible to celebrate female beauty or are we supposed to view it as a continuation of the critical male gaze and the work of the patriarchy which has been oppressing women for millennia? And Madison Marsh isn’t even obese … she’s just another fit blonde. Women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour have been assuring me that plus-size women of color are what’s truly beautiful.

Besides, what is a woman? We have a female Supreme Court justice who cannot answer that question and beauty pageants aren’t even a space reserved exclusively for women anymore, as men now make some of the most beautiful contestants. Two trans contestants competed in the 2023 Miss Universe pageant. And about that “Miss” title. Surely Madison Marsh understands that “Miss” is an archaic outmoded way of addressing a woman. How dare we denote a woman’s marital status (or lack thereof) in her title? Offensive!

The new Miss America, of course, isn’t to blame for any of this. She appears to be a young woman of outstanding personal accomplishment, leadership, and discipline. She sees her platform “as an opportunity to dispel stereotypes that exist about military women” and to tell young girls “that you don’t have to play a conventional role.” Well, good for her. But what does she mean by “conventional role”? Conventional roles such as wife and mother? I get that she is young and ambitious, but one word of advice to Miss America: Don’t begin your reign offending those of us who honor these traditional roles of womanhood.

Miss America would do well to dismiss stereotypes about women in the military by being a vocal critic of the current madness as well as an outstanding example of an officer who demonstrates that she did not need quotas or preferences to advance. Let us hope she will show by her words and actions that social engineering policies such as DEI do more to perpetuate harmful stereotypes than to remove them.

I hope you use your platform, Lieutenant Marsh, to inspire young men and women to restore the trust of the American public that merit and achievement still matter more than one’s skin color or private parts.

And good luck at Top Gun. I’m rooting for you.

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