Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Thursday, December 8, 2016

I was going to let it go, I swear.

All this female snark heaped on the Miss America pageant? I told myself to walk away and move on.

I had already moderated a spirited discussion on Facebook about novelist Jennifer Weiner’s disappointing op-ed in The New York Times. I am a big fan of her work and have long loathed the Miss America pageant, but I recoiled at Weiner’s ha-ha-ha confession that she loves to publicly ridicule the young women on Twitter.

“Judging is wrong… but I’ll do it,” she wrote.

“How do I explain to my girls why, after constantly telling them they are healthy and strong and beautiful, I’m sitting around in sweatpants cackling at some poor woman’s collarbones? How can I say it’s wrong to make fun of others when I’m tweeting things like ‘did Delaware set her tanning bed to “sweet potato?”‘”

I have no interest in critiquing Weiner’s parenting or her brand of feminism. I just don’t understand how this is fun or funny. Plenty of my younger feminist friends, women I respect and even love, said I was overreacting. Making fun of the contestants is a thing, they said.

Well, it’s also mean. I wish we’d at least consider the visual of women nursing their insecurities by belittling other women half their age. Or younger. I feel old even writing that, but I’m still trying to adjust to the news that Disney is searching for a new Mary Poppins. Dropped my chin like a codfish, I did. So it’s been that kind of week.

The day after the Miss America pageant, on the set of ABC’s The View, Michelle Collins and Joy Behar mocked Miss Colorado for performing her monologue in her nursing scrubs.

Collins: “She came out in a nurse’s uniform and basically read her emails out loud and shockingly did not win.”

Behar: “Seriously?”

Collins: “I swear to God. It was hilarious.”

Behar: “Why does she have a doctor’s stethoscope around her neck?”

Collins: “She helps patients with Alzheimer’s, which I know is not funny, but I swear, you had to see it.”

This exchange prompted a wildfire of Twitter backlash with the hashtag “NursesUnite.”

Good, I told myself. The nurses are on it. I don’t need to waste another minute or a single column inch.

Then, on Tuesday, the show’s co-hosts responded to the outrage. Collins said they love nurses, they really do. Behar said she was just not paying enough attention.

“I was looking at a Miss America tape, and there’s a woman wearing an outfit with a stethoscope, and I’m thinking, ‘Is she in a costume?’ I didn’t know she was a nurse. I’m used to seeing them in gowns and bathing suits. … I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.”

She got that right.

Co-host Whoopi Goldberg followed up with a scolding — for those who were offended. We just have to listen better, she said. If we had, we would have known they were joking.

Huh.

No apology. Because the problem, you see, is that women need to lighten up and learn how to take a joke. Where have I heard that before, once or a thousand times?

Discard column. Start over.

At 58, I am one lucky woman because I’ve known so many other women. I’ve worked with them and for them. You wouldn’t be reading my column if it weren’t for the women who years ago championed my career. And I would be a far more brittle version of myself without the support of the women who are my friends. I couldn’t love them more if they were my sisters.

That’s a mighty debt. As I see it, until I’m dead in the ground, part of my job is to pay it off by carrying as I climb.

Mock young women who want to be Miss America? Why would I do that? Because they’re doing something I wouldn’t do? There’s a long list. Because they’re prettier than I am? As I’ve said many times over the years, I don’t have their midriffs and they don’t have my wisdom. It’s a trade I’m glad to make. If I’m still standing in five years, I will have outlived my mother. Honey, I don’t have the time.

I know I risk coming off as a scold. I’m OK with that. My friend Buffy, who has known me almost as long as God, said 20 years ago that my tombstone should one day read, “May She Never Rest in Peace. Why Should She? She Never Let Us.”

Back then, I protested. These days, it sounds like a plan.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo via Wikicommons