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Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, Messed Up -- Let's Just Leave Her Alone

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The Internet has been abuzz this week about Miss Utah's response to a question about the wage gap during the Miss USA pageant.

Although her answer was certainly convoluted, I feel for Marissa Powell. I can't imagine what it's like to have millions of people on the Internet discussing what an idiot you are and saying it's a good thing you're pretty since your brains won't get you far. Here are four reasons we should just leave her alone.

1. She was asked the question in very stressful situation.
No matter how good of a public speaker you are, there's going to be a time when you freeze up. This young woman was onstage, under hot lights, being asked an awkwardly phrased question by NeNe Leakes of "Real Housewives" fame. Throw in the pressure of being in a pageant that 4.6 million people are watching live and you've got a recipe for confusion. Plus, was that music playing in the background of the live show? I'd be completely distracted too.

2. The question she was asked was more or less ridiculous.
Let's look closely. Here's the question: "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?"

Linda Holmes of Monkey See summed up the issues here better than I can:

"Not to put too fine a point on it, what kind of a simultaneously (1) dumb and (2) impossible to answer question is that? First of all, it's three questions rolled into one -- what does it say that in 40 percent of homes, women are the primary earners, or what does it say that women earn less than men, or what does it say that we allow these two facts to coexist?... What would have been a good answer to this question that could have been delivered in the time frame she had?"

Thank you, Linda.

3. Despite Powell's bumbling, she made a couple of valid points.
They might not have been directly relevant to the question she was asked, but Powell pointed out two things that are actually true. One, we need more jobs in this country. And two, men are typically viewed as "leaders," be it as the breadwinners in the family or workers deserving of higher wages.

4. Miss USA is a beauty pageant.
This is not a Model UN, or a kind of competition where contestants are expected to be informed on public policy and respond accordingly to questions about it. I firmly believe that the Miss USA competition is about how pretty and personable the contestants are, no matter how much other people may try to convince me that pageants are more about intelligence than beauty. I'm not a huge fan of pageants. But if we're going to have televised events where women are being judged for their looks, we shouldn't then vilify the contestants for not coming prepared to have a national debate.

Overall, Marissa Powell seems to be taking all of the less-than-glowing attention in stride. In the midst of the snarky discussion about her flub, she tweeted this:

She made a mistake. Let's get over it, shall we?

LOOK: Photos From Miss USA 2013

Miss USA 2013
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to Miss Powell as "Melissa." Her name is Marissa.