I don’t like fart jokes. I think scatological discussions should be confined to a physician’s office.
I gave up watching the HBO TV show “Veep” because it was not credible. Not the concept of a female vice president, the notion such a character would use men’s genitalia as her constant frame of reference. Ditto for the movie Bridesmaids. There’s a reason they call this “bro” humor and many women don’t find it funny.
All women are created equal if not alike. But generally speaking, women don’t talk or act like men. I have more than five decades of experience with this but argue with me if you like. That’s what the comment section is for.
So today I am cheering Washington Post columnist Petunia Dvorak, who, in just a few words nailed what’s wrong with the way America sees gender equality; we’re only equal with men if we speak, dress and act like them.
In a world in which judgment is made as quickly as hitting “post” on a tweet and nuance has all but disappeared, Dvorak is celebrating the crowning of the first Miss America to also be an active member of the U.S. Air Force. Dvorak writes that 2nd Lt. Madison Marsh “busts the myth that women who do the jobs that used to be held only by men have to look and act like them.”
This means not diminishing the accomplishments or seriousness of the 22-year-old Marsh’s career plans because she indulges her interests in beauty, fashion and fitness as well as flying. It ought to mean not diminishing women’s pasttimes as any more or less frivolous than those enjoyed by men. Or as Marsh herself captioned on the photo above on her Instagram page, “THIS is what a pageant girl looks like. Pageant girls come in all forms and this is my own special mold.”
In 2024, women are still expected to conform to the standards and practices established by men though aviation is making some progress.
In a nod to gender diversity, several airlines recently announced their flight crews could wear uniforms, jewelry and makeup of whatever gender they preferred. At British Airways, female pilots can wear skirts, culottes or pants but the specifically masculine and purposeless necktie is required for pilots of both genders.
Even after opening to women, the male role is the standard. A male baseline is being modified to acknowledge our presence but it is not being scrapped.
Lady lawyers, bankers, doctors, etc. socialize with their peers at sports events, golf outings, or deep sea fishing. Where are the business meetings at the ballet, an opera or a fashion show? Or dare I suggest, a beauty pageant?
Our progress is measured by how well we fit into the environment men have created. This is what women pilots wearing neckties means to me and this, I hope is what Madison Marsh’s reign as Miss America will change for the generations after me.
Note to readers: This post has been updated to correct an earlier reference to Lt. Marsh as an Air Force pilot. While awarded a pilot slot, Marsh opted to pursue a master’s degree at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy instead. She is a private pilot.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.