Kára McCullough’s comments at the Miss USA pageant sent the Internet into a firestorm over her words about being an “equalist” and healthcare being a “privilege.” It seemed to many that she was trying to be diplomatic in her answer, appealing to as many people as possible, but in doing so she was actually damaging the feminist cause and suggesting that healthcare is not a fundamental right for all humans.
McCullough clarified her comments in an interview with Cosmopolitan, explaining that 30 seconds isn’t a long time to get into such a complex topic.
“I’m all about women’s rights. Yes, I would have to say I am a feminist. But, when I look at the term “equalism,” [I used it] because I’ve seen firsthand in the workplace that we need those equal opportunities when it comes to leadership. And you know, the word [feminism] can carry different connotations [depending on what] generation you come from, or what background, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m not an active [supporter of] women’s rights.”
*clears throat* While the word “feminist” may carry a negative connotation in some circles, that negativity — which often comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the word’s very definition — is perpetuated by people refraining from using the word. Just as “all lives matters” is a condescending negation of the Black Lives Matter movement, labeling oneself an “equalist” is problematic and harmful to the feminist cause.
While it’s important she admitted her feminism after the fact, McCullough should not shy away from the word in public speeches, because in doing so, she is perpetuating the notion that feminism is not striving for equality of genders (the emphasis on the female is merely pointing out that women are the ones who are at a disadvantage in society, not males.)
I’m done, I promise.
McCullough also addressed her healthcare statement, clarifying: “I would definitely love to let people know that, yes I am privileged to have health insurance — it’s a privilege for me, and I’m thankful for that. But I also do believe health insurance is a right for everyone.”
It’s possible McCullough was nervous, or afraid of saying anything divisive in answer to questions during such a high-pressure scenario. In any case, her clarifying comments change a lot about her social and political views.