Like most attention-craving clowns, Donald Trump has to turn up his asinine rhetoric on a regular basis.
Last week, while announcing his presidential run, he hurled uber-asinine insults at Mexico – calling migrants from our southern neighbor “drug dealers, rapists and murderers.”
We should of course condemn the Comb-Over King for that kind of anti-Latino bigotry.
But I gotta admit: Part of me also wonders if The Donald might be doing Mexico and Latin America a strange but welcome favor.
To wit: The Trump Affront could mean curtains for the retro parade known as the Miss Universe contest, which Trump owns and which this year was held in the so-called capital of Latin America, Miami.
Miss Universe's demise in turn might help change Latin America’s benighted attitudes toward women – which are some of the most benighted in the world.
The backlash against Trump’s remarks so far is encouraging. Mexico’s beauty pageant boss has threatened to pull the country out of the Miss Universe competition. Colombian regaetton star J. Balvin canceled his performance next month at the Miss USA pageant, which is owned by Miss Universe.
More important: Miami-based, Spanish-language Univision – the fifth-largest television network in the U.S. – announced Thursday it's dropping Miss USA and Miss Universe from its airwaves.
If the Latin American and Latino world keeps telling Trump "You're fired!" then Miss Universe is less likely to survive – because Latin America is arguably the pageant’s most ardent market.
In Miss Universe’s 63-year history, Latin America has produced more than a third of its winners. (The current title-holder is Miss Colombia.) But that doesn’t mean Latin American women are somehow more beautiful than women from other parts of the universe.
It’s simply evidence that Latin America is inordinately obsessed with beauty pageants and the stunted gender values they represent.
Exhibit No. 1: The lengths the region goes to win them. Venezuela has had more Miss Universes – seven – than any other country. And no country puts its contestants through a more grotesque battery of surgical slicing – from breast enlargements to gum reductions – in pursuit of Barbie-Doll perfection.
Unfortunately, in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America, hoisting women atop the evening gown-and-swimsuit pedestal hasn’t elevated them in other respects. In fact, in very ugly ways it’s had the opposite effect.
Yes, the rest of the world objectifies women, too. But in Latin American culture, raging machismo still reigns more supremely than even beauty queens do. (Let’s be clear that Univision – whose presentation of women often makes Mad Men episodes feel 21st- century – is rebuking Trump because he slurred Mexicans, not because it’s worried about the anachronistic message Miss Universe sends young Latinas.)
And yes, Latin America can also point to a number of female heads of state in recent years. But that empowerment has barely resonated outside the presidential palaces.
A Gallup poll last year found Latin Americans were the least likely of any region in the world to say “yes” when asked if women in their countries are treated with dignity and respect. Only a third of them said yes, while at least two-thirds said yes in every other region.
Granted, there’s ample room for debate in regions like the Middle East, where women’s inequality is undeniable. Still, in Latin America the problems range from the socioeconomic – while women in the U.S. earn closer to 80 percent of what men earn, it’s closer to 60 percent in Latin America – to the sociopathic:
The Swiss violence watchdog group Small Arms Survey finds Latin America is home to more than half of the 25 countries in the world with very high rates of femicide, or gender-targeted murders of women, like the decades-long wave of female homicides in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Not to mention the relative dearth of reproductive rights. Latin America also harbors five of the seven countries in the world that ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest and when a woman’s life is in danger. Not even Saudi Arabia – where women aren't allowed to drive – does that.
The most recent outrage is playing out in Paraguay, where authorities refuse to let an 11-year-old pregnant girl who was raped by her stepfather abort her fetus – even though doctors have warned that giving birth may threaten her life.
So would the extinction of the Miss Universe pageant end medieval situations like that? Of course not. But it would eliminate one of the big rings in Latin America’s sexist circus – and at the same time deprive Donald Trump of a marquee platform.
That’s a two-fer that’s hard to pass up. So don’t feel too guilty if you hear Donald hurl epithets at Brazil or Nicaragua and you realize there might ultimately be a benefit: They, too, might dump Trump.
Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas editor. You can read more of his coverage here.