A rather testy Carrie Prejean — that’s former Miss California to you — spent her morning hitting the airwaves to flog her wow-that-was-fast memoir Still Standing, which chronicles her journey from run-of-the-mill pageant girl to ostracized opponent of gay marriage/alleged breast implant recipient/person who is occasionally, tastefully, privately semi-nude. Today, on The View and The Today Show, she defended herself from yet another salacious revelation — apparently now there’s a “sex tape” that she sent via a text message (a little thing the kids call a “sext”) to a boyfriend when she was a teenager — and made the case that she’s been persecuted for her beliefs:

It’s easy to dismiss her as nothing more than the superficial product of a barely relevant institution (pageants, really?). But her story has continued to captivate us because it’s an interesting artifact of our times. Prejean brings up all kinds of conflicted feelings in me, personally: I am passionately pro-gay marriage, and I’m not about to defend pageants as a way of life. Yet I do think she has endured quite the public flogging, with her every minor misdeed (a rather typical scantily clad photo shoot, breast implants apparently purchased for her by the pageant organization, now this “sext” thing) scrutinized to — and this is the bothersome part — discredit her political stance. I don’t buy her argument that she’s being victimized by, you know, a vast left-wing conspiracy; if anything, liberals want her little controversies to quit already so everyone will stop talking about her and her “fight.” (And she’s way off in asserting that only conservative women are demonized. It still makes me ill to think of the vile things people said daily about Hillary Clinton during her campaign.)

However, there is a touch of truth to her assertion on Today that she’s been “Palinized,” in that she’s being attacked on a personal level (the equivalent of calling her a slut) as an answer to her views. It’s all only made messier by the fact that we’re talking about a woman whose original answer on the topic was barely coherent (“opposite marriage,” anyone?) and that she makes her living essentially objectifying herself. She’s hard to defend, and yet there’s no public benefit from these continued revelations about her past.

In fact, to me, that’s what’s far more interesting about her story: It makes me wonder if we’re now living in a kind of post-beauty-pageant world. Can anyone be held up as a perfect, beautiful, pristine feminine ideal in a society that runs on sexting, Perez Hilton, and nasty personal-is-political debate? Or did Prejean, in a sense, win Miss USA 2009-style? In other words: Does anyone care about the woman who beat Prejean for the title?