In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet


Have you heard of Jocelyn Wildenstein?

She’s had a lot of work done.

(Note: the links are frightening, and maybe not work safe.)

Flea had a mocking entry on her blog about la Wildenstein, with lots of ridicule and disgust from commenters, and it got me thinking. At first I couldn’t come up with anything stronger than, “problematic,” which is progessive-speak for, “This offends me, but I haven’t yet figured out why.”

I think I know why I’m bothered, though.

Jocelyn Wildenstein is in a very select group of plastic surgery patients, people who are often referred to as cosmetic-surgery addicts, but there are women who have begun to edge into her territory. Cher, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Charo. And you hear the same thing: Ewwwwww. They’re hideous. They’re sickening. They’re grotesque.

It’s results-oriented, this nastiness. It insults these women for the same reason that the beauty industry insults unmodified women: they’re not attractive to us. Those stung lips, those pithed noses, those frozen faces, those rock-hard tits. What were they thinking? Don’t they know how ugly they are? Don’t they know how much prettier they were before? Who’d want to fuck that?

Don’t get me wrong, these women make me uncomfortable, too. I look at Wildenstein and I remember the momentum of my own disorder. I remember what it was like to need work. I worry for her and for all of them. But would we be holding Wildenstein up as an example of everything gone wrong with beauty as our culture defines it if she’d undergone fifty-odd procedures and come out the other end looking preternaturally beautiful instead of strange? Would we have a problem with one painful face lift or a couple painful collagen injections? If plastic surgery in general were just as painful but not as distinctive, would we be as vituperative towards the women who undergo it?

Update: I don’t want to see anyone in comments making cracks about Wildenstein’s appearance. Yes, she’s no longer conventionally attractive. Yes, the operations she’s undergone signal a body dysmorphic disorder that probably warps her sense of self out of any resemblance to reality. None of those things are controversial, so they don’t really need to be pointed out again. No viciousness, okay?

Hot Geezers in Magazines

Well, they aren’t exactly elderly, but you’d think so by the way the Times writes about them.

Brace yourself. Very soon in beauty and fashion ads you will be seeing faces of women who are actually in their 40’s – or even older. If you look closely, you may even see a wrinkle or a line or two. Granted, these are not ordinary faces: Kim Basinger in the new campaign for Miu Miu; Sharon Stone, the image for Dior Beauty. These are extraordinary, storied, famous, perhaps even infamous, faces. Faces with staying power.

Ok, I’m braced — show me a wrinkle!

Now, I suppose this ad campaign is good. It’s great that we’re finally able to look at older women (sorry, but I don’t think 40 quite qualifies as “old”) and see that, by George, women don’t physically fall into pieces after their 16th birthdays. But the tone of this piece irritates me; it’s silly that we’re shocked, just shocked, at the idea that women over 25 can be beautiful enough to be put in advertisements.

Of course, it’s shitty that these women are basically being used to sell wrinkle cream and anti-aging potions. And I think that the reporter here is correct when she says that this is largely an economic decision, in response to shifting age demographics. But I’d like to eek out a little glimmer of hope, and say that this does also reflect a shifting beauty standard, where older women are still perceived as attractive. There are all kinds of problems with beauty standards in general, which I won’t touch on now, but this could be a tiny step in the right direction. Or, if not the right direction (because selling women useless crap in an attempt to make them look 20 isn’t exactly the “right” direction), at least a better direction. Thoughts?

A Follow-Up

to yesterday’s very short post on the discussion board about how I’m hideous and a fat ugly pig. And it’s a long one, and I’m on a lot of painkillers, so please excuse typos or anything that just doesn’t make sense. I was a little bit in shock, and a little bit upset, when I first read the message board, so I didn’t really get into why I even posted it or why it bothered me so much. And I do appreciate all the comments, but the point of the post wasn’t to say, “Please tell me I’m pretty!” Zuzu really summed it up when she wrote, “These guys are obviously assholes, but it bothers me that being called fat and/or hideous provokes such a strong, “But you’re not fat! You’re not ugly!” response. I could just be feeling marginalized by the idea that being fat is the worst thing a woman could be called. ”

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Our Vaginas, Ourselves

The NYTimes addresses designer vaginas in this snarky piece:

Indeed, it has always seemed to me that one of the singular advantages of being a woman lies precisely in the “dark continent” quality of our genital cartography. If we women don’t get to stalk around flaunting our virile equipment the way men do, we also don’t have to deal with locker-room slights or bedroom disparagements. We carry our signs of arousal – our receptivity – on the inside, as opposed to the straightforward jack-in-the-box readability of men. And although it’s true that the very structural inaccessibility of the vagina may lead to difficulties with body image (how do you go about envisioning something you can’t see?), it also serves as a kind of protection against the relentless judgment – the fierce critique – of every pixel of our appearance that women, far more than men, are inclined to. Men may have begun to worry a bit more about their drooping jowls than they used to and may be the target of those abject penile-enhancement ads that pop up all over the Internet, but 90 percent of all cosmetic procedures are performed on women. So having one less visual surface to commodify – to narrow our eyes at accusingly, checking out for acceptability or desirability in terms of size, shape and firmness – leads me to offer up silent thanks for small favors of chromosomal destiny.

Ah, but no more.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one giggling at the author’s unfortunate last name.

The Walking Wombed

Molly Saves the Day, a brand new fantastic feminist blog, comes out swinging on beauty culture:

Both men and women are expected to trim or even be completely bald — the more unnatural, the better. Their hair is supposed to fall in ways that cannot be achieved without products to keep it that way, and the skin of both sexes is now supposed to be exfoliated and cared for and moisturized with a different product for every body part. There’s one overriding theme here: all these things cost money. While women may fall for this crap more than men (more on this in a minute), corporations will exploit insecurities of either gender to make a profit. While I’d like to blame the patriarchy, it seems like it would be more appropriate to blame the productarchy.

But by far, more women fall for these ploys than men. While some men religiously follow “Queer Eye” and buy the 100 products sure to make women fall for them, most women wear makeup and follow expensive, time-consuming beauty standards. The reason has a lot to do with the second issue I have with this article: its mystification over women acting sexy in a sexually repressed culture…

…If society sees its women as walking wombs, it’s not surprising in the least that they would want to flaunt the only value they’re seen to have. Men may want to dress to show off their success, or their style, or their personality, but girls have been told from earliest childhood that men will only be with them for their arousal capacities. It is absolutely natural for girls to try to compete for mates with what they perceive as valuable. Today, the culture puts value in sex: not seduction, or teasing, or subtle innuendo. Conservatives want out and out, bed-rocking, baby-making sex. And until we teach girls that their uterus isn’t on the auction block, it’s a trend that will continue indefinitely.

Great stuff.

Being Monroe

Way back when, when I was in therapy bitching to my therapist about my body issues, she explained that the only reason I was picking on myself was that I was, at the time, depressed. “No, I’m fat,” I told her, feeling petulant. She explained that most people have one deep-seated but shallow criticism of themselves that defies all logic, and like an office assistant pulls a file, we pull the file and pore over it when we’re feeling down with no reason at all. Thus instead of thinking “I just feel like crap today,” I would abuse myself by calling myself fat, thereby extending and strengthening the link between my depression and body image.

It doesn’t help that mainstream culture further pushes their market creations on our insecurities, making otherwise intelligent women buy and do ridiculous things. At times one almost feels guilty for rejecting all this beauty nonsense outright, as though one is betraying a duty one has to simple social standards. I too am guilty of buying crap like hair removal lotions that left me with a rash, miracle makeup off an infomercial, and ass cream that left me slick enough to oops! slip out of my jeans on accident and be arrested for public exposure on a city bus (long story). After my pregnancy I was so disgusted with what I saw in the mirror that I embarked on an exercise campaign that left me looking like a sinewy bag of bones. I spent three hours a day at the gym and when offered a meal, glibly said, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit.”

I wasn’t kidding.

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Musical Mammaries

This is just too weird. iTaTas?

Computer chips that store music could soon be built into a woman’s breast implants.

One boob could hold an MP3 player and the other the person’s whole music collection.

BT futurology, who have developed the idea, say it could be available within 15 years.

BT Laboratories’ analyst Ian Pearson said flexible plastic electronics would sit inside the breast. A signal would be relayed to headphones, while the device would be controlled by Bluetooth using a panel on the wrist.

According to The Sun he said: “It is now very hard for me to thing of breast implants as just decorative. If a woman has something implanted permanently, it might as well do something useful.”

The senors around the body linked through the electrical impulses in the chips may also be able to warn wearers about heart murmurs, blood pressure increases, diabetes and breast cancer.

via the fabulous Shankar, who by his own admission cannot get enough of hearing “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane through a nice radio-rack. Let’s hope they figure out a way to install speakers.

p.s. Who says women are objectified?