Friday, April 27, 2012

lady things

 I'd like to formally go on record saying that I enjoy Jezebel, and respect the way they (and many others, recently) are bringing issues like this to the forefront - at least to the population that reads blogs like Jezebel, which is maybe not quite the point, but anyhow. Jezebel put out this article yesterday, about People magazine's Most Beautiful issue, which features some celebs sans-makeup inside.

Articles like this one simultaneously validate my own hesitations with regards to feminist issues while leaving me a bit empty. It seems like the trending approach to Lady Topics (and, let's be fair, many hot button issues like race, sexuality, etc) is to acknowledge the problem...and then leave it, an open ended question not really up for discussion. We the women are supposed to be comforted, I guess, by knowing that others see these problems for what they are, but still struggle with understanding a reasonable plan of action to deal with them. The cool-kid feminist MO (I'm looking at you, Tina Fey) strays from any solid stance for fear of being too militant, but still skewers old-school standards of beauty. Which is fine. Honestly, I count myself in this camp. I like silly things too much to really, solidly abstain from many parts of pop culture that are "bad" for the ladies. But that doesn't make it any less frustrating. Is it weird that I crave solutions from these women that I look at as able to understand, to make sense of how to deal with these issues?

Stewart writes "...the female-on-female gaze, in this context — we hid the people without makeup on the inside, so as not to scare you! — feels strange. There's very little text accompanying these images; the photos themselves are the point. Look at these women! No makeup!! If the cover, or the entire issue featured women without makeup, it might be a lesson, reminding us how most of the images we see in magazines are based in reality yet completely unreal. But this way, it feels like bait, the kind that we, as highly visual creatures, can't resist." I suppose I agree with her, but I can't help feeling that she's missing the problem within the problem here. Why are we even looking at this, pointing at People and criticizing them for doing exactly what we've been asking for? It's interesting to see famous, beautiful women without makeup because it allows us to see them in a more realistic light - in which they are still famous and beautiful. Maybe there's some sinister undercurrent of wanting to level the playing field, but as Stewart points out herself, that's more the business of those awful photos in tabs like Us or Star - these are natural beauties set in a context that allows them to look as beautiful as the made up stars. Baby steps, or something, right?

Clearly I'm having trouble tying all this up in a nice bow. But for me, it all comes back to that 30 Rock episode discussed here (a transcript of a Fresh Air interview with Fey) that really makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Yes, obviously, it's good to begin a discussion. But what point are we making? What takeaway is there, really, when the same people will be arguing the same sides, while 95% of the people who watched that show will just think Liz is pathetically unable to articulate her point of view and then is proven 'wrong' (or something)?

Who is going to tell me how to wear lipstick and curl my hair and watch trashy television and still feel comfortable as a feminist with intelligent answers to good questions about my choices?
 And, most importantly, why do I feel like I need that validation in the first place?

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