Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Belly Roll Bologna

Whenever you hear words like "real beauty" buzzing around in mainstream media, they're usually trying to sell you something. We should've all learned this lesson after the massive and oh-so-empowering Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (which featured six curvy non-models in bra and panties) turned out to be a pathetic ploy to sell cellulite cream.

And when plus-sized model Lizzie Millier recently posed nude for a spread in Glamour Magazine that bared a visible "belly roll", I wasn't buying it.

Apparently, she's a size 12-14, which puts her smack dab in the average range of most American women; a fact everyone seems to think is going to single-handedly cure body image issues worldwide and spawn a revolutionary movement.

Um. Not so fast.

They forgot to mention that the average American woman is a size 12-14 and 5'4'', which looks a lot different than it does on a 5'9-ish model with an otherwise toned physique. And while the photo aims to be some sort of reflection of a bodily reality, the only supposed flaw is the layer of tummy WHERE EVERY HUMAN BEING IN THAT SITTING POSITION WOULD HAVE. So, curvier? Yes. More real? Not necessarily.

Which is why it was such a hoot to see the model's interview on the Today Show, and even bigger holler to see Glamour's smug editrix and chief pretending it was totally her idea all along. Matt Lauer did, however, ask a valid question in the midst of the hooplah: "Is this gonna change things?"

Not, really Matt, no.

Because "real women" projects like these are merely specialities. Just something the mainstream throws out every once and a while to acknowledge that a particular group of people exists whenever it benefits them. You know,kinda like Black History Month.

Nevertheless, let us all give credit where credit is due, so as not to seem ungrateful. A kudos, a high-five, and a big thumbs up, Glamour: you managed to run a photo of a woman without a protruding ribcage and resisted the urge to retouch it!

We'll toast to this rare moment where the beauty industry has decided to include real women; but remember the other 99.9% of the time they don't.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Miley Cyrus: The Pole Dancing Prude.

When the i came across the hoards of headlines that screamed about Miley Cyrus's recent "pole dancing performance" at the Teen Choice Awards, I--naturally--expected the worst. I had visions of Cyrus bursting out of a gigantic cake in a g-string, glass shoes, and pink pasties before a Justin Timberlake look-alike boogied up from nowhere and snatched them right before the chorus. After which, she'd crawl over to the pole and proceed to swing around it upside down, supporting all 73 lbs of herself with mere inner thigh muscle. Shocked mothers would scramble to cover the eyes of their delicate daughters while adosolent boys would glance down at their crotches and quietly excuse themselves to the nearest restroom.

But, as per usual, the actual performance proved to be a lot more disappointing. Instead of the g-string/pasty combo I'd imagined, she'd opted for a more modest attire of hot pants, low cut top and leather boots. And rather than erupting from a cake, she mostly just stood atop a little ice cream cart with a pole more for holding onto than for swinging around. Her only remotely raunchy move was an awkward dip down maneuver. Not much bumpin' and grindin' or droppin' like its hot, which is understandable: just how down and dirty can you get with gay backup dancers and lyrics like "i know i'm gonna be okay/its a party in the USA" ?

The full-on freak out about it all was a bit baffling to me. Sure, she had to have known that anything involving short shorts and a pole at event for teens would spark criticism (especially after that whole Vanity Fair hooplah) but the reaction was certainly more of an overreaction.

Most of the noise came from parents who were outraged at the idea of the squeaky clean, All-American role model following the likes of Britney, Christina and Lindsey's Good Girls Gone Bad spiral. That the last Disney darling yet without a drinking problem, sex tape, or tendency to exit limos commando style, will join the ranks of Tinsel Town's trashiest tramps. Disney too,is begging Cyrus to tone it down; doomed for big profit loss unless they can create some sort of Hannah Montana Play Pole that sells faster than the lunch boxes.

Because, let's face it, good ol' middle-class America just wants to see teenage gals as rosy-cheeked virgins with bonnets, and butter churns. Conversely, mainstream America would rather see jailbait as hypersexualized and seductive; all tits and ass and the scraps of fabric that all but cover them...

I don't think the media is really shocked by the dance or offended by the outfit ,but more angry at Miley's inability to be either the madonna or the whore. They don't like that she's hanging on the fence between Naughty and Nice, sexual and asexual, middle and mainstream, without picking any sides. Just like the Britneys, Christinas and Lindseys before her, she is eventually doomed to being either the Saint or the Slut. And she's got to check one or the other. Not all that apply.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Michelle Obama Gone Mute?

I guess outfits speak louder than words. That seems to be Michelle Obama’s new philosophy as she snuggles into her duties as America’s First Lady. Maybe it was the coffee conversation with the Bushes, who clued her into the Commandments of political wifedom: Commandment #1: Thou shall not speak, but sit pretty and wave relentlessly. So far, so good. I just hope she has Laura Bush on speed dial to tell her how to get the plastic smile off her face when its time for bed. Or for advice on what to do when her panty hose ride up and there’s nowhere in sight to pick the wedgie.

Yes, I know. Being a Lady tougher than it looks.

Take for instance, her new role as the countries fashion icon. Media hooplah over her inauguration clothing was excessive to the point of ridiculous; from CNN celebrity stylist commentary, to exclusive interviews with the designers of the “lemon grass” skirt suit and white chiffon ball gown she wore for Inauguration Day.

Of course, I expected this surplus of superficiality, just not so soon. As Feministing.com put it, “We couldn't put off the tired old women-as-pretty-arm-candy discussion until the inauguration stage was taken down?”

Nope. Before President Obama was even sworn in, Michelle had already been validated as Barack’s Barbie Doll. A woman so disciplined in femininity that she could--as they kept insisting over and over again-- brave the bitter cold and blisters of Pennsylvania Avenue in the holy name of fashion. A woman eager to fill the shimmery Cinderella shoes of the Jackie Kennedys and Nancy Regans: legs crossed and lips closed.

During a dance at an inaugural ball, a CNN spokeswoman claimed Michelle was actually “the boss” of the marriage, giving her husband the official orders. But unless they communicate through telepathy, it’s more likely to be the other way around.

It’s got to be saddening for Michelle, on some level to know that even as a Harvard Law and Princeton grad, or lawyer at the Sidley Austin firm whose articulate and equally eloquent self-written speeches helped seal her husband’s Presidency--she is now just a pretty wife, waving and smiling.

But on another level, she probably believes she is being racially progressive. She is trying to show the world that the black woman, too, can be intelligent, charming, elegant and poised. This strategy harks back to the election, where she played the humbling homemaker to shake media perceptions of “the angry black woman”. Like on the Ellen Dengeneres show, where she used “wife, mother, and down-to-earth” to describe herself, confining to female gender norms to stretch across the mainstream.

And now that the Obamas have to represent the American family, they are playing it safe; doing the cookie-cutter patriarchy thing, a political recreation of the Cosby Show, which makes having black people in the White House a little less frightening for the right wing.

Michelle’s ability to be the silent version of Clair Huxtable (minus the career) is the key factor in walking the American tight rope between Scary Black Woman and relative normalcy. But rather than pledging allegiance to the haggard script of Proper First Lady Behavior, she should use the limelight to offer alternative perceptions of black women that don’t exclude an assertive voice. And then she should walk out of the White House wearing a “Give Bush a Wedgie” T-shirt, sweat pants, and Spongebob toe socks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Crtical Thinking Videos: Masculinity

Here's some videos i thought would be good for a much needed blog post that i know I've been neglecting. I've been reading alot (Robert Jensen, Jackson Katz and bell hooks have written amazing books )about masculinity and "manhood" lately, because you cant have a legitimate feminist discussion without addressing the ways in which men are socialized and reduced to destructive gender roles, and at constant expectation to "act man enough" which inevitably means physical violence and sex. Just thought it'd be better to show, rather than rant. The first is Jackson Katz, who has an amazing documentary called "Tough Guise", the second, my hero, bell hooks author of We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, lastly Robert Jensen, author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.