Monday, July 27, 2009

Some "words of wisdom" from former model Elle Macpherson

by Gracie Remington

While so many models attempt to profess their profound depth and erudition by either carting around some absurdly large philosophy text or using words with more than three syllables, it's nice to see one own up to her absolute stupidity and shallowness. In an interview last week with the Guardian, Elle Macpherson discusses the fashion industry's alienation of larger women ("Perhaps larger women haven't been as celebrated and therefore haven't been interested in themselves, but today larger women, or all different body types, are celebrated”) and feminism (“There's a stereotypical perception that a feminist is somebody who believes in equal rights for men and women. Well, I believe men and women are different and they have different needs, therefore the concept of equal rights doesn't really sit with me in many ways”) among other things. Thank you, Elle, for shedding light on these issues. Your insights are truly invaluable.


At July 29, 2009 at 4:12 PM , Anonymous Shemarty said...

Last night, I caught a half-hour preview show of the A&E show "Rollergirls", which is a documentary about a bunch of young women who play the aggressive game of roller derby. In the preview, it was established that these women are strong independent grrrls for whom the roller derby is a way to really let loose and rebel against the conventional norms of femininity, or something.

By far the most unintentionally hilarious part was certainly when one of the women said, in all apparent seriousness, that the roller derby sport is for women of all shapes and sizes. As far as I could see, none of the women featured in the show was anything less than highly attractive in the conventional sense. For example, there was not a single "fat and fit" woman competing in the rink. The same phenomenon is evident in other similar media products such as Suicidegirls and the feminist list "The Real Hot 100", neither of which seems to feature one woman who is even fat, let alone obese. The producers of the show "L-Word" also seem to know perfectly well which side their bread is buttered on.

It's an... interesting idea that when an attractive woman puts on punk makeup and piercings, she is striking some kind of blow against the beauty norms. In reality, of course, she will only go on to prove the very solidity of those norms. Our sociobiologal programming tells us what to find attractive and what to find ugly the same way it tells us to taste sugar as sweet and shit as disgusting, and the cultural symbols of don't really change anything on top of that. In the end, objective reality always beats social construction. When a girl has a sexually attractive face and body, she can dress in a burlap sack and put clown makeup on her face, and she will still be sexually attractive. If a woman is an ugly pig, she can put on the best clothes, hair and makeup and yet she will still remain an ugly pig. There is a good reason why beautiful models get paid a lot even after PhotoShop was invented and can supposedly make any woman look beautiful.

But not everyone seems to be able to say these self-evident truths as boldly as I do. Instead, a popular idea that many people pay at least lip service to is that there is a massive diversity in what men consider beautiful and attractive. According to this view, only very immature and stupid men such as myself would consider, say, a Playboy centerfold to be the pinnacle of sexiness, whereas the good and smart men understand that the obese middle-aged woman is the real ideal of beauty. Or something like that. (Cue the profeminist men to claim that this really is what they believe.)

At July 29, 2009 at 4:15 PM , Anonymous AC said...

What is it with the narcissistic idea that everybody is immensely beautiful and everyone must therefore behave as if this was even remotely true? People with a healthy self esteem should have no trouble admitting that they don't look anything like what most people would choose to look like if they had a perfectly free choice. For example, I know I am at best average-looking among the men in my age cohort, and it follows from the market laws of the assortative mating process that the same goes for my wife with a high probability. The same goes for most people, and there is nothing whatsover to gain by pretending that everybody is beautiful any more than there would be in pretending that everyone is rich, can play the piano beautifully, etc.

Women seem to be able to understand, at least in some subconscious level if not in actual spoken words, that they really are vastly different in how good they look and how attractive they therefore are to men. But few seem able to grasp and accept that men, especially those men who rank the highest socially and whose opinions therefore matter most, will then treat them differently based on how attractive they are. Women consider this "unfair" and "shallow" and "wrong". Men seem to know their place and be more reality-based in this respect: it's quite rare to see a real-life Fat Bastard proclaiming that he is just as handsome and attractive as any other guy, and demanding that women have to treat him as well as they would treat a truly rich, handsome and attractive man. The equalist message that feminists and other progressives like to spout doesn't seem to stick to most men: and would most women really be happier if it did?

At August 4, 2009 at 9:53 AM , Anonymous LSG said...

I understand your intense irritation at Macpherson, Gracie -- I share it -- but I winced a little at phrases like "it's nice to see [a model] owning up to her absolute stupidity and shallowness." Macpherson is clearly misinformed about feminism, and we could probably argue that the modeling industry feeds into and shapes viewpoints like hers. Still, the language here smacks a bit of "Your job is to be pretty so shut up and be pretty." I know that was not your intention, but it was making me squirm a little so I thought I'd mention it.

There are many specific points I could make to you, Shemarty and AC (never heard of Seth Rogen, eh?), but that would be very, very long and I fear it would be utterly futile -- I urge you to consider why you are so invested in proving the "self-evident truth" that (female!) beauty is governed by totally objective standards. I suspect it is not because you are actually interested in exploring the intersection of culture and biology in understanding beauty, but because you want to affirm your right to call women "ugly pigs" to to compare them to sugar and shit -- then sneer at anyone who dares suggest that this kind of language shows contempt for women.


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