In the News Part One

After Jezebel posted a response to SkinnyGossip blogger’s ridicule of Kate Upton, my sister-blogger and I found inspiration to do the same.  

Without further ado, here is the chat that Lou (author of Cheap Wine and Panty Lines), and I (yours truly, RLB), had about the insanity that is calling Kate Upton fat….

CWPL: Ok – so first off – Are You F*cking Kidding Me? – is the perfect sentiment, no?

RLB: Absolutely! I realize this is one blogger spouting one inane opinion, but it’s this type of mindset that makes beautiful, healthy young women feel like s*** about themselves.

CWPL:  I can’t help but wonder, this is clearly the site of some sick people. Actually really sick, if you ask me. And it can’t possibly be the only viewpoint of its kind out on the Interweb; why do you think this particular instance is garnering so much attention?

RLB:  In terms of the Kate Upton post, it’s such a vile personal attack. While there are a lot of sites that blatantly promote unhealthy notions of thinness, this post goes the extra mile in writing really horrid, insulting things about a perfectly stunning young woman. It’s interesting to me that the author equates her shapeliness with pornography. As if an extremely thin woman in tiny clothes is somehow less evocative. Clearly this writer has issues with women’s sexuality in addition to weight issues.

CWPL:  Clearly.

RLB: Let’s talk more about your sentiment that the author or authors of this blog are actually sick, as in mentally ill. Others have expressed the same sentiment, and the blog’s author claims to have gotten some pretty nasty backlash (violent threats). Doesn’t that kind of negativity just perpetuate the cycle? (of judging women as objects)

CWPL:  I would say yes. I would say a lot of what that woman is saying on her blog is a result of media portrayal of women. That she’s clearly a victim of her own beliefs. It’s sad and I hope two things – that she uses this as a way to reevaluate, seek help, whatever (being that it’s so public now though, I fear the opposite effect) and that our attention to what is going on contributes to a change in the portrayal of women in our society.

RLB:  While I don’t want to give her blog too many hits, I was curious about her “views on self-harm,” and she says the site is “intentionally outrageous and intended to provoke controversy,” which is fair to an extent. She’s revamping or eliminating her Starving Tip of the Day (seriously, Starving tip of the day??), and closes out by saying the following: “…there’s nothing wrong with saying skinny is beautiful, just like there’s nothing wrong with saying curvy is beautiful, or red hair is beautiful, or anything else someone happens to find appealing. It’s an opinion, and we’re all entitled to them.” This closing statement seems somewhat contradictory, as her site essentially invalidates any opinion outside of Super Skinny is Best. As for the Kate Upton post, I think it strikes a chord because this person’s “opinions” are so vicious and degrading.

CWPL:  Right. And she is attacking something that many people struggle with every day. It’s a hot button issue – battling with body image is a lot more serious than having red hair. We all know I judge people everyday on my blog, but it’s an aesthetic. Something they choose. There just seems to be such a stark difference between someone not liking your clothing choices, or hair color choice, and someone not liking your body … ya know? I know what you mean when you say it’s fair to an extent, it is I guess, but it’s also just a crock of shit. Ahem. What that lady was saying on there was crazy unhealthy.

RLB:  It is fair to claim that the purpose of your blog is to indulge in snarkiness (Hi there, CWPL!) but I agree that vilifying someone for their physique is far more harmful than critiquing fashion choices. As Amelia once pointed out, we all deserve to have ownership of our own person. Tearing someone apart  because of how their body looks diminishes their ability to say “this is me and I am happy with who I am,” because on the other end you have someone calling you a fat cow because you were once photographed eating a cheeseburger.

CWPL:  I wonder if the woman in question had actually been much, much curvier, if the outrage would have been the same. From the outside.

RLB:  As in someone like Christina Hendricks?

CWPL: Sure, or even some less well-known model.
(RLB note: for example, any of these women)

RLB:  I suspect she wouldn’t have had the nerve with someone curvier. It would be more insulting that way, and infuriate more people.

CWPL:  I don’t know. There is just something interesting to me about the fact that it’s Kate Upton, freaking Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Extraordinaire. It is our standard after all, as the Jezebel article points out, so would we be so quick to defend someone curvier? I dunno. I also think the pornography comment has a lot to do with the fact that we’re dealing with a real sex symbol here.

RLB:  If you consider what a major issue body image is these days, along with the issue of how women are portrayed in the media, I think there will always be a ton of people ready to defend attacks against curvy women (or not super-skinny women). The biggest issue here is that this “critique” is so… personal. I’m starting to repeat myself, so allow me to be specific: She repeatedly refers to Kate Upton not only as pornographic, but also as a “little piggy” and ….a cannibal, presumably because she’s a “cow” eating a burger. To imply that a woman who looks a certain way is a disgusting slut (simply because of the Way She Looks), is reductionist at best and presumptuous shaming at its worst.

CWPL:  I just hope Kate Upton doesn’t suddenly lose 15 pounds.

RLB:  Or become a vegan.

CWPL:  Or a prude. Hah. Celebrity is a dangerous game, more than ever now with the Internet.

RLB:  It’s a crazy game.

CWPL:  Facebook can be damaging enough – Tumblr too – for regular young women. I can’t fathom what young women in Hollywood/fashion/etc. must endure. And I know you can speak to that very well. And still, just imagine if people had actually been talking about your weight while you were living in LA. Strangers! Gah, it seriously spooks me. I even think how awful it would be to end up on the losing side of “Who Wore it Better” in my gossip rags.

RLB:  Strangers did talk about my weight! Agents would tell me to my face that I’d fare better if I lost 5-10 pounds. And I was already about 15 pounds thinner than I am today. It was insane, and a huge part of why I left. It sucks because fashion and celebrity gossip can be so fun, but when you think about how image obsessed it makes us as a culture, it becomes a serious problem, rather than a frivolous diversion.

CWPL: It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out, if it does. Newsworthiness is fleeting, but we can certainly add this to the Discussion and if there is anything positive to be said for it, it’s that this blogger’s vitriol is bringing attention to a subject in dire need of attention: how women are portrayed in our society.

Also in the news, this, which I think is something you’ve been really interested in lately. What say you of this Gawker writer’s approach to the story? It’s quite interesting and yay for those young girls, right? Methinks the message is spreading …

And that concludes our first In The News segment. Stay tuned for thoughts on the teen girl uprising against fashion mags!

5 thoughts on “In the News Part One

  1. 1. In case you are wondering, yes, I do always read your posts, ladies.
    2. The anonymonity of the Interwebs in general lends itself to this kind of intense, snarky criticism…”snarky” implying an underlying sense of smug self-satisfaction and humor somewhere in there (or an attempt at humor). Back in the good ol’ Twin Cities, we have 2 mainstream newspapers, the Pioneer Press, and the Star Tribune. On the Pioneer Press website, each article has the option for commenting and it is through Facebook; the Strib’s commenting area is not always open (for ‘controversial’ subjects) and is just done via a login name. Clearly, while you can manipulate a FB profile pic and name, having comments attached to that usually means a more civil discussion. Hence, the more civil discussions I see occur on the PP page. I realize this is not about the actual topic at hand, but it is relevant.
    3. I know i posted this on your FB page Mrs. S, but this whole women-hating-women thing is just nuts. I know it’s nothing new, but I hope to God to instill the opposite mindset in my children (yes, I know I have a boy, but I firmly believe in raising my boy(s) to be raging feminists like Steve and Andrea did).
    4. I love you Dwyers. Cheers!

    1. I actually think your second point is very relevant. It’s occurred to me on more than one occasion that this author is seriously hiding behind anonymity. As a blogger myself, I think you would only feel compelled to do that if you knew there was something…. I hesitate to say ‘wrong,’ but let’s call a spade… something wrong with what you were saying. If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, perhaps it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.

  2. i think this is a really interesting conversation. i’ve follwed this story only in as much as it has appeared in my facebook feed, but followed it i have none-the-less. i just read the Skinny What’s-her-Face’s sort of response to the controversy, and, it appears to me anyway, that she’s trying. while her execution for what she has been trying to do has been inherently flawed, i do think her heart is in the right place. like so many people who try to sensationalize their own thoughts online (e.g. Perez Hilton) by taking cheep shots, Skinny What’s-her-Face lost sight of her point/purpose. talking shit about someone behind the curtain of the internet does nothing. in her article about Kate Upton, she spewed vitriol that just speaks to either a) her own lack of self-esteem, or b) her inability to write a well-thought, snarky social commentary. in all actuality, it’s probably both. i’m not a small man, so i have been privy to my fair share of shitty comments thrown my direction over the years, and sometimes they hurt, sometimes they don’t. people say shitty things to each other sometimes, and that’s just part of life…an unfortunate part of life. that said, we all have been, and probably will be again, guilty of doing it. i hope that Skinny What’s-her-Name finds the line she has actually been trying to walk with her website.

    i also wanted to make a brief comment on your conversation. first, the line between someone’s body and their hair, clothes, etc. is completely negligible. some people derive a great sense of identity or pride from those those things, and to say commenting/condemning those things is any less potentially harmful is unfair. try to tell that to the teenager who has to wear ugly clothes because that’s all his/her parents can afford. try telling that to the redhead who gets made fun of for being a ginger or the one black kid at a predominantly white school who gets teased for having nappy hair. it’s all subjective. secondly, i think the cycle of what is considered the “most attractive” is in perpetual motion. what was in vouge 15 years ago (heroin chic) is no longer considered such. the media’s obsession with thinness is still very much a thing (and a problem), but i don’t think it is quite what it was a few years back. i think the over/under sexualzation (the good ol’ virgin or whore argument) of femaleness, especially concerning young woman/girls, is a much more harmful social paradigm. this is something that i think can be remedied by a quality upbringing (whatever that means). self-esteem is created, supported, and foster to grow by “good” parent(s) and friends. it’s not easy. it is so fucking hard to be happy, and it requires a lot of work, and that shouldn’t be ignored. finally, as a man, i think it’s important for me to say that we too feel these societal pressures. they are different, but they are equally as difficult to face. i’m not saying that a man’s life is more difficult than a woman’s or anything like that. my point, really, is that we – all of us – are on the same side. societal pressures are difficult, and, through being decent to each other, we can help each other out.

    maybe i got off track a bit there at the end, but that’s what happens with stream of conscious writing. when it’s all said and done, i enjoy your commentaries and insight on this topic. keep it up.

    1. First off, Congratulations to Nic for being RLB’s First Male Commenter! (applause)

      Second, I agree that her reply is headed in the right direction. It is possible for backlash to have a positive effect, and from what she’s written that’s due to a large number of thoughtful responses, rather than just returning the hatefulness.

      Third, I appreciate your points about not trivializing insults of any kind. The example of kids who have to wear worn out or uncool clothes particularly resonates. For me the point boils down to just that – the things we cannot change. I can’t speak for my sister, but I think what she was getting at is that it’s easier to dye your hair than change the genetic makeup that determines your body type. Perhaps an oversimplification, but one that is worth noting. The kids from poor families (typically) can’t change the types of clothes they have to wear, any more than you or I or Kate Upton can change our DNA. Mockery of any kind is not fun to experience, but directing hostility toward those things that are beyond our control seems particularly cruel.

      Lastly, I think the Skinny what’s-her-face blogger really tapped into what you sight as the bigger issue: “the over/under sexualzation (the good ol’ virgin or whore argument) of femaleness, especially concerning young woman/girls.” By singling this model out as some kind of pornographic trollop simply because she has healthy thighs and large breasts, is as ignorant as dismissing extremely thin women as prudes. Ever insult of a sexual nature in that post was profoundly disturbing because it feeds into the reduction of curvaceous women to nothing more than sexual objects. Kate Upton isn’t a porn star, and that swimsuit fashion show wasn’t a porn video, but from the POV of Skinny-what’s-her-pants, it was all one and the same. That is a very scary notion that needs to be countered at every opportunity.

      1. i feel so honored to be the first man to say anything.

        i don’t disagree with your point(s) about things that are changeable versus those which are not, but sometimes it’s not that simple. i know you know that, but i think it depends on the individual as to what they are sensitive to. what are those sore subjects? everyone has their own. in all reality, i think you (two) are correct — ragging on someone’s body is a bigger deal.

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