Friday, September 17, 2010

"You cut your own bangs and you think they look good. (They don't.)"

-Gawker has a "Signs That You're Poor," city edition, guide, and, um. I don't think of myself as poor, just as doing quite well considering I'm a grad student, but this sure hit home. While I meet several more of the criteria, "You know when things go on sale at the thrift store" and "You cut your own bangs and you think they look good. (They don't.)" are the two from which I most ducked in horror. Housing Works has another $5 special on jeans! Yes, I know this! And nothing short of one of those $800 haircuts could fix what I've done to my bangs, so I'm letting them grow out. A commenter also offers, "You know at least four recipes whose core ingredients include a small can of tomato sauce and a quarter of an onion." But aren't the large cans more economical? Anyway, I think this list confuses poverty with frugality. Just because you could pay someone to cut your hair, or break the $30 barrier buying pants, doesn't mean you need to.

-It would be great if once, just once, an American food writer could be inspired by something other than time spent as an expat or tourist in Frahnce. Will that day ever come? No. Even the NYT "Recipes for Health" blogger - advocate of a béchamel made with low-fat milk - is guilty:

When I lived in France I began to travel a lot to Provence and to the Mediterranean, and that’s where I began to learn a lot about those cuisines. Living there really shaped my cooking in many ways. There is another thing that really affected me and is a running theme in my writing now: the French stop for meals. They don’t eat between meals because they’re not hungry. That’s so different than the way Americans eat, and I think there is something really key there.
Meanwhile, what I'm appreciating most about 'merica is the snacks. Well, the iced coffee and the snacks. Sure, snacks are better in France, but you have to eat them, shamefully, while walking down the street. If you want to eat between meals, say while reading for your dissertation, at least this is possible in NY. The other day I got a slice of lemon poundcake and an iced tea at the bookstore café on Prince near Mulberry and seriously just reveled in the fact that such a place exists.

-I'm confused. I know Jezebel is the blogosphere's home for misplaced pseudo-feminist outrage (commenters who mention specifics re: weight, calories, or dress size are admonished that "numbers can be triggering" to those with eating disorders... yet many posts include photographs of runway models, it-girl actresses, etc.... but it's all OK because the blog is leading the campaign against womankind's principle enemy: photoshopping). But this post I really don't understand. An American singer of half-Mexican, half-Scottish origin used to dress up as Frida Kahlo and now does not. She has sold out to the ideals of whiteness, it seems, by getting a tattoo and, more bafflingly, a tan. Meanwhile, "Colonial" standards of beauty are especially oppressive to the blogger, on account of her "Iberian" complexion. Weren't the Iberians the colonizers? I am predisposed to understanding without explanation oppressive-beauty-standard complaints from those with thick, dark, frizzy hair and pale skin, but this? I'm just not following.


Scott Lemieux said...

McNally Robinson is awesome, especially so because of its Western Canadian origins....

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Western Canadian, eh? Why did I think British? In that case, the café has me appreciating North America, and not just the States.

Britta said...

Wow, that final article was full of fail on all levels. There were way too many things wrong with it to do a point by point take down, but I just want to say that I can't believe anyone can use the terms "mysterious indigenous beauty" in a non-ironic way post Edward Said, especially in an article that is supposed to be critiquing racist colonial beauty standards. Sigh.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


A shame, too, because a point could be made about how beauty standards are race-based beyond the black-white divide. But that wasn't it.


Ooh, tough one. Actually, I'm not sure what the question is. I already explained my stance re: Blow's comment at length. If you found my reaction overblown, fair enough, people react to things differently. As for Jezebel, the outrage is pseudofeminist because it's accompanied by uncritical celebration of conventionally- (and, uh, professionally-) attractive women. If the point of the site is to be hypersensitive about "triggering" self-hatred, it wouldn't be covered in pictures of models and actresses. If the site wants to be a safe space for women, one that promotes better body image, and so forth, it wouldn't double as a celeb-worship blog.

So, if I were writing about Blow's comment... then in every other post saying that The Jews control the media, then there'd be a parallel. I'm not seeing the parallel.

raphael said...

OK. I'm sorry, I should have read more carefully. So you don't think Jezebel's feminism is overstated or hypersensitive, just contradictory?

raphael said...

I mean if you do actually think those "triggering" comments are hypersensitive, then my original point stands; I don't think that you can approach antisemitism with the level of sensitivity that you do and also mock people for being hypersensitive toward a different form of prejudice or oppression.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Thank you for starting to spell out what you're getting at.

As for "triggering," of course, a discussion of weight and calorie counts is something someone with an eating disorder might want to steer clear of, and in the context of a blog intending to be sensitive to those with eating disorders, it's reasonable for the site to ban that kind of talk. I most certainly wasn't intending to "mock" that decision.

What bothers me is the hypocrisy. The site can't decide if it wants to be a safe-space kind of environment, or if it wants to celebrate images of conventionally beautiful women. It strikes me as at least as "triggering" to post images of runway models as to learn, say, that a commenter went from a size 18 to a size 12.

Moreover, it's these very images (often posted uncritically, as in, look at the pretty dresses, look what this celeb wore today!) that keep girls and women reading the posts on the site about 'oh the media images' and so forth. I mean, yes, all women are exposed to billboards and magazine covers, but many of us would not be hyperaware of how thin/young/whatever models are these days if images of them weren't there to greet them on their favorite ostensibly feminist blog. It becomes a cycle. The images encourage self-criticism if not self-hatred, which in turn makes readers more up for reading about how terrible it is what The Media (as though Jezebel didn't participate) throws at women. When, if the point is body positivity, the thing to do would be to use such images sparingly if at all.