Friday, February 18, 2011

how dare you not be hot

Reading this post by Sizzle, which was a response to this post on The Stranger’s SLOG, got me thinking about the male gaze. It’s nothing new. It’s so not new that some feminists have refuted Laura Mulvey’s original theory, or so the hippest feminist in my queer books class told me in grad school, when I thought I was pretty hip for bringing up Laura Mulvey in the first place.

But damn, it’s still powerful.

The other day Jamie and I were talking, as we do, about getting older, and how the world looks at you differently, especially if you happen to be a woman. Since giving birth, she’s been conscious of the ramifications of losing one’s looks (although she hasn’t lost her looks at all. She’s a textbook MILF, although not a mom I’d like to eff because, among other reasons, I’m her boss). But why should I have to add that she hasn’t lost her looks? Why does not being youthfully hot have to equal cultural damnation?

I told her I’ve been noticing how women lose currency when they’re not perceived as fertile—whether because they’re old, butch, fat, etc.—even in contexts that have nothing to do with actual baby-making. Society is like, What you’re saying would be so much more interesting to me if you were 27 with a waist-hip ratio that implied you could squeeze out a couple of kids, but of course hadn’t yet.

Almost every day on Kevin & Bean (the KROQ morning show that’s been making me feel bad about myself since 1990; but hey, I like Ralph’s showbiz report), steam practically comes out of the ears of the doofy hosts when a woman who’s not hot dares to find her way onto their radar. A lot of times this woman is Tilda Swinton—whom plenty of people find hot, but what if they didn’t? What if there was some way to prove that not one person on the face of the earth wanted to have sex with Tilda Swinton?

In Kevin and Bean’s economy, she should just die. Because clearly she was put on this earth to make penises happy, and if she’s failed at this mission, what’s the point of living?

There’s a funny part in Reno 911!: Miami when one of the inept, self-centered cops finds herself at a 911 dispatch desk. She asks the caller for her address, pauses, then says, “No, where are you in relation to where I am?” Which is how so many people—not just men, and not excluding myself—go through the world. How does it relate to me? What can it do for me? How does your marriage threaten me? White people sometimes look at affirmative action and say, “It’s great because I learn so much from going to a diverse school/working in a diverse environment!” True, but what if you didn’t? What if it had nothing to do with you? Would it have no value?

I would like to close this post with a photo that I unfortunately didn’t take, of a billboard I saw while driving on the 10 freeway this morning. But I think the text makes my point better than this whole post: “Celebrate Black History Month. Let your new life begin! Call 1-800-GET-THIN.”

‘Cause I’m pretty MLK was hoping that one day his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the size of their gastric bypass surgery-sculpted waistlines.

9 comments:

Claire said...

Not that it matters but isn't Tilda Swinton in a polyamorous relationship with at least 2 other people? That makes me inclined to think she's got a leg up on most, not that your DJs deserve the effort of refuting.

I was thinking of The Beauty Myth when I read Sizzle's post. I actually have a video of my parents and I discussing it over fondue, sometimes heatedly, when I was home from college.

CC said...

How did I miss this bit of gossip? Maybe if Us Weekly covered more indie actresses and less Heidi Montag....

Cheryl said...

D'oh--the comment above was from Cheryl via C.C.'s computer. C.C. reads far less Us Weekly.

Claire said...

I tracked down where I read it just to be certain I wasn't delusional:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/feb/13/familyandrelationships1

I don't usually keep up with this sort of thing but her name caught my eye since I've been a fan of her work since before Female Perversions came out. No doubt from when I saw Orlando (sometime after it's theatrical release).

[my word verification is "agonsing" which I read as "agonizing" at first.... hmm...]

Peter Varvel said...

Getting thin is ethno-specific? D'Oh!
As a gay man, I'd like to consider myself more aware of and sensitive to the male gaze than my heterosexual counterparts.
But I'm also conflicted over my own hypocrisy. As Entertainment/Media Whores we are only too willing to worship Eye Candy Goddesses. There is something twisted about men viewing size zero women as role modes for fitness and physique (the women on "Friends," the Spice Girls, the cast of "Desperate Housewives," etc. etc.)
- how inspired am I when, on 'glee,' Quin gets to put her cheerleader uniform back on, post-pregnancy, and regain her power?
Did I just shove my foot up my mouth?

Jesi said...

tru dat!

i would totally f**k Jamie. or at least make out with her. not only is Jamie hot, but smart, and that combination makes my heart aflutter! smart ppl are hot! oh, and she's an incredibly talented poet. her hotness just keeps getting hotter.

in my world you're still a youngin. so you have nothing to worry about. ha! as if.

as i get older, i don't necessarily worry about my looks, but that's because i was blessed by the gene goddesses, but i worry about what i'm doing with my life. like why am i not like Katy Perry? that girl figured out at 15 that she wanted to get into music, so she pursued it and boom, she's a pop star. why the hell didn't i figure out what i wanted to do at 15 and pursue it? so i feel i'm too old to start over, but i feel i need to start over to be happy in this life. catch 22. but at the same time i want to settle down and have babies. so how do i do both? start over and have babies?

i love being a woman even if that means that i'm not hot because i get older. but i am very jealous that men can have children at any age. because then i feel i would have more time ... tik tok ... stupid biological clock.

Jesi said...

btw, i forgot to mention that i really like a 24 yr old guy. ugh. so age has been on my brain because of that. why oh why, do i like/lust after a 24 yr old? not now. and he looks like he's 18. oy!

Jesi said...

sorry to leave so many comments, but i just read the tilda swinton article. holy cow! that hits close to home.

right now i like/lust a 24 yr old but am currently dating a 42 yr old. maybe you can have your cake and eat it too. ? god wouldn't that be nice ...

Cheryl said...

PV: I think that gay men have an interesting and challenging perspective on the male gaze, since they're recipients of it too (consider the pressure gay men feel to be in great shape, whereas a lot of straight men are happy to be couch potatoes). Maybe the "male gaze" should be renamed the "slightly but not entirely male-centric media gaze."

J: I'm always drawn to the romance of "starting over" as well--like, maybe this time around I'll be perfect. But in truth I think whatever you've done so far with your life--the accomplishments and the mistakes--are fuel for what comes next. There's very little knowledge that I wish I didn't have. But yeah, I hear you on the bio clock. That bitch ticks loudly.