One Direction: Thanks for Telling Me What Makes Me Beautiful, ’Cause I Just Wasn’t Sure.

“What Makes You Beautiful” is probably one of the catchier songs of the year, but for one that’s geared almost primarily to tweens and teens, it sends a troubling message.

Sure, “What Makes You Beautiful” is all about self-acceptance and loving the way you look despite not being a supermodel on the outside, but it’s pure men-policing-women’s-bodies on the inside.

I like to light up someone’s world like nobody else, but I like to do it because I know I’m awesome, not because you think me staring at the ground means I don’t know I’m beautiful and you must inform me immediately. I’m probably looking at the ground because assholes like you insist on making comments about just how beautiful or non-beautiful you find me.

What happened to the notion that men find confident women sexy? And yes, One Direction are far from being men and their audience is teens and tweens, not confident, sexy women (although this would attest otherwise), so they’re playing into their insecure girls in need of a saviour fanbase well.

Modesty is all well and good, but remember that saying, “no one will love you til you love yourself”? One Direction fans need not apply.

Call me crazy, but I would imagine people who don’t find themselves attractive and don’t want to draw attention to themselves won’t flip their hair, certainly not to get you overwhelmed. But the nature of the self-entitled “nice guy” who needs to let you know you’re beautiful despite yourself is that they think women are there for them to consume, regardless of whether they want to be.

No one likes an insecure droll in need of validation regardless of their gender, but the fact that One Direction (okay, they’re robots; the music masterminds behind One Direction) needs to tell you you’re beautiful without any regard for what you think and feel about this and, furthermore, that a song all about what men think of women has permeated so far into the zeitgeist that everyone thinks it’s about empowerment and the beauty of all women is telling: apparently, women still need the patriarchy to tell them what their worth is. And guess what? It’s based on how you look.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Ultimate “Nice Guy” Suspended from School for Giving Letter on Inner Beauty to Female Classmates.

[MamaMia] Confessions of an Immature Adult.

Image via Feed Limmy.

TV: Shaming Lara Bingle.

 

Lara Bingle: she can’t catch a break, can she?

She was called a whore for her affair with Brendan Fevola, fat when she put on weight after her breakup with Michael Clarke, and an attention-seeking diva when it was revealed channel Ten would air her reality show, Being Lara Bingle, which premiered last night.

I actually like Lara Bingle and thought her show would be an opportunity for her to commentate on how she’s been treated by the media for being an attractive young woman who happens to trade on her looks as her job. TheVine wrote this in anticipation for what the show could be:

“After another vicious attack on her intelligence and relevance by the tabloids, Lara Bingle delivers a thirty minute long piece-to-camera about how she is the ultimate personification of the misogyny that is still inherent in Australian culture, particularly surrounding our sporting ‘heroes’. In this monologue, she will argue that she has been torn down for exactly the qualities that first made her famous—her youth, beauty and privilege. Drawing on the groundbreaking work by Anne Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police, Bingle will suggest that our simultaneous adoration and condemnation of these qualities speak more to our view of women in this country as objects of either moral upright (or uptight)ness or sexual depravity, but never as fully rounded beings for themselves. She will tie this in to her own journey as a cultural artefact from covetable innocent on a virgin beach to disgraced, discarded mistress. Finally, she will conclude that as a beautiful young woman, she is a shiny scapegoat that is in many ways the opposite of those who are really disenfranchising and frustrating everyday, working Australian families. These puppet masters, who would throw her to the dogs to distract from their own shortcomings are typically ugly, old men.”

Like the one who was allegedly behind the naked pictures of her in her new apartment that were sold to the media a few weeks (months?) ago. Paparazzo Darryn Lyons, formerly Bingle’s friend, was said to be shopping images of Lara around, lending doubt to the credibility of Bingle’s violation.

This isn’t the first time nude pictures of the model have emerged. Remember the one in the shower taken by her ex Fevola, or the publication of unused photos from a German GQ shoot when she was an unknown model in Zoo Weekly once she’d hit the big time? Yes, Lara’s posed nude before in high fashion editorials, but that’s different; she consented to those. It’s plain to see that she did not consent to the tacky shower shot of her captured on Fev’s phone. No matter, the general public will still shame her for being a young, beautiful woman who loves the skin she’s in.

And even when she puts on a bit of weight, which she did last year and is sporting a more voluptuous figure these days, Bingle’s not free from public torment. In a Who cover story late last year, Bingle had this to say about her others’ battles with her body:

“Tread carefully, because it doesn’t just affect me, it affects all women who read it… They have to ask themselves, would they do that to their wives, girlfriends or sisters? It’s just a negative message that doesn’t help anyone… If I’m fat, how does that make a girl who is a size 12–14 feel, and that’s the size of an average Australian woman? It’s ridiculous.”

Also cashing in on the Bingle-hoopla is this week’s Famous, which has published months-old shots of Bingle on the beach showing a bit of cellulite and asking, is she “Fat or Fab?”

Lara attempted to address all this on last night’s episode, which conveniently dealt with the fallout of the Lyons balcony pics. Her bestie/roomie/manager-ie, Hermoine, tells Lara she needs to be more careful and show a “sense of responsibility” about her own body:

“You don’t just walk around naked.”

Um, in your own home you do. Hermoine confesses she doesn’t even walk around nude in her own bedroom, which I think reveals some deep-seated issues about sex and nudity. One thing Bingle’s got going for her is that she is unashamed of her body; my thinking is that if you’re in your own home and feel the desire to get nekkid, then why the fuck not?! If the paparazzi happen to use a zoom lens and trespass on private property to capture this, then that’s on them. But misogynists will always find a way to blame women for the unwanted attention their bodies generate: uncovered meat, amiright?

At the end of the day, “This is a world that everyone makes fun of, but… it’s my life.”

Related: Who the Bloody Hell is Body-Bullying Lara Bingle?

Elsewhere: [TheVine] 5 Things We Hope Happen on Being Lara Bingle Tonight.

Image via Famous.

Bald Barbie—Actually, Barbie Won’t Be Bald At All. Instead, It’ll Be Her Best Friend.

 

On the one hand, we need to applaud Mattel for accepting an “outside idea” for Bald & Beautiful Barbie, which aims to lessen the stigma of hair loss due to cancer treatment for young girls and their mothers who have the disease.

On the other, it’s not going to actually be Barbie who’s bald, but her bestie. Let’s just hope that this time she’ll be able to get into the Barbie Dream House, unlike the last doll they tried to make in honour of people who don’t fit the able-bodied norm: Share-a-Smile Becky, whose wheelchair didn’t fit inside the Dream House doors. Whoops!

So with this new doll, Mattel might be saying that bald is beautiful, just as long as it’s not Barbie who loses her hair. Baldness is beneath Barbie, don’t you know?

One step forward, two steps back…

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Barbie’s Friend Will Soon be Bald & Beautiful.

Image via Jezebel.

Angelina Jolie’s Right Leg & What it Tells Us About Youth & Beauty.

 

One of my sleazeball colleagues asked me who I thought was the best dressed at the Oscars, pretty much as an excuse to fill me in on his “hot for teacher” J.Lo feelings. Inevitably, the subject of Angelina Jolie and her right leg came up. Some coworkers who joined in the conversation were sure she knew what she was doing. I wagered that if she did, she was probably making a tongue-in-cheek statement about her standing as a sex object. Perhaps that’s just how she felt comfortable (after all, all we heard was how comfortable the black velvet Atelier Versace dress was), or knew she was rocking it and wanted to show off.

Whatever Jolie’s reasoning, apparently she’s “too old” to be showing off her legs like that, according to abovementioned coworker. “It’s not like she’s 16,” he said. No, because if she was sixteen it would be highly inappropriate. “36 is just too old” to be wearing a dress like that. Not only are there some deep-seated pedophilic tendencies coming to light here, but it just reiterates society’s predilection for youth and its sexism. We’ve all heard about that study that says women don’t feel comfortable wearing a miniskirt over the age of 35. Paging Jolie…

Personally, I think my legs are my worst feature, but many women love their legs. They’re one of the only body parts that don’t sag too much with age, and can be bared when tuck shop lady arms and age spots apparently set in. My grandma will be 90 this year and she still maintains her legs are her best feature. Obviously I didn’t inherit varicose veins from her!

And 35 being too old to flash some leg, even if you are one of the world’s sexiest women, is bullocks, indeed!

I think Jolie looked bangin’, if a little staged, and should continue to rock the flesh-baring gowns til the cows come home. You go, girl!

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] 47 is Too Old to be Wearing a Bikini. Oh Bullocks.

Image via The Telegraph.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Rachel Berry as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

I’m taking this final 12-Posts-of-Christmas opportunity to squeeze two Rachel Berry-related posts into the one. Think of it as one last Scarlett Woman gift to you.

The first post was written “In Defence of Rachel Berry”, while the second explores the character as a feminist one. You can access the original posts here and here, respectively.

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

*

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women,people of colourthe disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feministsaid:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is characterised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

Rachel Berry as Feminist.

The Underlying Message inGlee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

The Problem with Glee.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Brown Eyed Girl.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

SlutWalk.

Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

[Bitch] The Transcontinental Disability Choir: Glee-ful Appropriation.

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

[Jezebel] Why Won’t Glee Give Mercedes a Boyfriend?

Image via Wet Paint.

12 Posts of Christmas: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women?

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

This post was one of my favourites for the year. Sure, the actual experience wasn’t all that riotous, but it’s given me loads of blog fodder and, I think, has promoted growth from the people involved, including myself. There are updated versions available here and here. The original is here, and below.

It’s been a beauty-centric week here at The Scarlett Woman.

We’ve talked about Grey’s Anatomy and beauty as represented by Cristina Yang, and brains over beauty.

I’d already planned to post those two articles last week before a beauty-related scandal came to light at my workplace.

Apparently, two of my male co-workers had devised a “ranking system” for the hottest to nottest girls in our department.

This is sickening on four levels.

One: it’s sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and appearance, and those who were victimised by the “ranking” could take those who were responsible for it to H.R. Just look at the Pricewaterhouse Coopers incident. Or the Duke “Fuck List”, on the other side of the coin.

Two: we interact with these men boys (as that’s what they are: one has just turned 21, and the other is 23. But age really has nothing to do with maturity) as friends, colleagues; PEOPLE. Not as objects for them to rate and pit against each other in terms of how we look and nothing else.

Three: I don’t want to have to stoop to their level, but if we were ranking them, one would be at the top in terms of looks, but both would be at the bottom in terms of personality, morals and decency, which is all that really matters. So what gives them the right to judge us?

Four: this is not the ’50s and women are not reduced to what they look like.

The men boys who devised this ranking are sexist misogynists, one of whom I am deeply ashamed to have dated for a short period. Thank god I never got naked with him, ’cause who knows what he would have to say about me then!

What gives them the right to rank us? The same right men’s magazine editors have to rank female celebrities in terms of hotness, I suppose. But the difference there is that, while it’s still pretty sexist but somewhat understandable and accepted, most of the women on the list don’t work with and consider(ed) them friends.

How can you separate the things you know about someone—their personalities, interests, history, temperament etc.—with how they look? I know I can’t.

I was taken aback recently when a coworker praised me for being close friends with a man who’s not super attractive. Unlike the two who ranked me, I don’t make friends in terms of looks. If anything, I find it easier to be myself around and make friends with men I don’t find attractive.

But my so-called “ugly” friend has an awesome personality; anyone would agree. And that makes him attractive. And at the end of the day, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

As I mentioned above, one of the boys who devised this ranking is probably about an eight in terms of looks, but knowing this about him, in addition to other undesirable traits that lead to our dating demise, makes him a one in the personality department.

Now, I don’t know where I ranked on this list and, frankly, I don’t care. My self-esteem is high enough to not give a shit about what other people think of the way I look. But that’s not the point. How would someone who doesn’t have such high self-esteem feel? As much as we say looks don’t—or shouldn’t—matter, to them, it does.

So is this just a case of “boys will be boys”, as one co-worker who knows about the list put it?

I don’t think it is. You will notice that two out of about thirty were involved in this. The overwhelming majority chose not to act as boys do, whatever that means these days. Again, this is 2011: not 1951.

Another co-worker said “judging” is just what people do. Sure, I judge young mothers who leave their kids with a babysitter so they can go out clubbing, the guidos/ettes from Jersey Shore and, certainly, these two men in light of this list. But I’m judging them on their behaviours and attitudes, not what they look like. And who am I, really, to judge them based on any factor? No one. The same as the makers of this list are to judge us. Nobodies.

At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ellen DeGeneres brought this up when she interviewed FHM AND Maxim’s Most Beautiful Woman, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, on her show last week. DeGeneres compared Rosie’s “ranking” to her own as “Most Beautiful Woman” on This Old House magazine’s cover. We know Ellen, we like her, and that’s what makes her beautiful, in addition to her physical beauty. Bitch looks good at 53!

And true beauty comes from within. Don’t ever let someone else’s “ranking” of how you look make you forget that.

Related: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women?

UPDATED: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women?

UPDATED: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women 2?

Beauty VS. Brains.

Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Snooki & the Jersey Shore Girls as Feminists?

Elsewhere: [Gawker] The “Top 10” Office Email That’s Scandalising Ireland.

[Jezebel] College Girl’s PowerPoint “Fuck List” Goes Viral.

On Kreayshawn, Lana Del Rey, Jealousy & Being Sexy & Sassy. Phew!

 

From “Kreayshawn, Lana Del Rey & High School Style Ladyhate Online” by Meg Clark on Good Morning Midnight:

“… The necessary performativity of sex appeal in the feminine, and the fact that feminine sex appeal is essentially defined by performativity, artifice, and decoration. Personally, I’m fine with Del Rey’s big hair, pouty face, winged eyeliner, lipgloss, and staged nostalgia-sexy photos: I do the same thing on a lesser level every day when I tame the wild-haired bleary-eyed stubble-legged beast who wakes up in my bed into the groomed, coiffed, red-lipped vanilla-scented thing I am when I show up to the office by 10. This is all part of an elaborate joke I’m playing on you where you think my eyes are actually this big and my skin this even, where you think I just roll out of bed dressed this nice.

“…On some level, ladies, it seems that perhaps we sneer and comment and snark and write long academic articles on how hard she [Kreayshawn] sucks and send naked photos of her around and point out that she looks like Casey Anthony precisely because she seems so confident, so assured of and indifferent to her own sex appeal, so blithely unaware or indifferent to anything she might do wrong, so ready to roll her eyes at us or shrug her shoulders, and so unwilling to throw herself at boys’ feet. And we are totally not cool with that… We need to criticize girls less when they do it, because, again, dudes do it all the time and we’re all oh, whatever, totally normal.

“… We can note that these are startlingly similar tactics, and ones we all probably experienced or witnessed in junior high school.  This pretty girl, look, she wasn’t always this pretty, you could totally nail this bland bitch.  This sassy girl, look, she’s slutty too, look at all that attitude gone when she’s just tits n ass! This pretty girl, she isn’t competition for us, because she’s not actually pretty! This sassy girl, she isn’t actually competition either, she’s just another dumb slut! Phew! I was worried for a minute there.

“… Why do we never seem to stop and note that wait, maybe part of this nasty reaction I’m having has to do with something else—something else nasty reserved for especially ladies who make us somehow uncomfortable, who fit partially but maybe not entirely into stereotypes we more easily understand? Why don’t we talk about this, too?”

Go and read the rest of the article; it’s brilliant!

Elsewhere: [Good Morning Midnight] Kreayshawn, Lana Del Rey & High School Style Ladyhate Online.

Images via The Faster Times, Kid Kills Piano.