Sick

Have you heard of Jocelyn Wildenstein?

She’s had a lot of work done.

(Note: the links are frightening, and maybe not work safe.)

Flea had a mocking entry on her blog about la Wildenstein, with lots of ridicule and disgust from commenters, and it got me thinking. At first I couldn’t come up with anything stronger than, “problematic,” which is progessive-speak for, “This offends me, but I haven’t yet figured out why.”

I think I know why I’m bothered, though.

Jocelyn Wildenstein is in a very select group of plastic surgery patients, people who are often referred to as cosmetic-surgery addicts, but there are women who have begun to edge into her territory. Cher, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Charo. And you hear the same thing: Ewwwwww. They’re hideous. They’re sickening. They’re grotesque.

It’s results-oriented, this nastiness. It insults these women for the same reason that the beauty industry insults unmodified women: they’re not attractive to us. Those stung lips, those pithed noses, those frozen faces, those rock-hard tits. What were they thinking? Don’t they know how ugly they are? Don’t they know how much prettier they were before? Who’d want to fuck that?

Don’t get me wrong, these women make me uncomfortable, too. I look at Wildenstein and I remember the momentum of my own disorder. I remember what it was like to need work. I worry for her and for all of them. But would we be holding Wildenstein up as an example of everything gone wrong with beauty as our culture defines it if she’d undergone fifty-odd procedures and come out the other end looking preternaturally beautiful instead of strange? Would we have a problem with one painful face lift or a couple painful collagen injections? If plastic surgery in general were just as painful but not as distinctive, would we be as vituperative towards the women who undergo it?

Update: I don’t want to see anyone in comments making cracks about Wildenstein’s appearance. Yes, she’s no longer conventionally attractive. Yes, the operations she’s undergone signal a body dysmorphic disorder that probably warps her sense of self out of any resemblance to reality. None of those things are controversial, so they don’t really need to be pointed out again. No viciousness, okay?

65 comments for “Sick

  1. February 4, 2006 at 2:36 am

    People ought to be able to get work done on themselves if they wish.

    That said, it makes me really sad for her, to look at a perfectly fine looking human who obviously went through some kind of hell in her life that made her think that surgery after surgery was the answer to her problems.

    She has been ill-served and deserves compassion, not scorn.

  2. February 4, 2006 at 2:51 am

    Some of these links are a bit wonky.

  3. kate
    February 4, 2006 at 2:54 am

    These people are interesting to me. All of them, including Jackson and the numbers of female stars who starve themselves or men as well who go through physical tortures of their own to reach some ideal.

    We love to scorn these people who live on an entirely different plane than we do. Wildenstein is a society creature, moving with the jet-set because she has money. How many women are there like her that we don’t see?

    These people merely mirror all the traits we wish we had and because they are inherently unrealistic and steeped in fantasy, those who live them out become grotesque monsters in their never-satisfied efforts to gain that fleeting and fickle public attention.

    Michael was nobody once he turned a teen, so he’s been forever trying to recycle himself as a child. And the women, well, we all know how much we demand from women and common women can’t meet the ideal, but the wealthy and the celebrity make it their life’s work and many see it as just that, to get our attention and approval by attempting to approach ever closer that ideal we demand they uphold.

  4. kate
    February 4, 2006 at 2:56 am

    These people are interesting to me. All of them, including Jackson and the numbers of female stars who starve themselves or men as well who go through physical tortures of their own to reach some ideal.

    We love to scorn these people who live on an entirely different plane than we do. Wildenstein is a society creature, moving with the jet-set because she has money. How many women are there like her that we don’t see?

    These people merely mirror all the traits we wish we had and because they are inherently unrealistic and steeped in fantasy, those who live them out become grotesque monsters in their never-satisfied efforts to gain that fleeting and fickle public attention.

    Michael was nobody once he turned a teen, so he’s been forever trying to recycle himself as a child. And the women, well, we all know how much we demand from women and common women can’t meet the ideal, but the wealthy and the celebrity make it their life’s work and many see it as just that, to get our attention and approval by attempting to approach ever closer that ideal we demand they uphold.

    They really do have my pity as it shows how empty and deeply unhappy so many of these people truly are. It also speaks volumes of the unbelieveably inhuman stress that is placed on so many celebrities, particularly women to live up to some ridiculous, unreal ideal.

  5. February 4, 2006 at 3:45 am

    You nailed it, piny. These are women who “went for it” and it failed-occording to current beauty standards. So now they are objects of ridicule. Yet many of the same people mocking them are the people who won’t date a “plain” or even worse, “ugly” woman. So really, who’s at fault?

    And I’m not taking the high road: her picture makes me intensely uncomfortable. She reminds me of the woman (can’t think of her name) who has had multiple surgeries to make herself look like Barbie. She also looks very odd.

    So we live in an incredibly sick society, and then slam people for trying to conform to the beauty standard. I do it too-I don’t like makeup, and I’m guilty of wanting others to not like it either. So there’s got to be a better way of supporting people and helping everyone be comfortable in their own skin. I’ve always thought that most people getting plastic surgery would be much better off sinking the money into therapy. That’s not a cut-I think therapy would do everyone a world of good.

  6. February 4, 2006 at 3:54 am

    Actually, we had a similiar fuss at my blog over mocking Ann Coulter for her obvious eating disorder and it got nasty. I sympathized with both sides–eating disorders are serious on one hand, but on the other hand there is a lot of value in pointing out that Coulter acts out her anti-woman hostility on her own body. Jokes draw attention to the underlying anti-woman message behind her blather. I can’t say that I’m against that.

  7. Some Guy
    February 4, 2006 at 4:03 am

    Micheal Jackson gets a lot more than probably all the female “cosmetic surgery addicts” put together. Granted, he’s more famous, and granted, there’s a whole lot of other weirdness there. But I do think it shows it’s not about sexual attractiveness necessarily, or what a person would want to fuck. It’s a different reaction than an ordinary unattractive person would get.

    People just aren’t supposed to look like that. I think most people get the same reaction when they see burn victims, but then they feel guilty about it. With people who got that way voluntarily, they don’t feel guilty, they start thinking “was she crazy?” etc.

  8. February 4, 2006 at 4:28 am

    Michael Jackson…ahem

    May I add that altering our natural bodies is as old as humanity itself…from the Iceman’s tatoos to Incan skull deformation to Maori facial tatoos … humanity has rarely been satisfied with au natural and has done everything from ornamentation to perfume to permanent fixes like tatoos and surgery.

    Sure there are a few individuals that become, for want of a better term, addicted to altering themselves, but “anti-woman”??

  9. February 4, 2006 at 4:28 am

    Michael Jackson…ahem

    May I add that altering our natural bodies is as old as humanity itself…from the Iceman’s tatoos to Incan skull deformation to Maori facial tatoos … humanity has rarely been satisfied with au natural and has done everything from ornamentation to perfume to permanent fixes like tatoos and surgery.

    Sure there are a few individuals that become, for want of a better term, addicted to altering themselves, but “anti-woman”??

  10. February 4, 2006 at 5:36 am

    Aw man…there goes my philly steak-n-cheese. THANKS Lauren!

  11. February 4, 2006 at 9:17 am

    There is a very real psychological disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Most people who have this disorder dont have the means for repeated plastic surgery but there are some who do.

    http://www.ocdla.com/bodydysmorphicdisorder.html

  12. evil_fizz
    February 4, 2006 at 9:25 am

    I have long suspected that women who wear make-up don’t like the way they look. Now, I think that it’s less of not liking themselves in general and more not liking their looks in comparison to the culturally accepted standards of beauty. I suspect that for these women, that’s more than true. They don’t like their appearance because it doesn’t fit into a mold; problem being that they’ve now swung so far in the opposite direction, it defies belief.

    And Robert, I disagree. I actually don’t think people should be able to do these kinds of things to themselves. (Although I don’t mean this in a legal sense.)

    I now also have a lot of contempt for plastic surgeons who sucessfully sell women on procedure after procedure. (I think it was Glamour magazine which at one point showed plastic surgeons pictures of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe…the surgeons had at least half a dozen procedures to recommend for both.)

  13. piny
    February 4, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Actually, we had a similiar fuss at my blog over mocking Ann Coulter for her obvious eating disorder and it got nasty. I sympathized with both sides–eating disorders are serious on one hand, but on the other hand there is a lot of value in pointing out that Coulter acts out her anti-woman hostility on her own body. Jokes draw attention to the underlying anti-woman message behind her blather. I can’t say that I’m against that.

    Wow. I was debating pointing out that it’d be totally out of order on a feminist blog to mock a woman for having a severe eating disorder (“Oh, my God! That’s so gross! She looks like such a freak! Sweetie: you can stop dieting now”) , but I guess I was wrong. And now that you mention it, I have heard Ann Coulter called stuff like “Skeletor.”

    I definitely agree about the seriousness of eating disorders, but I gotta disagree with the idea that any of these jokes draw attention to anti-woman hostility–in all its manifestations–in a positive way. I think they’re anti-woman, period. I’ve never heard any joke like this that didn’t mock the woman in question for her appearance…and pretty much stop there. It isn’t just that they trivialize eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorders. They complain about them for reasons that have nothing to do with the health or well-being of the woman involved.

    And they do trivialize eating disorders–not their seriousness, but what an eating disorder actually is. Someone with an eating disorder is analagous to someone with a drug or alcohol addiction. If Ann Coulter has one, her problems run deeper than internalized sexism.

  14. Sally
    February 4, 2006 at 10:55 am

    It is results oriented, but I actually think people express a fair amount of contempt for women who take even slightly extreme measures to be “beautiful”, even if they *are* successful. Dieters are boring; plastic surgery is vain; makeup is a waste of time and money; it’s ok to go to the gym for health, but if you’re there to look cute you’re probably vapid and dumb. It’s a damned if you do/ damned if you don’t situation: we’re expected to be beautiful but punished and blamed for the things we’d have to do to look that way. And of course, there’s the thinnest line between too little and too much. One must wear makeup, but wear too much makeup and you look trampy. One must dress fashionably, but not too fasionably, because you don’t want to be a fashion victim. Don’t have wrinkles, but don’t get too much botox or too many facelifts or you’ll look like a freak. Be very, very thin, but keep in mind that if you’re thin enough not to be called fat, you’re thin enough that everyone will assume you have an eating disorder. I think it’s basically a way of disciplining women. It reminds us that no matter what we do or don’t do, we’re always subject to scrutiny and disapproval.

    I think that’s the main message of celebrity culture: it’s fun to mock celebrities, but it hammers home some really screwed up messages about women.

  15. lurky the lurking lurker
    February 4, 2006 at 10:58 am

    Masculiste wrote:

    Aw man…there goes my philly steak-n-cheese. THANKS Lauren!

    Ms. Lauren has left the building…

    sigh.

  16. February 4, 2006 at 11:25 am

    They’ve got too much money and time on their hands.

  17. Thomas
    February 4, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Mark your calendars, because I think Darleen has a point. I think it is simply inaccurate to lump Wildenstein in with women who try to emulate a Barbie-like ideal. We may think she looks freakish, but that’s because she set out to look freakish. She explicitly has tried to make her face look like a lioness, not like a human beauty ideal. (There’s an allusion to this on the linked page, but they don’t explain.) I’m more comfortable with that that I am with women who, to keep their jobs in the porn industry, get dangerous operations on their breasts, surgery on their labia, etc. I think Wildenstein is nuts, but no more than the whole family. Her father-in-law keeps her husband financially dependent on hi, though the old man is in, what, his 80s now, and the younger Wildenstein is in his mid-50s? Alex Wildenstein was, if memory serves, arrested for pointing a handgun at a family member in a domestic dispute. So, is her surgery the crazy part, or is she merely an eccentric with money in a family full of super-rich crazy people?

    (I don’t like the way she looks, BTW. I’m sure she doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I think of how she looks.)

    In general, while it has huge downsides for the individual, I understand why people radically depart from societal norms of appearance, and as long as people really understand the consequences, if they choose radical revolt, I’m all for it. I’ve said before that I’m attracted to female bodybuilders; they walk around with their very physical forms rebelling against gender norms and settled expectations about the female body. People choose to be pierced, scarred, branded and tattooed. Some of this is conformity with cultural expectations, some is identification with a subculture at odds with the dominant culture, and some is truly individual rebellion. I’m on board with that.

    I’m not sure that Wildenstein has either surgical addiction or body dysmorphic disorder. Jackson is probably a better example, since his quest for white skin, caucasian features and and a cleft chin like a comic-book superhero really does look to me like a pathetic and addictive emulation of a culturally imposed beauty ideal by a person whose abusive childhood destroyed any trace of self-esteem. That’s also why his only peer-to-peer relationships are with pre-teen boys and why he cannot bring an adult understanding to his finances.

  18. Amba
    February 4, 2006 at 11:59 am

    I think the ‘ewww, she was cute before, but now she looks gross’ reaction to the likes of Wildenstein is off-base as well as insulting. I don’t think Wildenstein was aiming to maintain her conventional prettiness; she was aiming to transform herself into something unique. I remember reading ages ago that she wanted to look like a wild cat or something like that. A comparison to eating disorders might be instructive here; I’m no expert, but I’ve read that the quest for control is even more important to anorexics than the quest for beauty. Evidently, anorexics are often aware that their protruding ribs and stick-thin arms aren’t attractive, but they still prize their emaciated physiques because they’re emblematic of virtue and self-discipline.

  19. Sally
    February 4, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    A comparison to eating disorders might be instructive here; I’m no expert, but I’ve read that the quest for control is even more important to anorexics than the quest for beauty.

    My anorexia wasn’t at all about a quest for beauty. But. Not all anorexics are the same or are motivated by the same things. Anorexia is not the only or even the most prevelent eating disorder. And I don’t think I would have become anorexic in a culture that didn’t put so much emphasis on what women eat and how they look. I get annoyed when people point out that anorexics are unattractive, as if they’re just failing in a bid to be really sexy. But I also think it’s silly to pretend that anorexia has nothing to do with our culture’s hang-ups about women, food, and thinness.

  20. February 4, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    Well can one blame society? It seems women are expected to look 16 forever… yet guys get to age gracefully. Or that is how it looks in the movies, with newer actresses bursting on screen at the ripe old ages of 17-18 while men still play sexual leads well into their 60’s… examples are Keira Knightley who was 18 when Pirates of the Caribbean premiered so she was at best 17 during filming… and you can take your pick of old men actors still sleeping with younger women.

  21. February 4, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    Agreed, piny, that the jokes are rarely a criticism of misogyny, but what if you joke that Coulter hates women so much she’s starving the woman right off her body? I suspect that’s not really a thigh-slapper, though, just a wry and bitter joke.

  22. February 4, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    I guess my issue is this–humor is a great tool for making points that cannot be made in other, more earnest ways because the discussion around them is unproductive. If I wrote an earnest blog post about how I think it’s fascinating that Coulter acts out her misogyny on her body, people would immediately get defensive and attempt to shut down the conversation. Not that we couldn’t have it, but you have to do a lot of work to get through that defensive reaction. But if you joke about it, people laugh and their defenses come down immediately.

    I sincerely think that Flea was joking about plastic surgery addicts in an attempt to draw attention to the troubling prevalence of plastic surgery in society. If you write that post earnestly, it takes a day and a half of debating whether or not all people who get plastic surgery “hate” themselves before we get to the crux of the issue, which is that we are all trained to hate ourselves and plastic surgery is a symptom of the larger disease. A joke can circumvent that, at least in theory.

    In practice, however, I think you’re right, piny. Most of the time the person mocking is distancing him/herself from the target.

  23. zuzu
    February 4, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    I think one thing that makes me uncomfortable about facial plastic surgery, particularly of the extreme kind, is the idea of altering your identity. Your face is your identity, and your character, and the way that you relate to the world. Altering it can make you look like a caricature of yourself, or like someone else entirely — remember Jennifer Grey? She’d had the bump taken out of her nose, so she still looked like herself, just with a slightly straighter nose. Then she was working on a film and something started going wrong with her nose job, like it was sliding off her face or something (which apparently can happen). She took a break to have it done, and when she went back, nobody recognized her because the surgeons had to give her a much smaller nose in order to do the job right and fix the damage from the earlier procedure. She’s an entirely different-looking person now.

    And a lot of the things I usually find disconcerting are the really obvious, character-altering procedures — face lifts so tight your scalp moves when you blink, noses so reduced they no longer fit the face, so much botox you look like you’re wearing a mask. The best work is supposed to make you look like yourself, only rested. But I see so many examples of bad work that it’s kind of sad.

    Of course, I say this as someone who’s never seen the need for facial surgery — I was very clear with my ENT surgeon, when I had my septum fixed, that I wanted the same nose when I was finished. Though I can relate to the body procedures.

  24. KnifeGhost
    February 4, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    I agree with Robert that people should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies, but I think that’s another issue entirely.

    Darleen, I think there’s a fundamental distinction that has to be made between modern plastic surgery and traditional ornamenttion as merkers of status. Maori tattooing, Inka head-shaping and so on are either markers of identity (Maori as Maori, as members of certain families, so on) or of status (high, flat foreheads were a marker of high status for the Inkas). That’s a very different basis for body modification than the attempt to conform to a certain ideal of beauty.

    However, as always, there’s a grey area. As people have already explained better than I care to, Jocelyn Wildenstein’s surgery is in a different category entirely. Ultimately, regardless of whether her surgery is because of a expression of her identity as a completely self-actualized person (probably unlikely) or as a mentally ill Body-Disphoric person (we can’t make that diagnosis), the appropriate response for people like us who have no personal stake in her surgery and who don’t know anything real about he circumstances of her life is a good “*shrug* Whatever.”

  25. February 4, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Wildenstein serves as a fulfilled prophecy for people who are against recreational plastic surgery. Someone pointed out that she invokes our horror and repulsion only because her surgery turned her into, well, that, instead of inordinately beautiful. I’d like to say that I’d be similarly repulsed by her regardless of the result of her surgery, but of course that’s impossible to say. Instead, we rationalize it by saying, “This is the result of issues with body image; this is the result of the class of idle rich; this is the result of a “beauty”-obsessed culture. Congratulations, Frankenstein: what are you going to do now?”

  26. Caja
    February 4, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Is Anne Coulter actually anorexic (or have another eating disorder), or do people just attack her for her physical appearance because what she says is so abhorrent? I’ve been completely fed up with the physical attacks because, for starters, it’s possible to naturally just be extremely thin and healthy. And beyond that, her views are so unattractive that it’s just gratuitous and unnecessary to mock her for her looks.

    The idea that she might be trying to starve the woman off herself is an interesting way of looking at it, but seriously, she just might be a skinny woman. I’ve always been thin – I was a skinny little kid, and a skinny teenager, and now I’m a skinny adult. The only way I’ve found to gain weight is to exercise like a fiend, but I hate working out. My mom told me, years after I left home, that people used to ask her if I was anorexic; I’ve had doctors inquire about my eating habits, too. I, personally, don’t find visible ribs all that attractive, but it seems I’m stuck with them, and since my SOs all have been okay to happy with my skinny self, I don’t obsess about it.

  27. February 4, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    I think there’s two issues here: one, those who alter their apperances to fit the societal “norm” of accepted standards of beauty on the assumption that this will solve external problems, and two, those who alter their apperance to fit their own standards of beauty, which may or may not fit the accepted norm.
    If I starve myself and spend the vast majority of my budget on clothes, makeup and hair thinking that I can score me a man, and find my baby a daddy, that’s wrong, simply because my reasoning would be lacking in logic, and I would be creating a detriment to myself and my daughter to attain something unatainable. Yet that would be accepted by society, because I’d be attempting to conform to the norm.
    Alternately, I could think of my body as a blank canvas, and decorate it as much or as little as I like, realizing that this should have little bearing on my life in general. If I do this and wear the makeup, dress the style; once again, acceptable. But Mauri tattoos on my face? Not acceptable. And that’s just wrong.
    It shouldn’t amount to what you choose to do to your body, but why you chose to do it. Art – okay. Cure for all your other ills – not so good.

  28. zuzu
    February 4, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Caja, Coulter’s not naturally thin, or at least not that thin. There are photos of her from high school and college in the Time article on her which make it plain that she’s far thinner now than then. I also know someone who went to law school with her, and while she was thin then, she wasn’t nearly as thin as now. I’ve also seen her in person (she was coming out of Grand Central Station while I was going in) and she’s got quite a big ass, which almost never occurs with people who are naturally very thin.

  29. February 4, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    I also read an interview with her once and the interviewer casually mentioned that Coulter had strange table manners, that she pushed her food around on the plate and otherwise played with it, but didn’t eat much. Sounds very much like the hiding behavior anorexics engage in where they push food around on the plate to make it look like they ate more than they did.

  30. g
    February 4, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    “It shouldn’t amount to what you choose to do to your body, but why you chose to do it. Art – okay. Cure for all your other ills – not so good.”

    I agree. Although I would replace “Art” with something a little less lofty, perhaps “personal preference.”

    I grew up on the east coast, where my main experience of plastic surgery was from knowing young women who had nose jobs while in their teens. But even those were rather rare in my experience.

    Now, living in Southern California, I encounter someone with a radically altered face or body around every corner. And it’s not just aging dowager millionairesses or movie stars — its flea market vendors and college professors who also have faces stretched to the snapping point, cheek implants that look like mandarin oranges stuffed under the skin, uptilted noses that don’t fit the face they’re stuck on, tits like bowling balls, or teeth that sparkle blue-white.

    Is this mass practice of body alteration the same all over the country? Or am I living in the World Capitol of cosmetic surgery?

    And I wonder why it is that some things seem to be more acceptable. I cringe when I see a woman with creepy-looking cheek implants. But while I don’t think I’d ever get pictorial tattoos across MY entire back and arms, like my hairstylist has, I don’t cringe when I see someone with them. Why is that?

  31. February 4, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    Because the tattoo is a symbol of reclaimation of your body whereas plastic surgery is a symbol of compliance with sadistic patriarchal demands.

  32. Caja
    February 4, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    zuzu/Amanda re:Coulter – ah, okay. That does sound like an actual eating problem. That’s sad, really. I hadn’t ever noticed a correlation between skinny and lack of a big ass, nor have I really paid a lot of attention to her appearance, since I prefer to avoid her as a topic, though I’m definitely on the narrow hips/butt end of the spectrum, even compared to my sister (also thin, but curvier).

  33. February 4, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    “I agree. Although I would replace “Art” with something a little less lofty, perhaps “personal preference.” “
    How about just “creative appeal”? (Yeah, I’m kind of splitting hairs here, aren’t I?)
    Too often it’s forgotten that some people like to play with their appearances because it’s just fun.
    So yes, I find I’m more accepting of people that have a multitude of tattoos than plastic surgery, too. And I think that’s because it’s easier to recognize tattoos as a means of playing with your appearance. Plastic surgery? Harder to tell if someone’s trying to fit in to make their lives better, or if they just really like big cheeks.

  34. February 4, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Ann Coulter could be that thin naturally. Just because she was heavier in college doesn’t mean that her body hasn’t changed now.

    She could also be on some sort of medication. I am really skinny (size 0-2) but when I was on my ADHD meds last year, I got so skinny that I couldn’t even fill out a size 00. I went off the meds and can happily fill out my clothes again.

    As for the big ass thing, I have recently developed a little bubble butt. (I love it! I wish it was bigger!) I don’t think it’s that rare for a naturally thin person to have a curvy butt. Especially someone as old as Coulter.

    But the bottom line is, who are we to just assume shit about women’s bodies? Why do we monitor each other like that? (Okay I’m a hypocrite, I called Charlotte Allen ugly. But she started it!)

    Thank you, Caja, for making the points you did.

  35. February 4, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    Amanda, don’t you think it’s a little sexist that the interviewer even mentioned Coulter’s table habits? Kind of like how interviewers casually mention what a woman wears or what her body looks like.

  36. sophonisba
    February 4, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve also seen her in person (she was coming out of Grand Central Station while I was going in) and she’s got quite a big ass, which almost never occurs with people who are naturally very thin.

    I’m sure there’s no connection at all between her theoretical eating disorder and the entitlement of strangers to discuss the size of her ass. So keep right on discussing her bodily proportions; maybe the collaborative effort will produce a consensus on what weight, size, and shape her body ought naturally to be. Because that’s important to all of us.

    For fuck’s sake.

  37. Sina
    February 4, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    Does anyone else see Wildstein as not only performing some kind of hyper drag femininity, but also performing perhaps another race? I don’t want to come out and say, yo, she started as white, and now she’s playing black, because I frankly don’t know that, but I see that element going on there. The curly hair, the skins, the big metal ring necklaces, the leopards… I don’t know, just throwing that out there.

    I also think that engaging in the Coulter body stuff can be ultimately retrograde. When she came to speak at my college, I argued with people who thought, oh poor thing, she’s so thin, she’s so young, she’s shaking, she didn’t bring this kind of reaction on herself… when clearly she has carefully crafted a life out of being inflammatory and selling it as being a strong, smart woman when convenient, and as a put-upon, attacked, beautiful, thin woman when convenient.

  38. February 4, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Amanda said:

    “I sincerely think that Flea was joking about plastic surgery addicts in an attempt to draw attention to the troubling prevalence of plastic surgery in society.”

    Not really.

    Piny is speculating based on personal experience, and that’s fine, but we have no idea what the truth behind her decisions are. If I recall, she claims it was an effort to keep the interest of her husband, who ultimately left her anyway. Body dismorphic disorder or no, my posts are rarely motivated by any sort of deep point. I wanted to draw attention to the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, who’s obviously obsessed with teenagers and teenagers having sex. I hadn’t realized the extent of his obsession until I saw his extreme efforts to look like one, which I find creepy. Wildenstein was mostly irrelevant, except I used her to say hi to Eric Zorn, who I haven’t spoken to in awhile. We’d talked about her last time we had coffee, so I knew it would get his attention. And that is the secret behind my posts: Look at the creepy guy, and hello, Eric.

  39. February 4, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    Sina, people thought she was young? She’s 43!

    Also, what sophonisba said.

  40. g
    February 4, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    “Amanda, don’t you think it’s a little sexist that the interviewer even mentioned Coulter’s table habits? Kind of like how interviewers casually mention what a woman wears or what her body looks like.”

    I don’t know. Maybe her odd table habits were so striking they stood out. If a journalist had dinner with a man who had odd table habits, mentioning it might be included, if one were writing a personal profile.

  41. g
    February 4, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    “Because the tattoo is a symbol of reclaimation of your body whereas plastic surgery is a symbol of compliance with sadistic patriarchal demands.”

    In some cases. In other cases, not. Is having an elaborate image of (oh,I don’t know) a tiger and a flock of birds and a landscape tattooed up one’s back and over one’s shoulder an upper arm a reclaimation of your body?

    What if the tattoo is a little rose on your butt? A strand of barbed wire around your bicep? A teddy bear on your ankle?

    Your husband’s name, and “property of…”? Is this body reclaimation or advertising that one is complying with a sadistic patriarchy?

    Is it the fact of being tattooed, or is it about the image content?

    What if said body is a male one, is it still a reclaimation? I’ve seen similar tattoos on men and women.

    Are the issues involved with tongue studs (i’m glad this fad is waning!), plugs in ones earlobes, and branding equal or different when its a man or a woman?

    And plastic surgery is much more complicated, I think, that being just about patriarchical demands. Making your boobs bigger and plumping up your lips to look swollen — yes, I can grant that this is about succumbing to patriarchical demands. People of both genders who try to make themselves look less “ethnic” — well, yes, patriarchy there, too, of course.

    I have a friend who, in her late thirties, decided to quietly have a small chin implant. She had always felt sensitive about having a receeding chin. She did it without fanfare, didn’t speak of it for years. This is a woman who doesn’t wear makeup and works a blue collar job. One could say it was due to self-hatred, or trying to measure up to a patriarchical idea of what’s a “good” chin, but my friend is pretty happy with it.

    I hardly think anyone would argue with cosmetic surgery to correct a cleft palate, minimize a disfiguring scar, or repair the results of removing cancerous tissue.

    So, I guess I am curious — where does one draw the line? Where on one side of the line body alteration is natural and good and self-affirming, and on the other side it’s not?

  42. February 4, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    “Amanda, don’t you think it’s a little sexist that the interviewer even mentioned Coulter’s table habits? Kind of like how interviewers casually mention what a woman wears or what her body looks like.”

    I don’t know. Maybe her odd table habits were so striking they stood out. If a journalist had dinner with a man who had odd table habits, mentioning it might be included, if one were writing a personal profile.

    Several years ago I remember reading an article on celebrity dieting in BUST by a woman who interviews celebrities. Alas, she didn’t name names. What she did say was how desperately the celebs try to cling to the perception that their beauty and thinness is natural.

    For example, she detailed how during a series of interviews one celeb ate half her plate, then poured salt and ketchup over what was left to make it inedible. During the next interview, she made a point of ordering a massive burger and eating the entire thing with great flourish to lend the perception of excess despite her thinness.

    I seem to remember that every interview with Cameron Diaz I’ve ever read involves her ordering a burger, so I’ve had that face stuck to that image for a long time.

    Nonetheless, I think that there are some habits worth mentioning. Whether or not Coulter’s habits are worth mentioning is another story, but I try to avoid everything about her possible after I read the “poor, delicate me” article in Newsweek where she then turns around and says she only endorses beating liberals with baseball bats because she and her friends like to see if they can get away with it. Foul fucking person.

  43. February 4, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    What she did say was how desperately the celebs try to cling to the perception that their beauty and thinness is natural.

    But Lauren, that’s part of my point. Why should anyone have to defend what her body looks like?

    I really am naturally thin, and I’m sick of having to explain myself to other people who accuse me of starving. Thin men don’t have to explain themselves. But for some reason, thin women do. As if my body is anyone else’s business.

    Sure, some celebrities lie. But that doesn’t mean all thin women lie. Most of us would actually like to be a little heavier.

    Not that I’m defending Ann Coulter. If she really does have an eating disorder, I’ll be the first one to laugh.

  44. zuzu
    February 4, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    I’m sure there’s no connection at all between her theoretical eating disorder and the entitlement of strangers to discuss the size of her ass. So keep right on discussing her bodily proportions; maybe the collaborative effort will produce a consensus on what weight, size, and shape her body ought naturally to be. Because that’s important to all of us.

    For fuck’s sake.

    Oh, stuff it. This is a woman who feels quite comfortable saying in print that liberal women are hairy pie wagons and that she’s one of the beautiful (read: conservative) girls who, evidently, are morally superior to the hairy pie wagons.

    And perhaps you missed that I know someone who knew her in law school, when she was slender but not nearly as thin as she is now. She also was conservative but not nearly as rabid back then, so my friend can say that he’s quite confident she’s playing a role. Since her whole schtick is that she’s the thin blonde hawt conservative who talks about poisoning Justice Stevens and blowing up the New York Times building but is really a delicate flower insulted by hairy pie wagons, I really don’t feel bad attacking her schtick. And seeing the big ass she never shows on TV is really a “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” moment — it shows the cracks in her carefully-crafted image.

  45. February 4, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    Sorry to be OT, but no blogging about this?

  46. zuzu
    February 4, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    I just now found out about it, but since I’m not all that familiar with feminist theory (I’m more of a practitioner, as I am with law), I’ll defer to others who have a better basis in that.

  47. sophonisba
    February 4, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    This is a woman who feels quite comfortable saying in print that liberal women are hairy pie wagons and that she’s one of the beautiful (read: conservative) girls who, evidently, are morally superior to the hairy pie wagons.

    No shit. Is criticizing women in that way ok with you? It’s not ok with me.

    I mean, what, insulting a woman’s appearance isn’t actually wrong in itself? It’s only wrong when Coulter does it? So much for sexism being a problem if it only matters when it’s directed at people you respect.

    I like being better than Ann Coulter. It almost brings me up to a human standard. Not gossiping about other women’s asses and body-fat percentages is a big part of that. Why in fuck would you want to engage in petty, sexist, garbage because Ann Coulter does? What part of “Ann Coulter does it” implies to you that it’s a good thing to do?

    And perhaps you missed that I know someone who knew her in law school, when she was slender but not nearly as thin as she is now.

    Nope. I also didn’t miss that repeating gossip about somebody’s BODY SIZE is no improvement over inventing gossip about it.

    It is none of my business how fat or skinny she is. It is none of my business how healthy her eating habits are. It is none of my business how big her ass. Period, full stop, the end. It is not cool to use misogynist crap on a misogynist woman because it is not cool to use misogynist crap on anybody ever. Because misogyny is wrong.

  48. February 4, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Amanda, don’t you think it’s a little sexist that the interviewer even mentioned Coulter’s table habits? Kind of like how interviewers casually mention what a woman wears or what her body looks like.

    I *did* find it sexist, but I guess I didn’t mention I found it sexist because a) that it’s sexist seems obvious to me and b) his sexism didn’t invalidate the observation that she plays with her food instead of eats it.

    And agreed, zuzu. Coulter very deliberately uses her body as a prop to bash liberals with, and clearly views her rapidly shrinking figure as a sign of superiority to fat ass feminists. Of course, feminists come in all shapes and sizes, so if Coulter is going to argue that she’s skinnier than us all, she pretty much has to starve herself skeletal.

  49. February 4, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    What were they thinking? Don’t they know how ugly they are? Don’t they know how much prettier they were before? Who’d want to fuck that?

    Amen. I just don’t get the augmentation thing. If I’m in love with a woman, I’m going to like the breasts she has, as well as the nose she has, the legs she has and everything else. And that also goes for if she changes (puts on weight, gets thinner, has a mastectomy, etc.)

  50. zuzu
    February 4, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    No shit. Is criticizing women in that way ok with you? It’s not ok with me.

    I mean, what, insulting a woman’s appearance isn’t actually wrong in itself? It’s only wrong when Coulter does it? So much for sexism being a problem if it only matters when it’s directed at people you respect.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. If we’re afraid to turn the knife back on women who do this to other women, they’ll continue to get away with it.

    There are certain things I won’t insult Coulter about — i.e., mannish appearance, or horsiness. But if she’s going to insult liberal women on the basis of their appearance as part of her schtick, I’m going to attack that schtick.

  51. February 4, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    It is none of my business how fat or skinny she is. It is none of my business how healthy her eating habits are. It is none of my business how big her ass. Period, full stop, the end. It is not cool to use misogynist crap on a misogynist woman because it is not cool to use misogynist crap on anybody ever. Because misogyny is wrong.

    Clap, clap, clap. Well said.

  52. Tuomas
    February 4, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    There are certain things I won’t insult Coulter about — i.e., mannish appearance, or horsiness.

    Either you are joking, or you’re not doing a very good job not insulting her about her “manliness” or “horsiness”.

    I do hate Coulter as much as the next liberal – but that was a very hypocritical statement. It’s like saying to a fat person: I won’t insult you about your gross, disgusting fatness.That would be an insult despite the disclaimer.

  53. sophonisba
    February 4, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. If we’re afraid to turn the knife back on women who do this to other women, they’ll continue to get away with it.

    There are certain things I won’t insult Coulter about — i.e., mannish appearance, or horsiness. But if she’s going to insult liberal women on the basis of their appearance as part of her schtick, I’m going to attack that schtick.

    Ok, there are two things I haven’t said yet that I think are worth saying. First, I’m sure you’ve seen (because it happens a lot) the phenomenon of ‘liberal’ guys chiming in on a thread about Coulter’s disgusting remarks on Muslims, liberals, whatever – but not gender-related remarks – to add that they wouldn’t fuck that, that she’s ugly, that she’s a whore, that she’s frigid, etc. ad nauseum. That sort of thing is clearly misogynist, right? What I do not see is a clear line between that and what’s going on here with the speculation about how she comes by her thinness. I don’t see how it is possible to condemn the former while engaging in the latter without coming across as (and being) hypocritical.

    Secondly, people say it’s directly relevant to attack her on looks because it’s what she bases her authority on and what she attacks us on. So, what if her schtick wasn’t phony: what if she wasn’t anorexic, wasn’t 43, wasn’t unappealing? Would that make it more defensible? or, what if an actual, honest to god supermodel said that feminists were ugly and gross? The only way that would be an improvement would be if beauty really were an achievement and ugliness a failing. But that isn’t true.

    This kind of thing makes it seem like it’s only her appearance that makes her insults laughable, and if she were pretty, we’d have no defense against them. That seems really problematic to me.

  54. Molly, NYC
    February 5, 2006 at 6:39 am

    . . . it’s a little sexist that the interviewer even mentioned Coulter’s table habits?

    Would the pushing-the-food-around-and-pretending-to-eat routine be less noteworthy (in this sort of interview) if a man did it? It is sufficiently weird behaviour that, arguably, it’s sexist to pass it off as just some unremarkable liittle thing that women occasionally do.

  55. February 5, 2006 at 9:30 am

    I wish we could all live up to Martin Luther King’s dream and judge people by the content of their characters, rather than their color, size gender, facial characterstics, ass size or any other superfluous characteristic. I don’t believe King is on record as ever calling a white Southerner “cracker,” though one might argue that plenty deserved it. He knew how it important it was to model the behavior he would have others emulate. Goodness knows I’ve done my share of unjustifiable name calling, but I aspire to do better in that regard. Piny, I thank you for your compassion and your commitment to a most appealing and wholesome vision of social justice.

  56. zuzu
    February 5, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Either you are joking, or you’re not doing a very good job not insulting her about her “manliness” or “horsiness”.

    I do hate Coulter as much as the next liberal – but that was a very hypocritical statement. It’s like saying to a fat person: I won’t insult you about your gross, disgusting fatness.That would be an insult despite the disclaimer.

    I mention those things because I have seen her insulted on those things repeatedly. Or have you never seen her referred to as mAnn Coulter? It doesn’t make me a hypocrite to mention them, because she can’t help her height or the length of her face, nor does she generally use those against others.

    She’s the only one I’ll attack on appearance because she’s usually the only one who explicitly uses appearance as some kind of substitute for credibility or worthiness. Michelle Malkin doesn’t do it, even though she’s made her own appearance part of her schtick — the difference is that she uses her appearance to make her ideas more palatable (it can’t be racist or misogynist if it’s coming from an Asian woman!), rather than to hold herself out as some exemplar of womanhood that liberal women can’t hope to match, so therefore they are inferior.

  57. zuzu
    February 5, 2006 at 10:33 am

    Here’s a comment from Arwen on Pandagon that I think sums up why Coulter is fair game on appearance:

    My very first exposure to Ann Coulter was on Bill Meyer’s show Politically Incorrect. One topic was anorexia, relating to the anorexia of a high school girl? Anyway, Coulter (whom I’d had NO exposure to before) associated herself and her politics with anorexia a couple of times and derided anyone unable to be thin – she was extremely angry, defending anorexia as a lifestyle choice and mocking those that weren’t starving themselves. It stuck in my mind because I’d suffered eating disorders in high school; I went for 6 months, at one point, without eating much more than 200 calories a day. Anyway, that was my first exposure to her: a foaming, angry, fat-and-food phobic woman. Maybe she’s changed her tune since. Dunno.

  58. February 5, 2006 at 10:57 am

    But if she’s going to insult liberal women on the basis of their appearance as part of her schtick, I’m going to attack that schtick.

    I am guilty of that, so I can’t argue there. I completely made a fool of Charlotte Allen based on her appearance. Her whole “point” was that feminists are ugly, so I posted a picture of what she looks like. It seemed to be pretty effective in shutting her up.

    My point is more that there’s no clear evidence Coulter has an eating disorder, and it’s not our business anyway. Maybe she’s a cocaine addict. Who really knows? Again, why don’t we demand that thin men prove they don’t have eating disorders?

  59. February 5, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Coulter is out there actively promoting the notion that women should starve themselves and otherwise hurt themselves for the benefit of men. I see no reason not to say that someone who is proudly anorexic (or at least implies that she is) shouldn’t be called out for it. In a way it has little to do with the way she looks–I don’t think either zuzu or I said her shrinking body was hideous so much as that it’s real, she draws attention to it, she’s proud of it, and we are opposed to Coulter promoting the idea that in order to even be acceptable as a human being you have to model yourself on her and be anorexic or at least something like it.

  60. Tuomas
    February 5, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Zuzu, I accept your explanation. I haven’t read much anti-Ann Coulter -stuff, I’ve read some of her columns and decided she’s (succesfully) making a career out of insulting and provoking people. Better to not swallow the bait and simply demolish her weak arguments.

    Redneck feminist:

    Again, why don’t we demand that thin men prove they don’t have eating disorders?

    Who’s “we”? Have you tried being a thin man? I’ve heard comments that I must be anorexic (hah!). That was when I was about 20 and just stopped growing in height (I’ve since started growing sideways, though I’m still thin. Not that I mind it.)

    I agree with most of what you’ve written so far, but I don’t think that’s accurate.

    (Still no response on my comments “Democracy Is Great, Until We Don’t Get What We Want”. I know, bad net etiquette, but anyway.)

  61. February 5, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Sorry, Tuomas, I wasn’t aware men get accused of being anorexic. Where I come from, only women’s bodies are held under the microscope. BUT… at least it isn’t assumed you’re doing it all to be a tool of the patriarchy, right? (I’m joking. Well, mostly.)

    Believe me, Amanda, if it comes out that Coulter has food issues, you will see a big HAHAHA from me. I will eat a big chocolate cake right in front of her, lick the plate, then show her my ribs.

  62. Tuomas
    February 5, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    drumgurl:
    Okay, forgiven. And I suppose I have to admit that women do get much tighter scrutiny about their bodies (here I am on a feminist website telling “but it happens to men too!”. Oops. Well, it has happened to me.)

    Heh on your (mostly) joke.

  63. February 5, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    There is at least a passing possibility that Coulter has Marfan’s Syndrome (see e.g. this – http://www.nndb.com/people/474/000022408/). Maybe she pretends to be anorexic to hide another medical condition.That shouldn’t excuse any of the odious things she says or does, but it’s another good reason to focus on her rhetoric rather than her body. Or maybe it’s best just to ignore her.

  64. zuzu
    February 5, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    My point is more that there’s no clear evidence Coulter has an eating disorder, and it’s not our business anyway. Maybe she’s a cocaine addict. Who really knows? Again, why don’t we demand that thin men prove they don’t have eating disorders?

    See, I don’t really think she’s anorexic, which seems to include a big dose of body dysmorphia and control issues, than that she buys big into the patriarchy, which dictates that to be a success, women have to be painfully thin. And if they’re not naturally thin, they have to starve themselves. And, frankly, it is kind of Schadenfreudelicious that she wields the patriarchy as both a shield and a sword yet can’t escape it.

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