And they’re totally not funny, too!
Not sure what’s going on lately with the trend of bashing feminists for not being hot enough to have opinions. Or, scratch that: it’s not “lately,” and it’s not just feminists. This is a regular argument to discount the opinions of just about any woman. Of course, liberals — especially feminists — are more likely to bite their tongues when it comes to physical appearance, but women from all political views get attacked for not being attractive enough to speak their minds.
But feminists seem to get it the worst, because the charge of “You’re only a feminist because you can’t get a man” isn’t as easily lobbed at other people. The “you are so not hot” insult tends to be coupled with accusations of lesbianism (which should be even more of an insult than being called ugly, apparently) and man-hating. And, occassionally, cat-loving.
For the record, I hate cats.
The immediate reaction is to say, “But that’s not true! Feminists are totally hot!” Which is certainly true in a lot of cases. And putting up pictures of conventionally attractive feminists is helpful only because it directly refutes the “feminists are ugly” insult.
But that doesn’t make it a very good argument, considering that feminism, like any other belief system, includes a cross-section of people from just about all walks of life. It includes some people who are conventionally attractive, and some people who aren’t. Big friggin deal.
So the problem isn’t with the truth or un-truth of the statement itself, because it’s so easily proven false. It’s with what the statement is intended to do: To shame women out of expressing themselves by emphasizing that the most valuable thing a woman has is her looks, and to steer women away from feminism by marking it as an ugly woman’s viewpoint. Check out how certain anti-feminist women use their physical appearance to gain credibility if you need further evidence.
This is something that men simply don’t have to deal with. Are men occassionally mocked for being unattractive? Sure. But it usually doesn’t affect how credible we think they are. It doesn’t usually affect their job prospects. And it definitely doesn’t affect their perceived right to hold particular political beliefs.
For an easy example, look at how many female TV newscasters are older, or conventionally unattractive. Then look at how many male TV newscasters are older and/or conventionally unattractive. We trust old ugly men to give us our news because, on men, wrinkles mean “experience” and “intelligence.” Male TV journalists can have careers that span decades. Women just can’t; they’re largely ornamental.
This, unfortunately, replays itself even in the blogosphere. The authoritative male voice rules even here, and the pretty girls (who must post pictures to prove it) finish first — just look at blog rankings.
So when I see fellow feminist bloggers being shamed for their apparent unattractiveness — and I should further point out here that no one, no matter how attractive, can win the prettiness game when their photo is put on on the internet for the express purpose of mockery — it bothers me, and not just because I’m one of the people who occassionally has the “you’re ugly” insult hurled at her. It’s because this is a place where we’re supposed to be on slightly more equal footing. Everyone here, in theory, is evaluated only by how strong we are as writers, and how interesting people find us. For me, it’s not even a question of how highly we rank, or how many hits we get. It’s how well we’re able to establish a community here, how faithful our readership is, and how engaging our conversations are. Given those standards, I’d say we’ve been quite successful. So has Pandagon, and so has Rox (we’ve all also had the dumb luck of doing fairly well in the rankings game). Even given that, we’re still not consistently evaluated on the same terms as the boy bloggers. (I don’t recall anyone ever telling Atrios that he’s a liberal because chicks don’t dig him.) What excited me about blogging from the get-go was that it felt different from the kinds of journalism I had done before. It was group work; it was community-oriented; I could bring in components of my personality, but I was being judged entirely on what I wrote and not how well I delivered it, or what I looked like when I was saying it. That’s part of why I find the infiltration of these kinds of sexist cultural values into the blogosphere (I hate that word, someone think of a new one) to be very troublesome.
No one is hiring us. We aren’t on camera. Some of us voluntarily post pictures as a way of connecting with our readers, but we aren’t here to win — or even participate in — any beauty contests. So how is it that we’re losing?