Monthly Archives: February 2007

Heroically Blonde

Laurie and Debbie say:

Unfortunately, this story is true. Laurie instantly recognized, however, that it ought to be a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Honestly, it would be much better as a movie than it is as a newspaper story.

Here’s how it goes. Plucky blonde Reese is horrified when her sorority sisters are “evicted” from the sorority house for the varying crimes of being not white, not thin, and not stylish. (If you want to cast the rest of the movie, the women of color are all played by strikingly beautiful new faces, and the “fat women” are all the size of Kate Winslet, except for the one played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in a fat suit. As the essential love interest, let’s cast the psychologist who did the original study of what people on campus think of the various sororities.)

At any rate, Reese goes on a crusade for “fairness” for her sorority sisters. She publishes leaflets. She stages demonstrations. She loses her temper to a person in authority (a dean or a stuffy national officer of the sorority). The evicted ex-members of the sorority don’t show up as angry, or as politically active; instead, we see them living sadly in the dorms, missing the exciting sorority life, losing their boyfriends to women who are still in sororities (except for Catherine, who is valiantly trying to lose weight and make herself more beautiful so she can get back into the sorority “legitimately”).

The only question is how the movie ends:

1) Reese wins her crusade, and the women are reinstated as they are.

2) Reese loses to the forces of evil, and heroically goes to live in a *gasp* dormitory with her old friends, where we are given to understand that they might actually make a life they can stand, as long as they have Reese with them.

3) After Catherine commits suicide because she just can’t stay away from the ice-cream sundaes that are her downfall, Reese convinces all of her friends, both still in the sorority and outside, to stand on their desks in support of the dead woman and Reese’s psychologist boyfriend (okay, that’s been done).

At any rate, the important points are: 1) the evicted women are not the ones working to change what happened to them; 2) only one heroine to a movie, thank you (the fact that in the real world half the remaining women quit the sorority has to be changed for the sake of the story); and 3) life without a sorority is completely unbearable, unless you have a plucky blonde to help you through it.

Oh, and by the way? When all is said and done, Catherine wins the best supporting actress Oscar. And she appears in a dress that makes it absolutely clear that she was never really fat.

Reese+Witherspoon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kate Winslet, sorority, body image, fat, racism, college, size acceptance, movies, Body Impolitic

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Are You Looking at Me?

Debbie says:

I didn’t see anything particular to say when John Amaechi “came out” as the first openly gay man in the NBA. That didn’t change when former NBA allstar Tim Hardaway declared himself as an outspoken homophobe, a man who hates gay people.

But then Michael Medved stepped into the fray. (A quick word about Medved: he became famous by writing about bad movies. At the time, he was a liberal. Now, it’s fashionable to be a conservative pundit with a list of grievances a mile long, and now he’s a conservative pundit with a list of grievances a mile long.)

This particular column, however, was written as if the point was to have Body Impolitic demolish it, and Michael, we’re up to the job.

You say:

Most female athletes would prefer not to shower together with men not because they hate males (though some of them no doubt do), but because they hope to avoid the tension, distraction and complication that prove inevitable when issues of sexual attraction (and even arousal) intrude into the arena of competitive sports.

I note first that making the (*ahem* dubious) assumption that John Amaechi is the only NBA member who is not a 100% Kinsey 1, heterosexual under all circumstances, straight man, issues of sexual attraction (and even arousal) already intrude into the area of competitive sports. Ask any athlete who’s willing to tell you the truth about his/her/their/zir response to contact, to winning, to group exhilaration after winning. This particular fallacy isn’t your fault; you’ve been seduced by the cultural myth that sexuality is genital, specific, and keyed to a very few triggers. Honest, Michael, it ain’t necessarily so.

Here’s a point you might have missed: the primary goal of a professional sports team is … to win! Winning is where the money is, where the glory is, where the sex is, where the juice is. If a gay, or bisexual, athlete can help bring home the win, is the possibility of a little tension in the locker room really enough reason to lose? The United States military , which you mention later in your column, has made this decision with regard to Arabic translators (who really aren’t in locker rooms as a general rule); sports teams, on the other hand, have to make money rather than spending ours.

But then you go on, right into this blog’s home territory:

Tim Hardaway (and most of his former NBA teammates) wouldn’t welcome openly gay players into the locker room any more than they’d welcome profoundly unattractive, morbidly obese women. … The ill-favored, grossly overweight female is the right counterpart to a gay male because, like the homosexual, she causes discomfort due to the fact that attraction can only operate in one direction. She might well feel drawn to the straight guys with whom she’s grouped, while they feel downright repulsed at the very idea of sex with her.

Michael, really! Your mother would be ashamed of you! Have you no friends married to fat women? Don’t you know any fat mothers? Are you completely convinced that all men, 100% of the time, are repulsed by “morbidly obese, grossly overweight” women? Do you think that no one ever buys Women En Large as a stroke book? I hate to break this to you, but you are simply wrong.

Perhaps it’s just that no one as athletic or “handsome” as a professional athlete would ever be attracted to a fat woman? It doesn’t work that way either.

Or maybe you’re not attracted to fat women? Your business. Maybe you’re also not attracted to men? Still your business. But when you generalize it to everyone, you show yourself up not just as cruel but as stupid. And I’m sure you don’t want to seem stupid.
The rest of your column seems to be about convincing someone (your readers? yourself?) that homophobia is “near-universal,” and “common sense” and “human nature.” Fortunately, Lev Raphael has answered you on these points, and saved me the trouble.

Raphael knows what’s going on: “It’s all about power and the male transgressive gaze being turned upon men when it’s usually directed to women. I wish Medved had the balls to say that, to acknowledge male fear of being de-manned by becoming an object of even theoretical desire.But he’s too self-satisfied, and in his own way is being as thuggish and smug as Hardaway was when he proudly proclaimed his homophobia.”

Don’t like being looked at, Michael? Don’t like being judged? Don’t like someone deciding whether you’re cute enough to fuck, or gross enough to discard? It’s okay, I understand. Lots of men don’t like it. Lots of women don’t like it. Hell, I don’t like it.

But Raphael is right: if you can admit to yourself that that’s the core of the problem, and that everything you say about fat women proves how willing you are to be on the judging side of that line, you’ll sound a lot less like a fool. And here’s the way to check yourself: if you can watch George Takei making fun of exactly this issue using Tim Hardaway as an example, and laugh, you’ll be on the right road.

Thanks to Lori Selke for the pointer to Raphael.

Michael Medved, John Amaechi, Tim Hardaway, George Takei, homophobia, basketball, sports, fat, body image, men,masculinity, Body Impolitic

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