Laurie and Debbie say:
Surprise! At 180 pounds, the sensuous Colette was attractive to men.
Next surprise! Contemporary women feminists, like Colette’s noted biographer Judith Thurman and world-famous Erica Jong, have trouble understanding this.
The conversation below is from an interview Jong did with Thurman, printed in the back of the book:
Jong: Another thing that struck me about Colette was her weight. You talk about this in your book, but none of the other biographers do. At the end of her life she weighed one hundred eighty pounds. She was obese. She had this famous delight in being a gourmet, but she obviously was gluttonous. Which is analogous to her sexuality. She seems to have never passed up a great fuck…My own feeling is that the sexual magic of a woman is not diminished by a a few extra pounds. But a hundred and eighty,I don’t know. Do you want to comment on that?
Thurman: Yes. Like everybody else I’ve been obsessed with weight my entire life. If I’m not thin, I’m suicidal. But Colette took a stand against thinness just as it was becoming chic… She took a sort of “fat is beautiful” stance, again way before anybody did.
See how Thurman and Jong have to twist themselves into knots? They both know that Colette wasn’t the least bit fat in her cultural context–Thurman even mentions it in her comment that thinness was “just becoming chic.” They both should know that sexiness is very, very different from physical appearance, and always has been. That, in fact, is a lot of why the current cultural insistence on skinny–only is so heavily advertised and so constantly repeated: it isn’t true, and a lot of effort has to go into making people believe it.
Just for comparison, here’s another 1920s glamour photograph:
We’ve learned from years of touring with Women En Large that the world is full of men (and women) who find fat women sexy, beautiful, and irresistible. Unfortunately, making that preference public leads to harassment and criticism, so lots of people keep it quiet.
This whole exchange infuriates both of us. How dare they claim that Colette wasn’t gorgeous? And how dare they even imply, let alone state, that you have to be extraordinarily sexy to overcome being fat? What’s with these two contemporary women trying to put one of the sexiest women of her time on a diet?
Thanks to vito_excalibur for writing about this and for the beach picture.