Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Responding to Reader Response

Janet posted an articulate and valid response to my recent diatribe against Eva Longoria and her ilk--it's well worth reading, and a reminder that, despite my attempts to keep this blog an intellectually totaliatarian space, other people will insist on having their own opinions. In the interest of giving both sides of the dialogue fair play, I trancribe her remarks verbatim:

I'm sorry that men are being deprived of their "flesh". Not. I hate to dissolve the arguement, but women feel better when they have muscles instead of fat. When slender, we enjoy meals more, we have more energy...

I am a dancer and am very pleased with my body. I am not constantly hungry. I am not emancipated. I am a women who can do twelve jetes in a row, high kicks for over two minutes and run the mile without sweating.

Granted, there are several celebrities that could use a few deep-fried twinkies. But Julia Roberts, Penelope Cruz and Gwyneth Paltrow do not fall into this catagory. These stars are a few that DO respect their bodies. They are slender, as well as intelligent and talented. You do not have to have sex with them. Some men prefer bigger women. But I can bet that Julia Roberts isn't feeling sorry for her lack of fleshy eye-candy. It isn't weight that make these women beautiful. Have you looked at their smiles? Listened to them laugh?

Next time a women walks by, do not focus on the size of her waist and hips. They are what they are. Rather, think to yourself, "I wonder if she likes snow and roasting marshmallows?"

Points well taken. My response:

Actually, my objection isn't at the thinness of such women--which, as you point out, can be healthy--it's the fact that just because they're thin, they're hot. Thinness (or fleshiness) isn't the definitive quality of beauty. My objection is that these are not beautiful women--they're simply not, and yet we're told that they are because they conform to the one requirement of beauty that these people acknowledge--thinness.

(And no, I'm not imagining that Julia Roberts--or indeed, any woman with a scrap of self-esteem--gives a rat's ass what I think about her. Why should she? My anger isn't directed at her--let her live her life as she chooses--but at the forces surrounding her that shove her down my throat as the epitome of movie-star gorgeousness. Which, dammit, she isn't. It isn't just about sex--it's about being told that this is what I want. And yes I have seen them smile, and dammit, Roberts and Cruz are horse-faced when they do, and there's something disturbingly rodent-like about Longoria under the same conditions. I'm sorry--and in their defense, they could be dropped from the top of the ugly tree, hit every branch and land among the roots, and still look better than I, so, you know, I'm not delusional about their relative visual appeal. And Ionly feel justified in commenting on their personal appearances because others--including their own representatives, have put this issue into play. Otherwise, I'd have the respect not to discuss an issue that's none of my business. Well, OK, I might, but I'd be nice about it.)

There are, I will concede, beautiful women who are on the thin side of the 'norm' (whatever that is.) But I should also add that the thinness of these women isn't, by my eye, based on muscle but the absence thereof. And as for feeling better, well, of course--and those of us old enough to remember Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR 2 can attest that a well-toned women can be seriously attractive. I'd certainly be willing to trade your ideal of a worked body for the death-camp chic that seems to predominate.

As for these women being intelligent, well, um, Gwyneth Paltrow in particular needs to stop spouting off ignorant comments about 'culture' for me to buy into such a notion. They're actresses, and while their success in a challenging profession is to be admired, it's no guarantee of genuine brains.

As for what I think when a woman walks by, I don't think anything. I'm far too self-absorbed to notice. (And trust me, no woman wants to be thought about by me, anyway--she'd have to run straight home and scrub herself clean.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um...did she perhaps mean "emaciated" rather than "emancipated?"

12:18 PM  
Blogger La Lecturess said...

I'm with you, JD. I was watching the Oscars this weekend and was frankly frightened by how ghastly so many of the female stars looked. I've never found Jennifer Aniston attractive--much less talented or interesting--but her face these days suggests someone on a grim starvation diet. She's not the only one.

As for Paltrow, the one and only time I've found her appealing was in Royal Tennenbaums. (But, okay, I have blond issues.)

1:21 PM  
Blogger phd me said...

Okay, I agree: Women do feel better when they have muscles instead of fat. But women need some degree of fat to look like women instead of ambulatory skeletons. Is it really sexy to have a bony pelvis protruding through your skintight dress? Do men find arms that could easily be confused for chopsticks attractive? God, I hope not - but that's the ideal promoted to women these days.

Lecturess mentioned Jennifer Aniston at the Oscars; she looked positively plump next to Jessica Alba. I thought two of the most beautiful women there were Rachel Weisz and Jennifer Garner - the former is pregnant and the latter is most obviously breast-feeding. Obviously pregnancy is the only excuse to have a "normal" body in Hollywood these days.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Anonymous: forgive my blunder. It was late. Though, technically, I am not emancipated from the expectations of society either.

As a response to your response on my... nevermind. I will give that the idea that "the skinnier the better" is a potentially dangerous concept. However, giving up on the body one owned in their physical prime isn't completely necessary.

Might I add that this portrayal of perfection doesn't only apply to women. If the latest trends have escaped your notice, it may be of interest to discover that the younger generation of the male population are squeezing into jeans that they found in their sister's closets.

As one comment from the "Eva..." article pointed out, beauty seems to follow the economic state. The more access a populous has to food, the more in-awe we are of people who can resist it. Until they pass out and die.

In defense of Julia, who was credited for having a gruesome smile, (something I completely disagree with) she is no where near the starvation stage. I'll change "intelligence" to "talent" for the satisfaction of our readers. Only God knows what her brain compacity is. We won't go there.

Just take care of yourselves everyone. Visit the gym. Don't raise your children on McDonald's.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Jehanus Bleak said...

As much as men enjoy comparing and contrasting the merits of women, such discussion can only stir up unneeded ire. After all, women decide amongst themselves who shall be considered attractive, and who shall be shunned and pelted with turnips. Whether the mode du jour favor wrapped feet, blackened teeth, brass-wrapped elongated neck, flattened forehead, baroque folds of flesh, intricate scarring, toned muscles, pencil-thin waist, or any other particular outward manifestation, the world is one big beauty contest without rules to crown the queen bees, and to stick it to the wannabes. At best, men are disposable accessories for the winners; our preferences are largely shaped by the cultural norms which surround us. Of course, the kicker is that as much as women like to think that they know what, or whom they want, we determine whom the top queens choose to escort them at the big galas. In the old days, it was a simple matter of last man standing(e.g. Conan's monologue about "What is good in life."); nowadays, the decisive factor is one of economic power. So, the fiercest social climbers and backbiters from the female pyramid wind up with the most domineering bastards from the male one. Frankly, I think they deserve one another, but that's beside the point. The point is that none of us can change this dynamic, none can escape it, and trying to talk sense into the "other side" leads nowhere, because each side sets the standards for its own members. Though I lack conclusive knowledge of the non-heterosexual community, my hypothesis is that the situation there follows this pattern by analogy. So, I could say that I find the athletically minimalist look attractive in women, but then most of my life I've been able to slip between a door and its frame by turning sideways. Only a century or so ago I would have had my pick of human toothpicks; but fashion has turned, and now these women are many tiers of status above me. O fortuna, imperatrix mundi! JD is mostly right that the current mode is silly, but it IS, and will be until women collectively choose some other folly as their eidolon.

6:43 AM  

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