Words by Jackie Boom Boom
This issue’s column is dedicated to the beautiful, brave and bold Beth Ditto, lead singer of The Gossip and my new BFF (she doesn’t know it yet). If you haven’t seen the second June cover of NME, Beth appears on the cover totally naked and unashamed and unabashedly fabulous (picture above). My first encounter with Beth’s unworldly amazingness was when I saw The Gossip open for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs three years ago. I walked in to the gig late to see this voluptuous creature belting her heart out wearing only a white cotton bra and underwear set shamelessly shaking about her fleshy bits and simultaneously winning over my heart. And at the end of her set, she said “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Man, that girl is fat.’ And you know what? You’re right. And it’s fucking beautiful.” Exit Jackie Boom Boom’s heart for all of eternity.
If you live in New York City (or any part of the world whose culture is dominated by the musings of rich white men), you know that life is not always kind to fat girls. In a society where a woman’s worth is measured by how much she controls herself (i.e. suppresses her natural human urges), we are encouraged to keep our legs shut, our mouths shut and our stomachs empty. But what about those of us who refuse to say no to pizza or Guinness or that cute tall guy next to the jukebox? Are we supposed to be punished for living life to the fullest (and in turn, maxing our asses out to the fullest)? You would think so. Every magazine spread and billboard advertisement is not meant for us.
The fashion gods were even cruel enough to recreate “skinny jeans,” which not only excludes the un-thin in its name but also in its design. And, sure, they make the cloth torture-chambers in our size and with twenty minutes of squeezing and tugging and squishing, we too, can look like chubby asphyxiated versions of Kate Moss, complete with our inner tube of blubber flowing out from our waistline, isolating us like a star of David armband in a 1941 Cologne marketplace. Perhaps we just shouldn’t buy skinny jeans. Fuck that. We SHOULD buy skinny jeans even if they rip at the seams. And we should always always always go for seconds and thirds and fourths if we want.
Regardless if you’re too thin or too fat or too short or too ethnic, our media is making women hate themselves and each other. If you read a men’s magazine, there are all sorts of articles about sports, travel, politics, information and maybe an eighth of the magazine talks about new shaving foam or crunches (and this section is for gay men). However, if you look at a popular women’s magazine, every article is written about how to make your bust look bigger and your ass smaller, how to behave in a way that will not upset your boyfriend, and how to make it appear that you put in as little effort as possible to do this.
We are programmed to be in a constant battle with ourselves to fight towards this goal of being something that we will never be. Being a size 0 with massive (but perky) breasts is not easily attainable. Why aren’t we trying to be more like our mothers instead of supermodels, heiresses and actresses? Jessica Alba is not a hero or a role model. Yet she is considered beautiful and accomplished by society? Why aren’t stretch marks from childbirth considered beautiful? Or laugh lines and crow’s feet? Or cellulite? Why are Sean Connery, Bill Clinton and Jack Nicholson considered sex gods while Joanna Lumley, Hillary Clinton and Helen Mirin aren’t?
Cosmopolitan Magazine, a racist, sexist publication that encourages women to keep their men sexually satisfied so that they don’t cheat (because apparently its our fault if he does, not his), is one of the most-read magazines on Earth. Jane Magazine, a publication with no fitness section that talks about music, defining your own style and getting wasted on a budget, will publish its last issue in August 2007 because of lack of funding from its publisher Conde Nast. Really. So what can we do about this? Men should stop reading misogynistic magazines like FHM that deify women who look like teenage girls and degrade girlfriends, wives and mothers. And women, stop beating yourself up because you don’t conform to Cosmopolitan and FHM’s idea of what we should be. Instead, you should celebrate. Cause Beth Ditto is way cooler than Jessica Simpson anyway.