Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Affirmative action for the openly gestating?

WARNING: This post may make you hate me. A number of times.


The cultural ebb and flow of political correctness being what it is, there's always some category of something that you simply cannot criticize or even fully explore. The Something I have in mind at present pertains mostly to certain people, or categories of people, and their fashion sense. We see this, of course, with Michelle Obama. In assessing Mrs. Obama's looks in any given outfit, you must say that she's smart and stylish, a true trend-setter. You cannot say that she often dresses as if she's colorblind and always ends up looking ungainly at best. You must say that The First Lady wears her clot
hes well. You cannot say that there likely isn't an outfit in existence that would be improved by having Michelle Obama in it. (When I look at her, I think: "Lawrence Taylor in drag." Can't help it, it's just how I see her, especially when she smiles. LT was a damn handsome dude, I always thought, but somehow it doesn't look as well on Mrs. O.)

A specific category of this Something is pregnancy or, to be even more precise, the phenomenon that has come to be known as the baby-bump. And since I feel that some personal context is necessary, I will remind you that (a) I love children and (b) I love women, and I'll also confess that (c) I think nothing is quite so endearing as the visibly gestational tummy of one's beloved. There is not a sweeter moment in life than spooning with your lady as you sleep at night, with your arm draped protectively over the manifest evidence of the life the
two of you have created. But those are private moments, and a pregnancy-belly is not, I think, a fashion statement. Or a political one. What especially drives me up a wall these days is when gals wear get-ups that turn their pregnancy into a (literal) in-your-face experience. Kind of like, "I'm pregnant. Deal with it." And we're not allowed to say we don't like the resulting look. Lord no! We have to trip all over ourselves in our eagerness to spew superlatives.

Well then, I have a question. If it's The Look we're talking about
just as a pure existential Look, stripped of all political, social or other contextthen why don't we also fawn all over women who are just, well, fat? Yes, I'm serious. If a woman with a giant pregnancy belly in a skin-tight dress is fashionable...then why isn't a woman with a giant non-pregnancy belly?

That's not quite how we handle it, is it. In fact, wear a clingy outfit to the Red Carpet when you don't have the figure for it and the fashionistas will be merciless. You'll be the talk of a.m. television the next morning, and not in a good way. Already I can hear Mario Cantone chortling on The View....

It's like this bald-is-beautiful cancer-awareness thing. If baldness in women is so beautiful when you have cancer, then why is it such an apparent stigma when you don't? I would think by this time we'd see female celebs shaving their heads left and right, "just because."

Folks, I don't mean to sound cruel here. I'm only askin' the hard, impolitic questions. And here again, I think the answers have something to do with our old pal, that familiar bugaboo, the bullshitification of American society.

All of which is a long way of saying: Did you see Heidi Klum in that dress she wore to the Emmys? I wonder what you thought.

Oh sure, you and I can say that, at least among ourselves. But the folks I'm really talking about here are those in the public eye. Particularly the so-called "opinion leaders."


David Brennan said...

"You cannot say that she often dresses as if she's colorblind and always ends up looking ungainly at best."

Sure you can say that....assuming that you're, ya know, gay and you actually make those kinds of fashion statements in the first place.

"Oh my gawd! Girlfriend there is just so last season! And look at that top, you can see her arms jiggle!"

So, no, I didn't see Heidi Klum (I don't even know who she is) and, no, I didn't watch the Emmys.

But, hey, as long as impotent man Rush Limbaugh and latent homosexual Glenn Beck qualify as "masculine" here in Neo-con America ('cause, ya know, they want to go get them evil Arabswho "hit" us on 9/11), then I guess that by modern American standards being a fashion critic (better yet, a critic of fashion critics!) is, by comparison, kind of manly and nothing to be ashamed of.

So if you don't like this woman's ensemble, sing it loud, sister!

Elizabeth said...

LOL! Steve, where is Ron with his whole grain muffin this morning? ;)

I was mesmerized by pics of Klum and her so exposed (because it was) belly. I thought the woman had guts (no pun).

"These days" is the key phrase in your post, I think. The times, they are a-changin' :)

roger o'keefe said...

Kudos, Steve! It's like the woman who breast feed at the mall and stare you down as you walk by. I like breasts as well as any man, and I like babies too, believe it or not, but there's that old line about a time and place, you know?

And since you say we can't say it, how's this: Michelle Obama is ugly as sin. There. I said it!

roger o'keefe said...

And now how long before somebody calls me a racist.

Noadi said...

If a woman is proud of her pregnancy and wants to show it off I'm all for it. I think it's far better than in the past when women were expected to hide their pregnancy body or stay home. Whether you personally find it attractive isn't really a concern. I happened to love Heidi Klume's dress, was it the prettiest things she's ever worn? Of course not but she's clearly thrilled to be pregnant and wants everyone to know it.

Just a note from women I've known who've been pregnant (I have no plans for kids ever) is just keep your hands off. Why do people seem to think they have some right to touch a pregnant belly without asking?

As for breast feeding. Exactly where to you expect a woman to do it? The bathroom? Woudl you want to feed a child in a public restroom? Until public places offer a clean seluded area for women to breast feed you need to just deal with it. Breasts have the primary function of feeding our young, not as some nice toy for men (not saying you feel that way but I've met far too many men who think that). Our culture has a serious problem when people can't handle breasts being used for their main biological purpose.

RevRon's Rants said...

First off, I was raised by a crusty old broad (a description she cherished) of a mom, who taught me not to make disparaging remarks about women... at least, not publicly or where they could otherwise hear the remarks. If I had something "ugly" to say, the gentlemanly thing to do was to stifle it. And no, I don't hate you, Steve, but my mom would've probably slapped a hare-lip on you (as she often threatened to do to me). :-)

Furthermore, I always thought it was tacky to criticize someone's looks, especially if they had other talents and qualities to offer.

While I do consider a pregnant woman to be a thing of beauty, that beauty transcends the physical in my eye, and certainly doesn't mean that any woman with a distended abdomen was, as Lenny Bruce so delicately put it, "horny looking." Can't really blame women for trying to keep the hottie thing going while pregnant, but it just doesn't do it for me as a source of libidinal inspiration.

As to Roger's statement: I've encountered quite a few women breast feeding, and have yet to have one stare me down as I walked past. They generally smile. And I've never made any effort to pretend I wasn't looking. Perhaps your own expression had something to do with their reactions. Perhaps your disapproval was showing? Or maybe you just encounter women who happen to be sitting on pine cones. Who knows.

And where Michelle Obama's perceived beauty (or lack thereof) is concerned, see my first paragraph, above. Of course, she could be a ringer for Halle Berry, but there would still be folks who found her ugly and would feel not only justified but compelled to so describe her - loudly - simply because of who she is on the political scene. That whole "death of civility" thing, yanno...

VW = kindism... I swear!

RevRon's Rants said...

"Our culture has a serious problem when people can't handle breasts being used for their main biological purpose."

Noadi, what do you expect from a society that is obsessed with keeping 50% of the population from seeing what the other 50% looks like? If a Janet Jackson slip o' the nip - whether accidental or intentional - is grounds for mass umbrage and a mega-dollar fine, it only follows that those nasty women would be expected to nurse their children in a stinking bathroom stall, rather than traumatize the rest of us with their shameless displays. Sluts, all of them!

RevRon's Rants said...

"certainly doesn't mean that any woman with a distended abdomen was, as Lenny Bruce so delicately put it, "horny looking."

I feel it necessary that I qualify the above statement with one word: Demi

Noadi said...

That particular problem with American society is one area where it's easy to push my buttons. I'm an artist, I create nudes from time to time and see nothing wrong with it but I have had a few parents upset with the nudes being at art shows (why they brought their kids I don't know). The human body is a beautiful thing (specific bodies are a different matter, I'm talking generally) so we need to get over our ridiculous puritan hang ups and the sooner the better.

Steve Salerno said...

Is this a puritan thing or an aesthetic thing? Noadi herself implies that not all bodies are beautiful, so perhaps not all categories of body are beautiful, either. Pregnancy is a disruption to the normal sweep of a woman's body. It is beautiful to the participants in that pregnancy because of what it represents (just as all resultant babies are beautiful to their parents, despite what the rest of us may think, as per Seinfeld), but I'm not sure that a baby-bump per se is a beautiful adornment to a body, regardless of whose body it's on. And I come back to my original point here, about using that bump as a sort of political philosophy to which the rest of us must simply acquiesce.

We men have a certain part of our body that we can be pretty proud of, too, in the right context--in fact, it's the thing that's 50% responsible for that baby-bump--but we don't generally walk around with it at full attention in a silky/spandex get-up and expect everyone else to smile and applaud and tell us how "smart" we look.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, keep in mind that aesthetics is not the only factor that dictates (pun intended) society's different reaction to a woodie than to a pregnant woman's belly. Beyond the fact that a woman's belly isn't typically considered a primary erogenous zone (and therefore to be kept concealed), males have historically held the position of sexual aggressors, and exposing the objects of their "pride" (or shame, as the case may be) is usually viewed as a precursor to that aggression. In many cases, when a woman displays herself, she gets cheered; when a man does it, he gets arrested (At least, that's what I've been telling Connie!). :-)

While I'd agree that the politicization of pregnancy/nursing is pretty absurd, I don't see it going away anytime soon.

VW = salimp (this is getting a bit too weird!)

Stever Robbins said...

Wish I'd seen this when the discussion was fresh.

Why all the attention to what you think of a woman's appearance? For goodness' sake, I know some guys like to drink a lot of beer and wear T-shirts that are just a tad too small, and tight enough pants that their belly peeks out just a wee bit...

There are surely some who find sights like that disgusting. I don't understand the double standard. I'm all for pregnant women keeping it modest. I'm also all for ugly men keeping it modest. But I'm even more for letting people express themselves in public as long as they're not hurting the people around them. If it's their self-expression versus my aesthetic sensibilities, as much as I want my aesthetics to win out, I'm more inclined to come up in the favor of self-expression. *Sigh*

(That's in principle, of course. In practice, if my aesthetics are too offended, I'll simply leave when the person in question gets close enough to smell.)

Voltaire said...

Hmmmm... it looks like Steve needs to read Ben Elton's novel Blind Faith. It's set 50 years in the future where ""only perverts do things in private."