Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What we should/shouldn't be wearing (or shaving)

Salon's MaryElizabeth Williams, whose pop-culture pieces are almost always hilarious, provocative and sensible, has a slideshow up, "Michelle Obama's no-win fashion martyrdom" about criticism of Mrs. Obama's clothing choices.

No matter what clothing the First Lady wears, it seems, she should be wearing something else instead.

Williams writes:
Her most recent crime against humanity, the donning of a bold red Alexander McQueen for a state dinner with China's President Hu Jintao earlier this month, prompted the Times' perpetually condescending Cathy Horyn to pen a recent column declaring her fear that Obama's "deeds are being overshadowed by what she wears." "I want her to be known for something other than her fashion," she wrote. "I want her to be a great first lady who truly cares about the lives of Americans at the time when many need help. I want her to be far more than 'prime placement' for a dress label." By wearing what, exactly? Sackcloth and ashes? Elastic-waist Mom jeans? Maybe sensible pantsuits, because God knows Hillary isn't still getting crap for that?
That's the price of being a woman. If you dress down, you're a slob. If you dress up, you're a snob. If you dress conservatively, you're just trying to act like a man. You're trying to be sexy. You're not sexy enough. And that dress makes you look fat, girlfriend. Whoever said clothes make the man was a goddamn liar. It's wardrobe that defines a woman, even if she's a lawyer, mother and health activist who's married to the president of the United States.
Good for Obama for shrugging off the criticism. "In the end, someone will always not like what you wear," she is quoted saying. "People just have different tastes."

In related news, Williams recently wrote about another woman's fashion choices--a woman who may have regretted committing a supposedly even greater crime than a mere sartorial misstep. The actress Mo'Nique, who was called "gross" and other unflattering terms after she dared to be seen in public with her legs sprouting the hair with which, after all, Nature endowed them, was recently seen with clean-shaven gams. Williams speculates whether Mo'Nique "was sick of hearing how disgusting she apparently is."
If the actress has decided that, for now, she'd like to take a walk on the smooth side, it doesn’t automatically represent a caving to pressure or oppression by the patriarchy. But shouldn't the option of nonconformity exist as well? And why should a little bit of body hair -- on the legs, under arms, or yes, even the Tajazzle zone -- be considered so radical, so appalling, so threatening? It's just hair, for God's sake. And a woman's right to experiment with it shouldn't end at her chin line.
You would think, right?

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