January 21, 2009

Sizing up Michelle

Not surprisingly, there was a tremendous amount of scrutiny paid to Michelle Obama’s inaugural wardrobe choices and the “message” each outfit was sending.

In addition to the fashion police riding up her train, Internet discussions tackled the question of whether or not Michelle Obama is “hot” or not.  Case in point, the website AskMen.com. The website has a series of “top” lists from that rank women.  There’s the “Top 99 Women: 2009 edition,” “Top 10: 2009 Top 99 Rejects” and “Top 10: 2010’s top 99,” to name a few.  But, you get the picture.

In each of these lists, there is very little variation and/or diversity.  Essentially, all the chosen women resemble one another and the women of color that appear conform to Eurocentric beauty norms.

Compare AskMen.com’s #1 pick, Eva Mendes, and Michelle Obama and the usual measurement of beauty and Michelle Obama’s departure and transcendence become clear.

Some of the comments to the questions AskMen.com posed, include:

Oi yiddo, you moron! She ugly as hell

OMG like a cow :-S

She kind of looks like a female version of James Brown. Anyone agree?

Baby got back, her hips are wider than my 60′ high def. She’s not even in the same ball park as Palin. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is only skin deep, ugly is to the bone

Michelle Obama, as the new First Lady, is a female role model unlike most that we’ve seen before.  It’ll be interesting what the cultural conversation and cultural response will be time goes by.

Will we see cultural changes?  Will she inspire young women to move beyond the confined boundaries of femininity that have been constructed?  Will the conversation tackle the unequal definitions and expectations that have historically existed and continue to persist in terms of which kind of women are considered feminine and what that acts and looks like?

January 6, 2009

Your ass as a social indicator

Beauty norms come and go.  As a byproduct of the cultural atmosphere, standards of beauty are bound to change as the culture changes.

Yesterday, Myra Mendible posted an interesting article on racial and sexual stereotypes and how the culture’s changing attitude and affinity for the backside is indicative of diversity and acceptance.

It may well be that America’s butt fling signals a growing acceptance of difference—a desire to broaden the repertoire of acceptable body types and beauty myths. If this celebration of fulsome booty helps women move beyond the self-hatred and anxiety attached to body fat or encourages ethnic pride in women whose bodies have historically been pathologized and denigrated—then power to the butt, indeed. But then again, in a consumer society, fashion trends are short-lived and the demand for novelty fuels profit. Will the buttocks be relegated to the margins of culture once more, disavowed and disowned by a fickle mainstream culture? Either way, I’ll still be dreaming of a time when (to loosely paraphrase Martin Luther King), women will be judged by the content of their character and not the size of their butts. Now that would be truly bootyful.