Thursday, February 08, 2007


Twisty posted this picture of Donatella Versace:

with this caption: Would you let this trainwreck dress you?

She described Versace as "the yellow-haired, football-faced misogynist designer". Making fun of behavior, including speech, is fair game. After ripping apart Versace's appearance, Twisty then posted a ridiculous quote from Versace, which should have been the focus of the post all along. So please, attack behavior as it is warranted. If you feel an overwhelming urge to attack someone's looks, move away from the computer. In the comments of that post, people were justifying making fun of Versace's appearance because she'd cosmetically altered her face. The same rule applies: behavior, not appearance. Rule #2: don't hide behind excuses.

There's an idea central to radical feminism, the idea that women are valued only for how we please men. Our looks are always being judged, because our appearance is all that is valued by society. Therefore, it should be obvious that

it is never acceptable to attack a woman's appearance.

It isn't acceptable to attack men for their appearance either, but that's another post. In the meantime, those who need to, go buy a clue.


Renegade Evolution said...

::wild applause:::

Amy's Brain Today said...

I know, I hate it when Twisty does that shit.

jo22 said...

Right on SE x

deviousdiva said...

That's why I no longer go over there...

Rootietoot said...

Thank you for saying that.

Bea said...

That is not at all how I read Twisty's post.

spotted elephant said...

DD-I should follow that advice as I'm regularly offended.

Bea-How did you read the post? I'm curious, because as hard as I try, I can't see it any other way.

Amy's Brain Today said...

FTR, SE, Twisty has posted somewhat of an explanation today. I DO understand the point she is making, and I think it is a valid one. However, in my own work, I think I prefer to err on the side of NOT using language, concepts, etc. that could play into or appear to be giving support to antifeminist tactics. There's plenty enough to criticize in folks' behavior and ideology without getting into their appearance. Likewise with words like slut, etc., which Twisty also sometimes uses, to my displeasure. Sometimes it's just a bad idea to use certain concepts as though they mean anything in a feminist context, even if you do have a valid point--it may be so subtle that lots of people will miss it. And given how unpopular our viewpoint is, I think it's extra important to be as clear as we can.

IMHO, the main drawback in Twisty's work is her inability to stifle her desire to go for cleverness points versus ensuring absolute clarity and avoiding pandering to antifeminists. But, that's just me.

Bea said...

SE, Twisty's post, just like all the hundreds of other posts she has written, are about putting the spotlight on the patriarchy, looking at what's there and, best of all, ridiculing it.

I didn't need a clarification from Twisty about her meaning because I know she is uncompromisingly feminist and with that as a starting point I have no trouble seeing where her ridicule is directed.

Twisty is not some sort of femininist ambassador and has no obligation to write in the sort of fashion that will appeal to the masses. I totally get Twisty's angle, but even if I didn't I wouldn't call her a hypocrite because there is plenty of big corporate misogyny for me to get my teeth into.

As far as hypocrisy is concerned, Twisty is very near the bottom on the list of women who would qualify for negative criticism from me, but I notice that she she seems to be top of the list for many others. Why?

Amy's Brain Today said...

Good question, Bea!

spotted elephant said...

Amy-I saw the explanation, and it was basically the same as her explanation in comments to the original post. I don't buy it-I don't accept it as a valid point. She should be attacking Versace's work and words, not her appearance.

You may be right about Twisty's main drawback. At this point, I feel past caring *why* and just want it to stop.

spotted elephant said...

Bea-Putting a spotlight on the patriarchy is exactly what we're supposed to be doing. Making fun of a woman's appearance is NOT what we're supposed to be about. I don't care how complicit an individual woman is, leave her looks alone.

I've been attacked for my appearance all my life. I don't need that shit from other radical feminists. We should know better. Attacking the beauty/cosmetic/fashion industries is absolutely important. But that doesn't mean we attack individual women for their appearance.

Twisty is not some sort of femininist ambassador and has no obligation to write in the sort of fashion that will appeal to the masses. I totally get Twisty's angle, but even if I didn't I wouldn't call her a hypocrite because there is plenty of big corporate misogyny for me to get my teeth into.

No, she's not an ambassador, but it would really help if she'd quit making radical feminists look bad. That's not an obligation, just my personal wish.

I don't have to make a choice between attacking corporate misogyny and criticizing other radical feminists when they engage in (for me) despicable behavior. I'm capable of doing both. And you can argue that corporate misogyny is more important, but frankly, what radical feminists stand for matters to me. I don't want to be fighting alongside someone who is spewing hate.

As far as hypocrisy is concerned, Twisty is very near the bottom on the list of women who would qualify for negative criticism from me, but I notice that she she seems to be top of the list for many others. Why?

Well, Twisty's not near the bottom of my list. She's made extremely hateful/ignorant posts, and doesn't respond when called on her shit. She's a lightning rod for people who hate rad fems, because she writes so aggressively. I don't care about her style, I care about the hate.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm getting the sense from your comments that radical feminists aren't supposed to critique one another. My post was about something I found highly offensive, and you said I was wrong about Twisty, but didn't give any new reasons why. You then said *you* wouldn't call Twisty a hypocrite even if you disagreed with her, because there was so much corporate misogyny. If we can't call one another on our own shit, what's the point?

Bea said...

SE, should we not apply the same rules and expectations to all women? I am not saying that we should not critique each other, but that we need to do so consistently. In other words, if I take it upon myself to call someone else a hypocrite, then I have to do so every time I come across someone who qualifies as such according to the same set of rules.

'Spewing hate' is the sort of charge I would reserve for those that incite hate and violence against women - pornographers for example - and is hardly an accusation that fits the offense of calling Donatella Versace 'football-faced'.

spotted elephant said...

Bea-Absolutely-everyone should be called on hypocrisy. fwiw, I think we're all hypocrites-we all make mistakes. I welcome being called on it-especially if I'm completely unaware of where I've flubbed up-I need others to point that out.

Now, I usually bring things up directly on people's blogs. But in Twisty's case I don't any more-I do not appreciate the behavior of some commenters. So that's why I don't have a running "hypocrite" category.

As far as "spewing hate" goes, sorry, that's sloppy writing on my part. I wasn't thinking of the Versace post, I was thinking of other cases. We differ on what we consider to be spewing hate-I would not limit it to those who incite hate and violence against women.

SUEB0B said...

Good point, SE.

Faith said...

Wonderful post, S.E. I've been hanging back on making any real indepth posts due to my ridiculous schedule and due to trying to wait for the swarm to die down. Unfortunately, it just seems to keep getting worse.

AradhanaD said...

Spotted E, I was also flabbergasted by the statement made at twisty's. Lookism primarily runs one way - it's really 'juvenile' of us to make lookist comments about another woman - when women are ALWAYS being critiqued about their looks. It doesn't matter if your hillary clinton or your average asha... We are first and foremost judged by our appearance vs. our actions.

A friend of mine was talking about something that i have also seen on the internet being discussed before. about how psychiatrists do note whether you look 'good' or 'shabby' when you visit them.

And of course looking shabby - means not wearing make-up. (my friend doesn't wear make-up).

I do also think 'more important' feminist bloggers need to take ownership, like it or not - twisty has an audience - and she is responsible for what she says as she represents many of us - to people who only read 1-2 blogs a day.

All 'more widely read' bloggers need to take ownership.

belledame222 said...

I've always said if I wanted to read "Go Fug Yourself," I'd go directly there; at least they're not pretending to be anything they're not.

belledame222 said...

and, i'm still not really clear on where capris come in. or y'know taste.

Taste, however, is actually a matter of vital importance. Of the few perceptible traits that distinguish humans from chimpanzees, taste--the ability to discern whether or not a thing is crummy--is the only one that's worth a damn. Let's face it: if a species can't tell a Kinkade from a Constable or a Cheez-Whiz from a Camembert, it can hardly be expected, come election day, to differentiate between a lying, illiterate, dry-drunk corporate monkey and an actual statesman.

So, is taste created by money? Does it exist as a sovereign universal force, like gravity, or porn? Does it erupt, a geyser of subjective whim, from within? Or are these questions less urgent than asking "where the heck has all the taste gone?"

I revisit the notion of the erosion of taste whenever pop culture makes Truth and Beauty its bitch. I do not speak simply of fashion (although would it kill people to quit wearing capri pants?), or of politics (even Cheez-Whiz does not present a more vulgar affront than W) but of an overall cultural capitulation to ugliness.*

and, i truly don't get where this comes into the whole y'know revolutionary radical thing:

My God, those Wal-Mart ads are depressing.

You know the ones, where some slightly overweight, self-described "stay-at-home mom" with a hick accent throws into a shopping cart lots of cheap crap made by indentured slaves in China while stating that she'd rather star in a Muslim fundamentalist decapitation video than live without Wal-Mart?

Shopping--the minivan-enhanced corollary to stay-at-home mommery--is performed exclusively by women in real life. In Wal-Mart commercials these women shoppers are represented by vapid middle-class hillbilly broodmares, selflessly budgeting away the best years of their lives for their redneck husbands and unruly spawn, their worth as human beings measured by their ability to sniff out a bargain. They teach the girl children to shop (they take the boy children "to the lake"). Their frantic stay-at-home lives are crammed with good-natured sacrifice, and they couldn't be happier than when they're shopping for cheap crap in Wal-Mart.

yeah, yeah, I know, I know. it's all criticism of the -media-, not of the actual "overweight hicks" and "broodmares," and i would surely understand it if i were only advanced enough. no doubt. also, why "Pop"
is curiously exempt from all this critique o' the patriarchy whereas Walmart shoppers are not:

The old man’s a captain of industry, used to getting his way, and although he’d never admit it, he likes to strap on the feedbag at the Four because the staff unflinchingly treat him like a big-shot. Which, I suppose, he sort of is. I do not begrudge him this small conceit. He was born to a single mother in a Detroit hellhole during the Depression, and worked his ass off his whole life. If anyone deserves a little big-shot treatment in his declining years, he does.

well, i'm sure Horatio Alger totally dovetails with y'know Shulamith Firestone (and Top Model) in there -somewhere.- i'll go hit myself on the head with a brick until i -understand.-

my question: will the Four Seasons Cafe survive the fall of the patriarchy? will Pop? will capris?

because, you know, i -like- my capris, even if i haven't examined them sufficiently.

goddam, i'm not worthy.

belledame222 said...

as for "why her," well, you know what they say:

"When you point a finger, three more point back at you."

beansa said...

Here's the thing that gets me. Saying: "Would you let this trainwreck dress you?" makes an implicit connection between Donatella Versace's appearance and her abilities. And I'm sick of that standard being applied to women. It's like saying: "Would you let this frumpy, middle-aged, slightly overweight woman work the reception desk at your law firm?" No, of course you wouldn't! Because we all know that only slim, blonde, attractive and fashionably dressed women in their early 20's can answer phones!

I don't know if Donatella Versace is a tool or priestess of the patriarchy or not, and I can't say that I'm a fan of her designs, but I did note that she stated in the same interview that she admires Hillary Clinton and hopes she wins. So maybe she was trying to give her helpful advice. That is part of her job, right? To help people in the public view create an image? We do still live under patriarchy after all, and our looks are always being judged, so if Hillary swtiching to knee length black skirts with short jackets (which is what Versace recommended)helps her become the first woman president, then do the means justify the ends? Isn't that what politicians do, manipulate public perception of themselves to win votes? I'm not saying I like it, I'm just saying that sometimes you have to try to take the rules that are meant to opress you and bend them to your favor.

I googled "Donatella Versace" and "ugly" and I came up with 141,000 hits. Not all of them were accusing Versace of being ugly, but a lot of them were. The urban dictionary lists her as the ugliest woman on the face of the planet. She is a sucess in an industry that values looks above all else, and I wonder if her desire for cosmetic surgery has anything to do with the world constantly calling out how "ugly" she is?

spotted elephant said...

AD-I think all bloggers need to take ownership, but you're right, it's especially important for big blogs to tread carefully.

And it isn't just Twisty. The garbage posted at Pandagon and Feministe got me to finally stop reading those blogs regularly. Probably should do the same with Twisty.

spotted elephant said...

belledame-The incidents at Twisty's that have offended me are numerous. I need to just back away.

But as far as why her? Well, I've *never* seen a shitstorm kicked up over things posted at Feministe. And if you dare object in comments, then other commenters attack (I know from being on the receiving end). When this happens at Twisty's blog, people roll their eyes and call the commenters "cult members", but I haven't seen the same treatment applied at Feministe. I have seen women of color object to racist posts at Pandagon, but I don't see much in the way of attacks on inappropriate, anti-woman statements made by Amanda. So, why just Twisty is a very reasonable question.

spotted elephant said...


I googled "Donatella Versace" and "ugly" and I came up with 141,000 hits.

(Groans) That's it exactly. There's no shortage of people willing to label a given woman "ugly". The last thing I want to do is be a part of that. I'm not happy with Versace's profession, but my energy is best spent critiquing fashion and what it does to women and the perception of women, not piling onto the bandwagon making fun of Versace's looks.

AradhanaD said...

Spotted Ele - you raise some excellent points. I never visit feministe for what it's worth. I think the writing is of poor quality and the variation in topics is also boring. There really is a lack of 'edge' there.

Pandagon is really 'too liberal' as well for my liking - but I must say I really like Amanda's writing - she makes very smart insights so I visit there often.

And you are right - people at pandagon and feministe GANG up on women who comment against them. More specifically - a lot of MEN gang up or come to defend the writer's there. I have experienced this myself with the 'playboy' incident (which I was wrong about IMO) and the burqagate incident.

I also really like Twisty's writing style and occasionally insight. The thing with Twisty is though - that the very name of the blog is "I blame the patriarchy". I.e. from this we can resolve that this must be a 'pro-woman' blog. A feminist who says what she does - and does what she says.

But half the time we have twisty using the same language that misogynists use against us! I.e. fembots, sexbots, femininity kills (no white male supremacy & capitalism KILL) etc...

We wouldn't have such a backlash against feminism if there weren't so many rules set up about how we ought to behave. Fundamentally I do agree with these 'ideas' (and wish I didn't feel compelled to wear make-up etc...), but when this gets espoused by another feminist - people generally get disappointed and angry.

We expect more. I think it's true though - we do need to hold pandagon and feministe accountable as well.

Even in a recent thread I have commented on something written by Amanda (that was written 3-4 weeks ago -regarding food), it's not that I don't hold these people accountable, I just don't think they really give a damn because they are too politically/economically 'liberal' - i.e. have not made the connections between capitalism and feminism.

beansa said...


I would loooove to hear your critique of fashion. I have so much ambivilance about it. It's so hard for me to know if I like something because I like it, or because of advertising or conditioning, and why, though I seldom wear makeup, do I feel like such a goddess when I do?? Arrrg!

Laura said...

Totally in agreement here, SE.

Thirza said...


spotted elephant said...


We wouldn't have such a backlash against feminism if there weren't so many rules set up about how we ought to behave.

The way I've always seen it, it's about analyzing things on a systemic level (what does wearing makeup mean for women at work, on a date, etc), and then each individual comes to her own conclusions about what she wants, what she's willing to do, and what she's able to do.

But when discussion crops up on femininity and/or beauty, it's as if the author poured gasoline on the fire, and it's a shame. Because these things do matter. No woman should be *required* to wear makeup to get or keep a damn job! That's not saying any particular woman can't/shouldn't wear makeup. But both "sides" get so touchy, wow. I think I'm drifting or ranting here, but we really need to talk about these things.

And as far as Feministe & Pandagon go-I'm too chicken to hold them accountable. I'm tired of getting beaten up in comments, or worse-ignored! But that's no reason to let crap go, either.

Beansa-Oh, you've got me thinking now. Frankly, a post on fashion scares me (see my comment to AD), but I think I need to write something on this soon.

I think the answer to why you feel so good when you wear makeup is more straightforward. IMO, it's because you're doing the "right thing". You're being a good woman, you're making the effort and wearing makeup and hey! You look fabulous, baby! I think it's sort of like why wearing a suit makes me feel confident at an interview: I'm playing the part of a professional teacher AND the other people respond to me as such. Playing the game works, at least partially.

plain(s)feminist said...

You know the ones, where some slightly overweight, self-described "stay-at-home mom" with a hick accent

Ouch. Classist, much?

A friend of mine from Mississippi once told me that he felt that southern accents in tv and film were the standard way to communicate "dumb." And you know, he's right. So is "overweight." And I'm not so sure that SAHM isn't, as well, in certain circles.

But I will add that it is frustrating that certain celebrities have a lot of power when it comes to determining what makes other people's looks acceptable. David Hasselhof comes to mind - I once made fun of his physical appearance (inadvertently hurting a friend who shared some of his physical characteristics), not because I personally found him revolting (I have no reaction to him) but because I felt it was unfair that a man who was pudgy, who had breasts, and who had body hair - clearly not an "ideal" male body - could star on a show (and reveal his body proudly) that was known for hiring women who were Playboy Playmates with surgically-enhanced breasts (except for one; they gave her breast cancer and killed her off). In fact, Hasselhof, I believe, was very involved in casting. Perhaps that's the same thing that's happening here with Versace - not that I think it's ok for feminists to call out other women for their appearances, but I can understand the anger and frustration at the hypocrisy of this behavior.

spotted elephant said...

plainsfeminist-Thanks for that comment-I hadn't thought of that perspective. You're absolutely right about the double standard-the situation with Hasselhoff and the Playmates is the ultimate in hypocrisy, and it makes me furious.

So maybe that was going on with Versace. When I wrote this post, I was angry because it was yet another thing that Twisty said that pissed me off.

Southern accents-sigh. My husband comes from a southern state, and he just cringes anytime you hear that exaggerated drawl-it would be faster to put a "stupid" sign on the person's forehead. I also agree about SAHM being a codeword for dumb, though nobody (leftist) wants to admit it.